Living in Puerto Rico

According to the most recent census there are approximately 3.7 million people living in Puerto Rico. This means that the number of Puerto Ricans living in Puerto Rico is lower than the number of Puerto Ricans living in mainland USA. The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is a US territory, and although people living in Puerto Rico do not have the right to vote in US Presidential Elections they are considered to be US Citizens.

The majority of the people living in Puerto Rico are distributed around urban and suburban areas, although the rural way of life still exists in the mountainous regions of the island. Developments to the transport infrastructure mean that the whole island is easily accessible, with 24,000 miles of highway connecting all main towns and cities. The highway system ensures that everywhere on the island is within 2 hours commute of an airport or sea-port. The island has 11 airports in total, with 3 offering direct service flights to the US mainland. Around 36 airlines offer flights from the island, with San Juan’s Luis Munoz Marin International Airport offering direct services to 20 cities across the globe and serving 8 million travellers annually.

The excellent international transport connections between Puerto Rico and other nations do not end with airports – in fact, San Juan boasts the largest cruise ship harbour in the Caribbean. Many of the major cruise companies use this port, bringing with them 1.2 million cruise travellers each year. San Juan also has a well established Tren Urbano (Urban Train) system running, allowing people living in Puerto Rico, as well as tourists, to move around the capital city at low cost, while minimising pollution.

It will come as no surprise then, that tourism is a vital industry for those living in Puerto Rico. Although Puerto Rico’s economy has not been unscathed by the international economic depression, leisure and tourism continue to bring in an increased revenue each year. In November 2011, statistics showed that people living in Puerto Rico faced unemployment rates of 15.7%, and that most of the employment that is available is in the manufacturing industry – pharmaceuticals and electronics being the main areas. Due to reduced growth in the area of manufacturing (relating to the growing availability of cheaper products from elsewhere in the world), the Puerto Rican government is doing much to promote tourism on the island and young people are encouraged to become bi-lingual in Spanish and English in order to give them greater opportunities in the future job market.

Puerto Rico has much to offer the tourists who are drawn to her – world class sports and music events jostle for attention with beautiful natural sights and an array of activities such as water-sports, golf, horse riding and fishing. The island also has much to offer in terms of culture, with museums, theatres and art galleries offering different perspective on the history and people of Puerto Rico. The island’s mild, tropical weather system, with cooling trade winds all year round is another of Puerto Rico’s appealing elements for tourists, although those who live on the island remain aware of the risk of hurricanes and tropical storms, 78 of which have passed over Puerto Rico since records began in 1508.

Most people living in Puerto Rico experience a comfortable quality of life, and their status would be considered to be middle class(by US terms), with around two thirds of families owning their own properties. Housing is abundant in Puerto Rico, with apartments in the city costing around $2,200 per square meter, and the equivalent outside of the city costing around $1,200, and property taxes are low. This has lead to many people from the United States and Europe to choose Puerto Rico as a retirement destination.

Although real estate prices and the related taxes are lower in Puerto Rico than in other countries, other items can be very expensive. Any produce which has not been grown or manufactured on the island incurs added freight charges which bumps up prices. Many US brand chain stores such as K-Mart have opened shops on the island, allowing people living in Puerto Rico to have the same consumer choices as their counterparts on the US mainland. In major grocery supermarkets, a litre of milk averages around $1.75, while a loaf of bread costs around $2.08.

However, locally produced ingredients and fresh foods can be found at lower price in the locally owned stores, and those out side of the “tourist area”. Dining out can also be fairly costly, with a meal for two in a mid-range restaurant averaging around $45.91, and a small bottle of water costing $1.08.

People living in Puerto Rico benefit from modern infrastructure which has been developed over the years. Puerto Rico’s electricity power grid is managed by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, and while once run by hydro-electric systems is now fuelled entirely with oil. The Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority controls 10,000 miles of water mains, supplying the island with drinking water  which means US quality standards. Fibre optic broadband internet is available all over the island, with undersea fibre optic cable connecting with the global system. There are 1,319 public schools on the island and 50 higher learning institutes, offering an excellent education system for people of all ages living in Puerto Rico.