Puerto Rico’s Coastal Gentrification Displacing People & Wildlife
Travelers from the United States love to visit Puerto Rico. In order to continue inviting visitors to the island, the commonwealth broke its visitor record in 2021 and is boosting tourism-related development.
Mangroves, marshes, and other coastal regions on the island sustained unimaginable damage in 2017 as a result of Hurricane Maria. The gentrification and touristification of the shore of Puerto Rico, however, is a different issue.
In the opinion of researchers who specialise in anthropology and coastal communities, it is crucial to comprehend what Puerto Rico is losing to maintain the island’s tourism industry. Habitat is linked to residents’ cultural identity and financial security in rural areas.
Puerto Ricans' lives are intimately connected to coastal forests and wetland environments
For the past 20 years, it has been known how many rural Puerto Ricans’ lives are intimately connected to coastal forests and wetland environments. These areas are frequently underprivileged, neglected by the government, and disproportionately affected by toxic industry and pollution.
These places are mostly inhabited by Afro-descendant people and Indigenous tribes who make a living by fishing, foraging, picking coconuts, cutting wood, and manufacturing charcoal because the marshes are seen as unattractive. Tropical shores are starting to draw tourists’ interest in the 20th century. Coastal wetlands have been replaced by hotels, resorts, casinos, and golf courses.
The livelihoods of rural Puerto Ricans are intimately entwined with coastal forests and wetland environments, as we have demonstrated over the past 20 years. These areas are underserved by the state, have a disproportionate amount of pollution, and are afflicted by damaging industry. TooArray doesn’t consider human implications when making decisions about the coast’s long-term health.
They are among the planet's most productive and biodiverse ecosystems
Coastal forests and estuaries are among the planet’s most productive and biodiverse ecosystems. Additionally, mangroves and coastal wetlands provide a living for millions of people. Climate change, tourism, and the construction of upscale homes are straining these areas all over the world. However, those areas haven’t been as well-liked.
However, tropical shores started to draw the interest of elite leisure at the start of the 20th century. The Vanderbilt Hotel debuted in San Juan in 1919, and the enormous Caribe Hilton Complex, the first Hilton hotel constructed outside of the continental United States in cooperation with the Puerto Rican government, followed in 1949.
Along with casinos and golf courses, many other hotels also followed. Nowadays, gentrification, commercialization, industry, and conservation will force Puerto Rico’s rural coastal towns to contend for space and resources. These usages frequently conflict with the way of life in the area.
People can no longer collect modest pieces of mangrove wood to construct traditional fishing boats
People living in towns close to mangrove forests, like Las Mareas in southern Puerto Rico, can no longer collect modest pieces of mangrove wood to construct traditional fishing boats. At the same time, they witness affluent residents and construction workers destroying sections of mangrove forests without consequence. Some coastal towns are starting to move inland.
Eliezer Molina, an engineer, environmental activist, and 2020 candidate for governor, released a presentation on youTube in March 2022 about the illegal chopping and filling of a mangrove shoreline in the neighbourhood of Las Mareas in the Bay of Jobos de Salinas. The bay, the only federal estuarine reserve, is a vulnerable habitat for birds, turtles, and manatees and a fish nursery.
This waterfront has been developed covertly by Puerto Ricans for vacation residences. For more than ten years, residents of Las Mareas had unsuccessfully warned the local authority about the deterioration of the mangroves. Recently, the federal government and the Department of Justice of Puerto Rico carried out a fraudulent inquiry into the illegal building.
Widespread public outcry over the affair has led to an investigation into related instances around the archipelago. Puerto Ricans criticise municipal governments for their inefficiency, corruption, and lack of control via internet forums and user comments.
The privatisation and eradication of the Land Marine Zone, or maritime land domain, is a heated topic. The legal definition of this area is “the coastal domain of Puerto Rico surrounded by ebb and sea,” which refers to the area between low tide and high tide or the highest point of the surf domain. It is state-owned and has beaches, mangroves, and other coastal wetlands.
Activists are urging Gov. Pedro Pierluisi to seek a complete halt to all coastal construction, a request the governor deems “extreme.” “The beaches belong to the people!” would make a good protest chant.
Coastal development brings in a lot of money, but what are the benefits of leaving those areas open to local people's use?
In Puerto Rico, coastal development brings in a lot of money, but what are the benefits of leaving those areas open to local people’s use? Our research from 2010 to 2013 and 2016 to 2021 indicated that coastal resources provide significant advantages to the smoothly replaced neighbors.
The results indicate that more than two-thirds of families in those localities rely on coastal assets as a source of food, with around one-third of families in those towns using coastal assets for at least one component of their income. Land crabs are encouraging commercial growth along the coast.
Additionally, it was discovered that residents became increasingly reliant on regional coastal cuisine during periods of extreme economic stress, such as recessions and natural disasters. For instance, numerous residents of the southern communities of Salinas and Santa Isabel gathered extraordinarily abundant land crabs during Hurricanes Irma and Maria. However, it was challenging to find other items. Some even believed that this abundance was a divine atonement for the sorrow that the typhoon had caused them.
The majority of the small-scale net painting transactions that include sales, barter, and contributions make up the local economy of such communities. Their social and economic implications are not taken into account in choices about coastal development because they are overlooked and undervalued in official economic accounts.
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