Much is said about grief in the face of a significant loss, such as the death of a family member, but little or none is said about migratory grief. In a December 2022 publication on the U.S. Census Portal, www.census.gov, it was recorded that Puerto Rico's population was 3,221,789, which reflects a decrease of 1.3%, or 40,904 people, between 2021 and 2022. But then, where is the 1.3% that left the country?
Puerto Rico has excellent professionals and human resources with great potential. The problem is the lack of will and leadership of those who have the power to bring about the Puerto Rico we all want, writes Charleen Martínez Rodríguez. (YOAN VALAT)
With sadness I can say that I am part of that 1.3%. In 2019 I decided to migrate to the United States with my husband in search of a better economic future. At that time, there were multiple factors that contributed to our decision, since we became parents and the economic and labor situation did not allow us to provide our daughter with quality time and economic security. Even though we had stable jobs in Puerto Rico, the hostile and toxic work environment that permeated our lives contributed to such a difficult decision.
I am part of the 1.3% who have experienced acculturation and grief. The feeling of missing one's family, desiring a typical food of the country, mastering another language, adapting to a new climate and work environment, has a significant impact on the physical and emotional health of the migrant.
In the United States I found wonderful opportunities, but I have never lost the desire to return to my homeland. Here, on the "other side of the pond", I have had the opportunity to be employed in organizations that do not require previous experience. Places where I have been valued, where I have been made to feel part of the organization and, above all, where I have been appreciated for being a bilingual person.
However, in a process of constant longing to return to my country, I began to look for job opportunities in Puerto Rico, without success. I, like so many others, have been denied opportunities for banal reasons such as "lack of experience", even with a doctorate and more than six years of work experience in different areas. In the United States, on the other hand, I have been hired without any experience in the requested field, and they are grateful for having considered that organization. These reasons, together with the shortages that Puerto Rico is currently experiencing, make it almost impossible for those of us who live in the Diaspora to return.
The reality is that most of the jobs available on the island lack fair wages and opportunities for professional growth, and without work experience or a "shovel," it is difficult to obtain one of the few jobs with fair pay. Considering these factors, it is easy to understand why doctors migrate, and the health system collapses, or why those who choose to stay deteriorate physically and emotionally.
Puerto Rico has excellent professionals and human resources with great potential. The problem is the lack of will and leadership of those who have the power to bring about the Puerto Rico we all want. I trust that someday in the not-too-distant future my people on the island will wake up and reclaim what is rightfully theirs, so that those of us who left will have the opportunity to return to contribute to the economic, social and political development of the country.
No matter how much they insist and say: "don't come back, this is bad", there is no one who can convince my heart not to want to return to see a sunset in Rincon, to eat in Piñones and bathe on a beach in Isabela. No one can take away my desire to return to my beautiful island and feel that unforgettable warmth again.
This piece was originally published in Spanish in El Nuevo Dia.