Puerto Rican Tampa Release

“We didn’t come here to go through hardships or depressions, we came here to progress,” says Narbelt Coss when asked about his job hopping and current move from Tampa, Florida to Dallas Texas.

Photo used with permission from Narbelt Coss

Narbelt lived for over a year with his cousin in Tampa.  He talked to the Boricua en la Luna blog about how unbearable conditions after the passing of Hurricane Maria influenced him to leave Puerto Rico.


Dr. Alessandra Rosa, a sociocultural anthropologist at the University of South Florida, points out that Tampa is often selected by Puerto Rican immigrants because they have family members living in the area that can help them relocate. “Even if they have the [family] network it wasn’t necessarily something more long term possitive,”explains Dr. Rosa.  


Narbelt Coss’ relocation plans in Tampa relied heavily on family support and did not work out as planned. When the cousin he was living with received permanent change of station orders to Korea, Narbelt and his sister were again forced to look for another place to live.


As it turns out Tampa may not be the ideal place for some migrants it used to be.  According to a Fox13 poll, Florida now ranks 12th out of the top 15 most expensive states and territories. 

“We didn’t come here to go through hardships or depressions, we came here to progress,” says Narbelt Coss when asked about his job hopping and current move from Tampa, Florida to Dallas Texas.

Narbelt lived for over a year with his cousin in Tampa.  He talked to the Boricua en la Luna blog about how unbearable conditions after the passing of Hurricane Maria influenced him to leave Puerto Rico.

Dr. Alessandra Rosa, a sociocultural anthropologist at the University of South Florida, points out that Tampa is often selected by Puerto Rican immigrants because they have family members living in the area that can help them relocate. “Even if they have the [family] network it wasn’t necessarily something more long term positive,”explains Dr. Rosa.  

Narbelt Coss’ relocation plans in Tampa relied heavily on family support and did not work out as planned. When the cousin he was living with received permanent change of station orders to Korea, Narbelt and his sister were again forced to look for another place to live.

As it turns out Tampa may not be the ideal place for some migrants it used to be.  According to a Fox13 poll, Florida now ranks 12th out of the top 15 most expensive states and territories.  

Narbelt faced with potential homelessness, once again made the decision to relocate.  This time he decided to try his luck in Texas, the state with the second most Puerto Rican post Hurricane Maria migrants.  

Since moving to Dallas, he has held four jobs.  “Gas prices were too much,” he recalls.  Most of his paycheck was spent between the rent and fuel.  Narbelt finally got a position as a quality control manager at a local snack factory and will stay here until something better comes along.

He still dreamed on returning to Puerto Rico one day. “I was thinking of going back and then this last hurricane hit the island,” Narbelt says regarding Hurricane Fiona.  Since that hurricane severely damaged an already weakened infrastructure, people like Narbelt are unsure of when the island will be stable enough for them to make a good future there.

Puerto Ricans Tampa-Bound, The Story of Puerto Rican Immigration After Hurricanes and the COVID Pandemic

By Ricardo Hernandez

“Welcome, welcome,” exclaims Joretsi Coss as she opens the door to her apartment in Tampa. Since leaving Puerto Rico, the two-bedroom space has provided enough room for Coss and her cousin to live comfortably. A vast improvement over some of her past accommodations since moving from Puerto Rico over four years ago.

-Video Story By Ricardo Hernandez

Coss moved to the Continental U.S. seeking refuge from the hardships caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The two category V storms pummeled Puerto Rico in 2017 and left the island and its inhabitants physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually battered.


Before the devastation, she worked in a fast-food restaurant in the town of Caguas. The storms decimated the entire electric grid making most businesses grind to a halt for months until power could be restored.

-Photos used with permission from Narbelt Coss

Many jobs were lost as a result of the devastation left by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

Photos used with permission from Narbelt Coss

Once the electricity started to come back online, some business asked their employees to report back to work. For Coss, this proved a nearly impossible task. Located just 18 miles from her hometown of Humacao, her commute to Caguas used to be an easy one.

-DOD Photo

This proved more difficult after Maria and Irma destroyed not only homes and businesses, but also decimated 97% of the roads making them impassable.

-Photo by Ricardo Hernandez

“Even though they were understand[ing] of the situation, not really,” says Coss who ended up in need of another job.

According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, almost 40,000 people lost their jobs a month after the passing of Hurricane Maria. With few job opportunities and no means to sustain herself in Puerto Rico, Coss made the familiar choice thousands of other Puerto Ricans have made and emigrated to the United States.

