Starting Year 3 in Puerto Rico
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly + Real Solutions For Prosperity
My family & I moved to Puerto Rico at the beginning of 2021 & here we are starting 2023, so I’m taking a few moments as we start our third year here to reflect on an amazing 2 years living and working in Puerto Rico. Below I’ve jotted down some thoughts from my journey from a first time visitor to a proud Citizen of Puerto Rico. Lastly you will find the next steps we are taking to grow Puerto Rico from the top hub for Web3 builders today into THE most prosperous place in America the next 10 years.
Too Long Didn’t Read (TLDR)
The Web3 Community In Puerto Rico Is Growing Quickly
Life In the Suburbs For Families Is Great, Live Downtown If You’re Young
ACT 60 Incentives Are The Economic Growth Engine of PR
Local Entrepreneurship, Developer, Hackathon Ecosystem Taking Shape
Its Easier To Move To PR and Work Remote Thanks to New Act 52 Law
The Media Tries To Push A Xenophobic Narrative That Isn’t Real
The Social Media Narrative of “Gringo Go Home” Is Mostly Online.
Racist Federal Laws Like The Jones Act Make Shipping / Services Slow
The Feds Claim A Roll In The Power Grid And Never Fix It
Launching Patrimonio To Bring Top Puerto Rican Talent Home
The Community Should Make an Effort to Learn Spanish
Push to Expand Act 60 Capital Gains Benefits To All
Give Charity To Those Who Will Be Champions Of Growth
Merge the Web3 Economy With Established Industries of Puerto Rico
1. The Pace of Web3 Growth Is Accelerating
The Web3 community continues to grow at a great pace, at this point it is by far the largest hub of top industry players focused on building open source public blockchains. I consistently get calls from friends in the industry moving to PR and becoming my neighbors. Waves of people tend to move during June in order to stay 6 full months + a day for their first year or during December to start the new year off fresh as a resident.
2. Wonderful Places To Live & Work
Picking to live in the suburb of Guaynabo just south of San Juan has been a great fit for my family. With kids its nice to have the extra space & we found a quiet neighborhood surrounded by other families and working professionals. The commute into downtown San Juan is normally under 30 minutes, under 20 minutes without traffic and a similar distance to almost any store you would want to shop at.
If you are young or single or just like a walk / scooter type lifestyle closer to the beach consider finding your place in the Old San Juan, Condado, or Miramar neighborhoods downtown where the night life is concentrated.
3. The Fundamentals Of The Act 60 Incentives Are Driving Growth
The Act 60 program which is now in its 10th year continues to attract more entrepreneurs and builders to Puerto Rico, which is sparking the growth of a local developer and startup ecosystem connected to all the Web3 companies / protocols. Regular Web3 hackathons are being held and prizes are awarded to many of the most talented builders.
4. No Local Entity Required For Remote Workers Moving Down
Its easier than ever to work remotely from Puerto Rico now that the government updated the law (Act 52) to make it easier for remote workers to move back to Puerto Rico without having to set up a local company. This will accelerate the return of professionals from the mainland as it lowers the administrative bar to move your existing job to PR.
1. The Media Stirs Up Drama
With the exception of a few well balanced articles from CNBC, by and large the media tends to try and stir up drama between people moving to Puerto Rico and those that were born here, promoting a racist and xenophobic world view of “us vs them”. For example articles tend to imply that people moving here for Act 60 are responsible for driving up home prices during 2021. In reality Puerto Rico lost 40,000+ people in 2021 (from a combination of more death vs births + net migration out). Its statistically impossible for the 5,000 Act 60 participants (even if every single one of them bought a house last year) to have bought up all the newly empty homes, when 8 TIMES as many people left Puerto Rico during the same period. Inflation in housing prices was a nation wide issue in 2021 & stemmed from artificially low interest rates + massive QE, not a wave of net immigration into Puerto Rico.
If anything we need to quickly attract more people to Puerto Rico + create more jobs for the 250,000 students at local universities (so they can stay) in order to reverse the massive population decline going on in PR the last 20 years where its lost almost 20% of its population (going from 3.8 Million to 3.2 Million people).
2. Toxic Social Media
The other social media narrative is around the supposed local attitude of “gringo go home” feeling by existing locals. Having lived here for years I have yet to witness this attitude even once in real life. From my experience visiting many stores, restaurants, work places, and offices all over Puerto Rico the people I’ve met have been amazingly friendly, welcoming and honestly excited to see a new industry growing up in Puerto Rico. The media roots their view in the misconception that Act 60 is for “outsiders” when in reality almost all of the Act 60 benefits apply to locals as well, from manufacturing tax credits & R&D tax credits, to no taxes on corporate distributions to shareholders. The only exception is the Investor Decree on capital gains and the Web3 community is actively encouraging the government to extend that benefit to ALL locals. That way we can finally get rid of the misconceptions about these incentives, which are driving economic growth in Puerto Rico.
