I recently moved back to Puerto Rico and something I consistently ask myself while walking or driving around the island is, “when will that get fixed?”. With “that” I’m referring to street lamps, potholes, abandoned parks, and much more.

That’s the title of this post.

Big things start small. And I hope this article helps me find other people that think like I do so we can get together and do something about what needs to be fixed, at least locally.

If you’ve been listening or reading the news, it’s no surprise that for the past 10+ years Puerto Rico has suffered back to back problems which has stopped the country in going forward at the same global pace of other countries, including its own, the US. We never recovered from the financial crisis of 2008, our government is insolvent and corrupt, and we got hit by multiple natural disasters like Hurricane Irma and María in 2017, and most recently, the 6.5 earthquake in 2020.

Nonetheless, as part of United States of America, it’s embarrassing to live in a place where nothing gets done (at least from a public standpoint). Basic things that would be normal in other countries get de-prioritized in Puerto Rico. I understand politics are complicated, but at the end of the day we’re talking about fixing “low-hanging fruits”, not to invest in new, shiny things.

I’ve noticed the following:

Many abandoned buildings with little to no upkeep. This is detrimental to the surrounding areas. Abandoned buildings means abandoned streets and low pedestrian traffic as the perception might be a negative one. On the other hand a poor building that suffers from no maintenance, loses value over time. Additionally, there’s no way to understand the current affairs of a building. For example, if something is been done to prepare them to be utilized or if it’s for sale by the owner. Perhaps there are plans to bring a building back to life, but citizens are in the dark here. At least public government buildings should definitely be maintained, otherwise sell them.

Street lights do not work in many areas, both urban and rural. Heck, in some rural areas lighting has been fixed as residents have taken matters into their own hands. Nonetheless, many neighborhoods have suffered from increased criminal activity and decreased economic activity because of these dark areas at night. Places that people used to walk at night, are no longer safe to walk.

Downed electricity poles and cables; left open. This is extremely dangerous and basically vulnerable which each new natural incident. These should at least be removed for safety reasons.

Traffic lights do not work. This is both dangerous and impacts efficiency. I don’t have statistical numbers, but I’m very sure this has had a massive impact in increasing time to destination and traffic jams. It’s simply visible.

Trash is everywhere. This is more about areas littered, than it is about trash in bags. There’s an increased amount of litter in parks and beaches which are frequented by tourists. I believe this part is both a government problem for not creating more awareness and a lack of education by our own citizens. As everything, we have to create awareness campaigns on this topic to remind everyone of their responsibility as citizens.

Abandoned parks. I believe parks are a necessity for quality of life. Citizens should be able to leave their home and enjoy the advantages of nature close by. Many parks around the capital city are abandoned. That includes downed lamp poles, unkept gardens, unleveled sidewalks, and trash all over the place. What’s the point of building a park in the first place if it’ll not be well-kept? Where will kids play and families share their time away from the office?

These are some of my observations. If we are to become a growing country once again, one that we can be proud of, we need to start with the little things first. The things that improve our quality of life.

Fixing what’s already wrong with our country, will serve as an example to our own citizens to keep and maintain what’s ours. When the little things are tidy, clean, and organized it means that someone made it a priority about how it should look and feel, for themselves and others. At the end of the day, first impressions matter, but consistency with impressions helps in the long term. It creates collective consciousness about what’s right.

The reason places like Singapore, Japan, and S. Korea have clean and well-kept highly functioning communities is because officials made it a priority to care about where they live and work and as a result, citizens did as well and respect it. They feel proud of being Singaporean, Japanese, or Korean.

We, in Puerto Rico, need to get back to feeling proud of being Puerto Rican, not only because of the talent we export, but because of the place we live and work. Because in the future, if we clean and maintain our surroundings we’ll attract quality people, governments, and investment into our little Island.