Florida soon will surpass New York in the number of Puerto Ricans living outside the island, with more than one million residents here in Florida. Central Florida lawmakers recently convened at the Orange County Commission Chamber for a briefing on issues impacted by Florida’s influx of Puerto Ricans, with the goal of planning ahead for the state’s fastest growing demographic.
Led by Representative Rene “Coach P” Plasencia, R-Orlando, the workshop was held Friday, Feb. 3, in conjunction with the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Florida and the Florida Legislature. In attendance were nine area lawmakers or members of their staff, including: Senator Victor Torres, Representative Bob Cortes, Representative Carlos Smith, Kissimmee Mayor Alvarez, along with staff from the offices of Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, Orange County Commissioner Jennifer Thompson, Congressman Darren Soto and Representative David Santiago.
“It is imperative that we look ahead,” said Coach P. “As the demographics in our state change and populations grow, we can create a better place for everyone to call home by discussing the expected impacts now. We’re starting these conversations and getting information from experts, so smart decisions can be made relating to education, healthcare and housing.”
The panel’s focus was on data collected on the wave of Puerto Ricans to our state and the economic implications.
Meeting presenters included:
- Accounting Professor Enrique Guerra-Pujol, University of Central Florida
- History Professor Luis Martinez-Fernandez, PhD, University of Central Florida
- Sociology Professor Fernando Rivera, PhD, University of Central Florida
Dr. Rivera focused in particular on findings showing the low health outcomes by Puerto Ricans in the mainland compared to other groups. Dr. Martinez stressed the importance of Puerto Ricans attaining positions within government to better represent this growing population. And Dr. Pujol pointed out that the University of Central Florida (UCF) is now more than 25 percent Hispanic, making it a “Hispanic Serving Institution.” All stressed the importance of establishing a research institute at UCF focused on Puerto Ricans.
Friday’s workshop was the first in a series of conferences bringing together lawmakers, academic experts and Puerto Rican leaders to discuss the contributions of Puerto Ricans and implications of their demographic growth here in Florida. Future events include Puerto Rican Day at the Florida Capitol, taking place March 21-22.