A long history of U.S. policies have negatively affected the economy and health of the people of Puerto Rico: trade policies which increase shipping costs to prohibitive levels, making the cost of living in San Juan comparable to cities like Miami and Atlanta; utilizing the islands of Puerto Rico as a bombing range for the U.S. Navy; having no right to vote and no representation in Congress certainly shuts their voice out of conversations and decisions that affect them deeply. Today, the U.S. territory finds itself with an unsolvable debt crisis ($72 billion) and 41% of its people living below the poverty line.
As Puerto Rico’s status as a territory with no representation in Congress is a factor in these challenges, the debate over status has become more urgent. There have been two status referendum votes in the past two years, giving Puerto Ricans the chance to voice their preference for statehood, maintaining territory status, or seeking independence from the U.S. Both of these referenda have had their controversies, with 97% voting for statehood in 2017, but that vote being tarnished by boycotts and a very low turnout (22%).
This immersion project will allow participants the opportunity to talk to the citizens of Puerto Rico to hear their perspectives on the many sides of this debate. The group will meet with university professors and students to hear innovative ways Puerto Ricans are confronting the debt crisis. There will be a day trip to the island of Vieques, which the U.S. Navy used as a testing ground for munitions for decades. Throughout the trip, participants will immerse themselves in the culture and history of Puerto Rico, learning from its people, and coming to a better understanding of the challenges they face.
My name is Logan Sangree-Hills, and I am a senior from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I am majoring in Economics with minors in Business and English. Aside from working as an Immersion Project leader, on campus, I serve as a Leadership Mentor at the Garthwait Leadership Center, a Siegfried Fellow, and a member of Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity. I am extremely excited to lead this trip to Puerto Rico. Last semester I had the opportunity to analyze Puerto Rico’s debt crisis in one of my economics courses, and I look forward to the opportunity to gain a new perspective on some of the topics I researched.
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