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Puerto Rico – a paradise almost lost

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Puerto Rico:

Population: 3.7 million

2011 murders: 1,136
2012 murders (as of 12/10): 894

I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. I grew up in Ciales, located in the Central Mountain Range. It was an idyllic setting, with majestic mountains, pristine beaches, warm weather and equally warm people. It was as close as you could get to paradise on Earth. But something has gone wrong. Seriously wrong. Our beautiful paradise is almost lost.

The murder rate in Puerto Rico is close to six times the national average. This is appalling, even more so when you consider that the island has the second largest police force in the nation. Unfortunately, police corruption is one of the contributing factors to this terrible crime wave that is covering Puerto Rico from coast to coast. In 2010, nearly a hundred police officers were arrested after an investigation by the FBI revealed they were offering protection to drug dealers and involved in drug transactions.

Back in the 1980s, South American drug cartels began to use Puerto Rico as a route to smuggle drugs into the United States because, as a territory, shipments from the island to the mainland aren’t subject to U.S. Customs inspections. And it is suspected that drug trafficking has increased on the island in recent times due to intensified surveillance along the border with Mexico.

Most of the crimes on the island are related to drugs – traffickers fighting to protect their territory and drug users committing crimes to sustain their addiction. The number of innocent victims who have gotten caught in the crossfire of drug-related shootings or become prey for criminals trying to get money for their next fix has been increasing at an alarming rate. Criminals have also become incredibly brazen, committing crimes in broad daylight and in public spaces, and also killing police officers.

Why isn’t the Puerto Rican government getting a better grip on the problem? Probably because it’s part of the problem. Puerto Rico has the highest number of public corruption cases in the U.S.  When people’s trust in the government and authorities is low and unemployment, poverty, and the presence of drugs is high, you have a recipe for disaster.

Why isn’t the federal government getting a better grip on the problem? Good question. If this was happening in any of the 50 states, you better bet the federal government would be way more involved than it is on the island (like it is along the southwest border).

As for the almost four million boricuas living on the island, it seems like they are so sick of living in fear and watching their patria being destroyed by crime, they have decided to join forces. After the brutal murder of José Enrique Gómez, a local publicist who was burned alive and then beaten to death two weeks ago by two men and two women after forcing him to withdraw money from an ATM, Puerto Ricans took to social media to demand an end to this madness. The social media movement Todos Somos José Enrique was created as a call to action to stop the violence in Puerto Rico and is bringing international attention to the problem.

Our beautiful paradise may be almost lost, but it won’t be completely lost if Puerto Ricans continue to maintain a united front against crime and refuse to let it go to hell.

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. My heart goes out to the people of Puerto Rico. However, it is unfair to blame the U.S. Federal government for the ills of Puerto Rican society. Puerto Rico itself has not wanted the protections and oversight that comes with statehood for decades. They valued their independence over being a state, presumably under the belief they could govern themselves better. The problem is Puerto Rican “flight” from the island. Rather than stay on the island and help the island prosper, the best minds and of Puerto Rico have abandoned it. Nothing will happen without the will of the –right– people.

  2. Christian Irizarry says:

    I sincerely hope that Puerto Rico does something about immigrants from the drug-infested Caribbean Islands and South America that continue to contaminate Our Island and Our Name by coming here, claiming to be Puerto Rican!!! I am almost positive that these immigrants are what is keeping Puerto Ricans away from Puerto Rico, however, WE have to get back to the Island and take it back!!! Get them out of there and send them back to their contaminated countries!!! The Island has become infested with all of these low-lives and the Puerto Rican Government hasn’t done a thing about it!!! They should start by getting rid of these mosquitos and then start with a clean slate!!! 9 out of 10 of them are there illegally and coming here, claiming to be Puerto Rican while giving Our People a bad name, that’s how ashamed they are of their own Countries, they can’t even admit where they originally come from!!!

  3. Somo boricua to de una sangre UNIDAD! Que si la belleza se destruye nunca regresera! Y las personas muertas Dios te rreclamara! Si nos matamos seremos como los tainos tantas cosas bellas pero una historia perdida que no le importara a la nueva generacion

  4. Sonia Soria says:

    Puerto Rico is a beautiful island and the government needs to take action and investigate and incarcerate these criminals. No bail, hard sentences!!

  5. Really? says:

    “Why isn’t the federal government getting a better grip on the problem? Good question. If this was happening in any of the 50 states, you better bet the federal government would be way more involved than it is on the island (like it is along the southwest border).”

    Hey moron. Puerto Rico can have the protection of the Feds when you become a state and contribute to the nation. Why should Americans’ taxes go to helping you keep your mess together when you don’t contribute anything back? That is exactly the image many people hold of Latinos. They take everything they can and do not contribute or give back in return. Your attitude adds to this. Even many other Latino groups do not think very highly of Puerto Ricans.

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