Puerto Rico…it’s not just a pretty view

photo from Marvin Fonesca's book of Museo al Aire Libre photo: EFE book
picture from Marvin Fonesca’s book: “Museo al Aire Libre” foto: EFE

I have always wanted this blog to reflect my feelings about living in Puerto Rico and yet it’s been almost a year since I’ve written.   I keep my TJ Ranch Facebook page up to date and try to inform people about Puerto Rico in general and occasionally about what’s happening here at the Ranch. Other than that, I haven’t had much to say…until now.

Bianca Graulau’s video changed all that. It made me angry, sad and frustrated…and I can’t stop thinking about it.


Giovanni Feroce and Diane Cohn are two Americans featured in the film. They both are taking advantage of the tax incentives offered to outsiders who move to Puerto Rico, the island with beautiful views. This is a my response to the ideas they expressed in the film.


Chelsea Harms-Tuohy , AFAR Local Expert
Dwiveck Custodio , AFAR Local Expert

After living on the island for four years, Giovanni Feroce says he’s Puerto Rican now. I’ve lived in Puerto Rico for thirty-eight years and wouldn’t even joke like that. Diane Cohn drives around the island for a month and seems to think she knows Puerto Rico. There was no indication that either of these people speak….or try to speak Spanish..

I had previously seen one of Diane Cohn’s videos which totally shocked me. I couldn’t believe that a seemingly intelligent person could be so blinded by her privilege that she couldn’t understand how locals would be upset with her comments. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCUXtKB-PhI


Mr. Feroce has bought the 18 unit building he lives in and is evicting all the tenants who presently live there. He thinks he’ll make a hotel (or will it be an AirBnB or maybe condos?). He feels that more tourism is what Puerto Rico needs.  He seems to think that the tourism/service industry is the solution.


Tourism has been here for decades and is not going away. Does he think that service jobs will allow Puerto Ricans to take advantage of the real estate on the island or is he just hoping that his rich cronies can enjoy piña coladas on the beach?


A person working in Food / Hospitality / Tourism / Catering in Puerto Rico typically earns around 13,400 USD per year. Salaries range from 5,090 USD (lowest average) to 37,500 USD (highest average, actual maximum salary is higher).  

This is the average yearly salary including housing, transport, and other benefits. Salaries vary drastically between different Food / Hospitality / Tourism / Catering careers. If you are interested in the salary of a particular job, see below for salaries for specific job titles.


Puerto Rico Turns to Medical Tourism to Boost Economy....

I remember when the Hyatt was built next to Manati’s hospitals and hearing that Puerto Rico was becoming a medical center for the Caribbean and elsewhere. Not only do people from smaller islands come here for cancer treatments, but people from the states come here for dental and other procedures for a lower cost than stateside. 

I was surprised to see that this isn’t a past dream because a recent article says the same thing:

Medical Tourism in Puerto Rico Projected to Take Off in 2021  https://www.theweeklyjournal.com/business/medical-tourism-in-puerto-rico-projected-to-take-off-in-2021/article_ca2433c4-491f-11eb-8130-f7d024efeade.html

I wonder who the doctors are who are going to provide this service since they have been leaving the island continuously  since Hurricane Maria. I wonder if any would have stayed if they were offered the tax benefits given to new residents. Rosello announced programs to keep doctors on the island, but I don’t think it’s working. https://caribbeanbusiness.com/puerto-rico-gov-announces-measures-to-keep-doctors-on-the-island/

Puerto Rico is part of the world film industry

The Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DEDC) outlines the goals, objectives and information of the film industry in Puerto Rico. Here is the statistical information in the paper:  https://www.ddec.pr.gov/en/film-industry-development-program/

  • The Program granted approximately $100 million in tax credits for a total of 39 projects during Fiscal Year 2018-2019.
  • In contrast, between direct and indirect expenses, it is estimated that the endorsed film projects invested approximately $ 200 million in the local economy.
  • The 39 projects created approximately 8,710 jobs for residents, paid a payroll of approximately $ 71,000,000, used approximately 11,553 hotel nights and together filmed 6,158 days in Puerto Rico

Technology and Science

The corporate tax breaks in the past created or at least sustained jobs for manufacturing and pharmaceuticals. People had decent paying jobs. The Arecibo Observatory had scientists from all over the world living and raising their families here. There are various places that deal with aquatic life on the island. Wouldn’t it better to encourage businesses for island residents instead of crowding the beaches or Old San Juan with tourists?

Real Estate

Ms. Cohn speaks of real estate as if they are shells void of people and lives. What’s there, is for the taking… whoever can get it….that’s the way real estate works. She’s right that there are vacant and abandoned buildings ripe for development. At one point there were signs of “Estorbio Publico” (Public Nuisance) lining the street of Islote, the ocean road in Arecibo. Many of the homes were badly damaged during Maria and people had to leave…although it didn’t mean they didn’t hope and intend to come back and fix them.

Yana Monroig: Pintrest

There may be vacant or abandoned buildings but just look at what’s painted on them. The pueblo of Arecibo has many abandoned buildings but little by little  restaurants are appearing and activities are returning. Downtown Arecibo died when the malls were built. Why aren’t there incentives for the young people rebuilding? 

La Puntilla:arte, cultura, gastronomia Facebook page

This is a small island full of talent. The people here are resilient and tireless in combatting adversity but gentrification can only push people so far on an island of limited space. Feroce and Cohn have the ability to leave when things get tough and return whenever they like. They made their money off the island and can afford to make more in a market out of reach for locals. Do they realize that the benefits offered to them are NOT available to residents on the island? I’m glad they like the island, but isn’t living here enough? Why not just enjoy where you live instead of buying more? When is enough…just enough?

I am 100% gringa and yet I feel a tremendous sense of pride when Puerto Ricans succeed in their fields: scientists working at NASA, athletes in the Olympics and artists winning awards. I tear up listening to “En mi Viejo San Juan” and Marc Anthony’s “Preciosa”. The various songs created by Puerto Rican musicians after Hurricane Maria or during lockdown give me chills. Have these people ever heard Lin Manuel’s “Almost like Praying”? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1IBXE2G6zw

It’s frustrating that neither of them mentioned anything Puerto Rican except the views. Do they like the food or the music? Do they buy pinchos on the street or viandas from a vendor?

Discover Puerto Rico..best murals
Discover Puerto Rico: murals by Damaris Cruz and Javi Vecino Cintron

So that’s about it for now. I’m tired of thinking about Feroce and Cohn. I’m not sure what I can do to help the island I call home, but I’ll try. 

Thank you Bianca Graulau for the work that you do.

TJ Ranch drone: Emmanuel German

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Suzanne Patton

    Thank you so much for providing your experienced perspective.

  2. Sarah Ratliff

    Thanks Joan! I think this is one of your best yet, and unfortunately everything you say is true. It angers me when gringos think of our beautiful island with awesome people and a tumultuous history as nothing more than a chance to exploit us.

  3. Ellen Epstein

    Young people are too self-absorbed these days. Here, as well as there. It’s terrible.

  4. Martha

    Thank you Juanita. Very informative and so true.

  5. Lisbeth Odum

    Thanks Joan , as a friend and fellow ” gringa “,
    who has been living here since 1970 , fully integrated into the society here ,speaks Spanish , and has visited 90% of the island through the years . You are totally correct ,
    and I also was greatly bothered by ignorant opinions .

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