-Photo by Ricardo Hernandez

A publication Dr. Rosa contributed to titled “Report on Puerto Rican Post-Disaster Migration Survey,” shows that around 159,000 to 176,000 Puerto Ricans left the island a year after Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the island. According to the respondents, 79.5% of these immigrants moved to Florida. Their top reasons for leaving Puerto Rico included the lack of electricity and the loss of their homes, jobs, and belongings.

-Graphic Produced By Ricardo Hernandez
Photo by Ricardo Hernandez

Dr. Rosa points out that after arriving on the U.S. mainland, some Puerto Ricans find that the proverbial “American Dream” may not turn out to be the positive experience many people paint it out to be.

This was certainly something Joretsi Coss experienced for herself after moving from the island. For the next eight months, she bounced around from job to job in Massachusetts and Ohio. However, these jobs did not pan out well for her because of job conditions or living arrangements.

-Graphic By Ricardo Hernandez

“When I got that job in Ohio, I didn’t have anyone, I didn’t know nothing about the place,” Coss says with a smile on her face. The lockdown caused by the COVID pandemic kept her in isolation inside her cramped studio apartment while performing her call center job duties. “I was living in a shoebox, it gets really frustrating, it was a lot of anxiety.”

-Photo used with permission from Narbelt Coss

As luck would have it, Joretsi’s brother Narbelt invited her to move to the Tampa area where he had lived with a cousin for a year since moving from Puerto Rico.


“[For] a few months I was being stubborn and saying no I can do it I can live by myself,” but eventually Joretsi accepted her brother’s request and moved to the Tampa area. In Tampa, the support of her brother and cousin helped her be more economically and mentally stable. Coss attributes her family’s support to the success she had in her new in turn enabled her to be successful in her job with MAC Tools.


What is it about Florida? Perhaps most important is that many Puerto Ricans have family members here. This creates a support network that helps these immigrants settle down easier than in other areas of the country.

From right to left: Siblings Joretsi and Narbelt Coss spend a day with their mother Carmen Cuadrado at a Latin festival in Tampa. -Photo used with permission from Narbelt Coss

“Florida is like the backyard of Puerto Rico,” Joretsi giggles. “In every corner, you will have someone that knows someone that you know, or find a food truck that sells Puerto Rican food.”

-Photo By Ricardo Hernandez
Despite the familiarity, Puerto Rican migrants did meet some challenges such as language barriers.

According to the “Report on Puerto Rican Post-Disaster Migration Survey,” 47.6% of those surveyed do not understand English very well and 12.4% don’t know English at all. Furthermore, enrollment in English classes was identified by this survey as “one of the top five services with the highest unmet needs.”Dr. Rosa points out this is why Florida turns out to be an ideal place for Puerto Rican migration. “Central and Southern Florida [have more] Latinas and Latinos so you hear a little more Spanish, which is more familiar than if you go above Northern Florida.”

Besides language, quality of life plays a major part when many victims of Puerto Rico’s natural disasters consider where to relocate. Coincidently, 61.6% of respondents participating in the USF Migration Survey listed it as one of the main reasons for their immigration into the Tampa area.

Jennifer Hinojosa, Nashia Román, and Edwin Meléndez. Puerto Rican Post-Maria Relocation by States, Centro RB2017-03, Issued March 2018. https://centropr-archive.hunter.cuny.edu/sites/default/files/data_sheets/PostMaria-NewEstimates-3-15-18.pdf -Infographic produced by Ricardo Hernandez

When asked about the quality of life in Florida, Joretsi was quick to point out what Tampa and other U.S. cities were doing right compared to back home in Puerto Rico. “The process to get your driver’s license, to get an apartment, to do groceries, everything is much quicker and easy.”

Among other things, Coss went on to explain how difficult it is in Puerto Rico to navigate the bureaucratic process to accomplish quotidian tasks like getting copies of documents or getting approval to work or drive. “In Puerto Rico to get your driver’s license you need to get five different stamps and get a lawyer to sign [the documents].” “It’s too much [of a] process, here you don’t have to do all that.”

Tampa, Florida -Photo by Ricardo Hernandez

Because of its location, the Tampa area can provide relief for some of the challenges experienced by disaster immigrants.

Dr. Rosa points out that Tampa’s geography provides some advantages other areas of the nation can’t provide. “Plane tickets [to and from Puerto Rico] are cheaper, you can always fly back, it’s just two hours to two hours and a half.”

This proximity to the island can help keep immigrants grounded in their Puerto Rican roots and with the friends and family, they left behind. “I have my birthday in Puerto Rico every year now,” Jorestsi says with a jovial grin on her face. Ironically, she used to plan birthday trips to the U.S. mainland when she lived in Puerto Rico.