1. P.R. Stands For “Patience Required”
The primary challenge to living and working in Puerto Rico are the delays you experience ordering equipment, parts, & services. These delays tend to stem from 3 sources. First the racist Federal Jones Act which limits the ships that can bring cargo to Puerto Rico to only American built, owned & operated vessels. On top of that ships must go to a US mainland port first (such as Miami), they can’t come direct to Puerto Rico. This drives up shipping costs on everything. Second at the Puerto Rico level there are some anti competitive monopolies enjoyed by local distributors that basically limit the suppliers of any item to 1 distributor. Third the local “inventory tax” that municipalities charge every 30 days for stores that keep items on shelfs, discourages stores from keeping extra supplies on island.
With that said Amazon is still a thing, Best Buy, Sam’s, Walmart, and shopping malls are plentiful and so you can get most things you would normally buy. Just once in a while it takes longer, or the website doesn’t know if Puerto Rico is a State, a foreign country or maybe isn’t on their shipping list at all. If all else fails, drop shipping to Miami or having a friend on the main land receive the package, then sending it to you via Fed Ex is annoying but it works.
2. The Absent Ruler
The Federal government neglects the role it claims to play in power infrastructure, disaster relief and generally improving the Puerto Rican living standards.
The fact that it took weeks after Hurricane Fiona for Biden to give a single ship an exception from the Jones Act to deliver badly needed diesel fuel to Puerto Rico is the perfect example of the callous way the Federal US Government treats the 3,200,000 US Citizens that live in Puerto Rico.
In response people are taking power into their own hands. Many people add solar panels to their homes and Tesla power walls and other back up infrastructure to avoid being dependent on the centralized power grid.
In a similar way when storms roll through people don’t wait around for the Feds to show up with help that never comes, a whole local network of people and companies forms to distribute relief supplies and get people back on their feet.
Solutions - Changing The Narrative
1 . Launch & Invest In The Patrimonio Program
I’ll be writing a separate article about the effort to streamline people signing up for Act 60 and specifically sponsoring members of the Diaspora to move back to Puerto Rico now that remote work is easier. This is the number one thing I’ve heard on local hearts. Everyone wants their brothers and sisters, their sons & daughters to be able to find great work in Puerto Rico after school or return to Puerto Rico if they left for better career options on the mainland.
Showing that the Act 60 community is bringing home family members long separated is among the most important things we can do as a community to show our value to the families we live & work with.
2. Learn Spanish
Learning Spanish is the challenge I give my friends and myself. A more accurate interpretation of “Gringo Go Home” is “Gringo Learn Spanish” this is the real world point of friction I have witnessed. And so I’ve been working to pick up more Spanish each day and it goes a long way to pick up specifically the local dialect. For example Puerto Rican’s tend to drop the “s” from words. So its “Buen día” locally, instead of the “Buenos días” you learned in High School Spanish class. Same for “Gracia” instead of “Gracias”. For learning Spanish Duo Lingo is your friend.
3. Extend ALL Act 60 benefits To ALL Puerto Ricans!
This is the key step to get passed this false narrative that Act 60 benefits are for outsiders. Act 60 is driving local job creation and bringing the Diaspora home to Puerto Rico, let’s encourage more of that. We need to continue growing the number of people moving to PR for Act 60 from 5,000 to 40,000 per year just to off set the number of people currently leaving every year. By doubling the Act 60 movers for three more years that growth in population would off set the number of people leaving and if this trend continues PR will return to growth for the first time since the year 2000. There is plenty of room for growth, 6 million people live in Singapore and Puerto Rico is 5 times larger than Singapore by land area.
4. Give To Charities Who Will Be Champions For Growth
The Act 60 community members are required by the program to make annual donation of at least $10,000 to local charities and non profits. Presuming 5,000 Act 60 decrees thats $50 Million USD each year. But many of these charities don’t publicly acknowledge this support because they think people don’t like Act 60 participants. This creates a negative feedback loop where people aren’t told about the positive impact of the Act 60 community. Let’s focus on charities & non profits that will acknowledge the contributions of people moving to Puerto Rico and create a positive feedback loop instead.
5. Web3 + Long Established Puerto Rico Companies
Merge the two economies of Web3 and the industries such as manufacturing (Puerto Rico is the 8th largest in the world for Pharmaceuticals) that are already well established in PR. To this end we recently launched a “Web3 Cluster” to educate members of the Puerto Rico Manufacturers Assocation (PRMA) about how they can save money with Web3 technology. Add in the great work the Puerto Rico Blockchain Trade Assoication is doing on improving local laws to be even more Web3 friendly and the local meetups held in Spanish by Crypto Curious there is great work being done on this front.
On the whole it has been a very positive move to Puerto Rico. For US persons in the Web3 community its far and away the most friendly place to live and work. Its only a 2 hour flight from Miami and its close timezone makes it a lot easier to work from Puerto Rico vs Europe or Asia and you don’t have to manage Visas or get a new passport. My family & my company are here for the long term. I have a native Puerto Rico born son now and we consider ourselves locals (I even filed for and received Puerto Rican Citizenship).
Puerto Rico continues to be the best possible place for our family to live and grow. Here we will stand for greater prosperity for all and together we can build the next generation of the Internet, this time owned by everyone!
Consider moving to Puerto Rico and joining us on this adventure. To make the literature reference Galt’s Gulch now exists and the people that hold the value of freedom are moving here to make it real for themselves.