Central Florida’s Puerto Ricans Plan to Tackle Island Debt Crisis Through Voter Rolls
Central Florida leaders are preparing what’s now the nation’s second largest Puerto Rican population for a historic turnout at the polls next November. Civic groups from across the country met in Orlando this week to talk about the national agenda for Puerto Ricans this campaign season.
They say tackling the island’s looming debt crisis means leveraging central Florida’s more than 800,000 Puerto Ricans; and that starts with signing up the region’s new and unregistered Puerto Rican arrivals, which the Hispanic Federation estimates at 100,000.
Federation president Jose Calderon calls the crisis a defining moment for Puerto Ricans in Florida and on the island. Those who can vote, he says, can push for job and health care relief.
“If politicians are smart, they’re certainly going to listen intently around what the Puerto Rican diaspora is demanding,” he adds. “There is a unity that hasn’t existed before and we certainly have a rallying call now.”
Civic groups like Orange County’s Democratic Hispanic Caucus are trying to lower the number of unregistered Puerto Ricans. Chapter head Nancy Rosarro works with local groups to find new arrivals to sign up. She frequents popular restaurants and churches. Politics on the island is a national pastime, she says.
“Everybody’s engaged. They get here. They’re a little shy. They don’t know the issues here. They know that they want jobs. They know that they need housing. They know their kids need education, but we need to educate them as to how to negotiate those systems here.”
Central Florida’s Puerto Ricans helped Florida go blue in 2012 presidential election. Elected officials and community leaders are expecting them to play a critical role in 2016 as they leave the island en masse for Florida.