Times are hard in Puerto Rico, with the next hurricane season just around the corner. People on the Island and in the states are still raising funds, gathering supplies, and pitching in, but six months after the hurricane it’s frustrating to see less progress than hoped. “We continue to work, not because we see a light at the end of the tunnel, ” Miguel A Soto-Class of the Center for a New Economy wrote recently, “but because we don’t.”
Still, there are new things sprouting in Puerto Rico.
Las Cabechuelas Nature Reserve
Las Cabechuelas is a system of more than 60 caves. A new ecotourism project is underway. Four team members have received certification for international environmental interpretation. The National Association for Interpretation awards the certification through scholarships from the Office of the Model Forest of Puerto Rico (OBMPR). Harimau Conservation donated safety equipment as part of its “Rayo de Luna” recovery initiative. Multiple organizations are working on an educational component for the planned visits.
Project director Figueroa Robles explains that the object of the project is to provide jobs for the residents of the area. Increasing tourism in the region will provide opportunities in the hospitality industry, as well as work directly related to the caving experience and care of the caves.
The caves include some with petroglyphs and pictographs, as well as remarkable natural beauty. There are also unusual lifeforms. The system should offer new experiences for travelers. In fact, there is already an ecotourism opportunity for visitors who want to help with the cleanup.
Tactical Footwear Contract
Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon announced that an $18.3 million federal contract has been awarded to the Original Footwear Co., which has a plant in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. The company, headquartered in Modesto, California, will be making tactical footwear for the U.S. Department of Defense.
The contract is for one year, with the possibility of extending the contract to 2023. Puerto Rico has, in the past, been underrepresented in federal contracts. Original Footwear Co. is classified as a woman-owned small business. Federal contracts may favor businesses owned by women or other underserved groups.
Gonzalez-Colon is a member of the U.S. House Committee on Small Business. In her press release about the contract, she focused on the value of Puerto Rico’s workers.
ComicCon Puerto Rico
On the lighter side, ComicCon Puerto Rico will take place in May in spite of Hurricane Maria. The entertainment convention, which is expected to bring in 40,000 attendees, is expecting to be the first large event on the Island that is not a disaster relief fundraiser. Some artists are planning to donate to disaster relief, but the organizers of the event want to think of their conference as a return to normal life.
2018 is the 16th annual ComicCon Puerto Rico. The event showcases local talent, even though there are special guests coming in. Artists and other exhibitors can reserve their spaces now. Billing itself as the largest performing arts event in the Caribbean, ComicCon could give a great shot in the arm to local hotels, clubs, and restaurants.
Puerto Rico is showing its creativity and determination.