Puerto Rico’s Economic Crisis
Photo by Joseph Rodriguez

Puerto Rico’s Economic Crisis


Written by David Gonzalez

As Puerto Rico’s debt has grown, its population has shrunk. In numbers that rival the last great exodus from the island during the 1950s, young professionals with families are leaving to start over in Florida, resulting in Puerto Rico losing roughly 10 percent of its population over the last decade.

But what about those who can’t leave? For them — often older residents with fixed incomes who rely on government-funded pensions or health care — the future is unsettling. Unable to declare bankruptcy without Congressional approval, the island, a United States territory, is obligated to pay its creditors before almost any other bills, even if that means cutting essential services.

So, while others were leaving the island, Joseph Rodriguez decided it was time to make some return visits. In recent years he has gone to Puerto Rico to document the effects of the economic crisis, something that is etched in the faces of the people he has encountered who, for one reason or another, are staying.


Puerto Rico's Economic Crisis

People at La Fondita de Jesus, a nonprofit organization that offers, among other services, alternative housing aimed at helping people with alcohol and other drug addictions.


Puerto Rico's Economic Crisis

A man selling lottery tickets at the Paseo de Diego shopping center.


Puerto Rico's Economic Crisis

A girl dancing to Bomba y Plena music from her family band, “Caiko y los del Soberao en el Callejon” from the Loiza neighborhood.


Joseph Rodriguez, a Puerto Rican from Brooklyn, documents the lives of families in conflict in the place of his ancestors.

Co-published with The New York Times.

Save An Endangered Species: Journalists

Joseph Rodríguez, a photojournalist, is a professor at New York University and the International Center of Photography. He is the author of “Spanish Harlem: El Barrio in the ’80s” (powerHouse Books). Recent exhibitions of his work have appeared at Galleri Kontrast in Stockholm, Sweden, The African American Museum in Philadelphia, PA and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

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