So what is this “natural disaster diaspora’s” future? According to USF’s immigration survey, about two-thirds of immigrants “have not considered returning to Puerto Rico.”

Joretsi is part of the one-third minority that is considering returning to Puerto Rico… but not yet.

“I do want to go back to Puerto Rico, I don’t think it’s going to be in the next year or two, but I want to invest in the island and come back to something more stable,” she explains.

“It is what it is, we have to [live life] and we would do the same thing here in Florida, in Massachusetts, in California,” Joretsi exclaims with a big grin. “You go to sleep, wake up, do your job, and keep living.”

Gaging by the statistics reflected in the USF survey, many Puerto Ricans living in Florida and on the U.S. mainland may feel the same way as well.

For more stories about Puerto Rican culture in Florida, follow The Boricua en la Luna Blog and our FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr.

Women’s Contribution to Puerto Rican Music; This Year’s Banco Popular Music Special

Popular/ YouTube.com

People familiar with Puerto Rican culture know how music is to its people. Christmas season is equally important in Boricua culture so it is no surprise that these two elements would collide to make a prolific amount of music celebrating the holiday season.

Banco Popular de Puerto Rico (BPPR) has produced a televised Christmas special for over 29 years. Its success can be attributed to the casting of established and upcoming Puerto Rican and international musicians such as Marc Anthony, Daddy Yankee, and Juanes just to name a few.

The BPPR Christmas special became a staple of Puerto Rican television and in recent years made a crossover into other US markets in the Continental United States. It is simulcast by all television channels in Puerto Rico and later released to other domestic and international markets.  

With the growing popularity of YouTube, Banco Popular decided to stream its Christmas Special for everyone to see. Anyone can run a search on the popular video platform and experience a sample of Banco Popular’s previous musical programs.  

Since Banco Popular’s successful foray into online streaming, other companies have sponsored musicians for their Christmas music specials. These online specials were especially popular during last Christmas season when pandemic protocols prohibited large gatherings and concerts.  

In 2021 Banco Popular continues its tradition of promoting Puerto Rican culture with its latest music special titled “Ellas, Mujeres en la Musica” (Women in Music). This production is loaded with the talents of female Puerto Rican artists such as La India, Lucecita Benitez, Nydia Caro, and Yolanda Monge just to name a few. 

“Ellas, Mujeres en la Musica” will simulcast in Puerto Rico at 8 p.m. (AST) on Sunday December 5th on Puerto Rico’s Telemundo, Punto 2, WAPA, WIPR, TeleOnce, Mega TV P.R., and Canal 13. The program will air on the same date in the Continental US at 8 p.m. (EST) on Meaga TV Orlando, and WAPA America.

Although their page doesn’t specify if this year’s music special will be streamed on YouTube, stay tuned to Banco Popular’s Social Media on YouTube and Twitter as the program has consistently streamed online in the past few years.

The music from this program will be for sale on Apple iTunes and other platforms. DVDs of the program have been on sale in Amazon and other stores in the past, but as of yet, there is no official word.  

Proceeds from this program’s sales will benefit the Banco Popular Foundation, an entity that funds schools and entities with music programs.

Puerto Rican Diaspora On Display At USF

Puerto Rico is a hotbed of musicgastronomy, and tourism. Because of this, it is no surprise that Puerto Ricans also share a rich art culture. 

Prolific portraitist Jose Campeche captured historical figures living in Puerto Rico during the 18th century. During his tenure, he also created impressive religious portraits; painting more than 400 works just for the church alone. 

Impressionist Francisco Oller painted everything from still life to complex paintings like “El Velorio” which serve as vivid windows into Puerto Rico’s past.

Jose RosaAntonio MartorellRamon FradeMiguel Pou, the list of talented artists goes on all the way to the contemporary art of today.

The University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum (USF CAM) in Tampa, has curated such cultural works of art. Its exhibit titled “Constant Storm: Art From Puerto Rico And The Diaspora.” shines a spotlight on a Puerto Rican population that has increased in Florida. Mass immigration events caused by the back to back natural disasters caused by recent earthquakes, Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and the COVID pandemic pushed between 30,000 and 50,000 people to the Sunshine State.

“You’re encouraged to start in the smaller gallery,” says Gillian Olortegui, a Student Assistant at the USF CAM. The artists planned out the optimum way to move through the exhibit in a way that would enhance a museum patron’s experience.  

By following this programmed order, patrons first experience a set of static art exhibits. The works in this area are housed in a subtly lit space that is serene and quiet. Artwork by Ivelisse Jimenez, Gamaliel Rodriguez, Yiyo Tirado Rivera, and Jorge Gonzalez Santos range from canvas paintings to a sand sculpture which is designed to deteriorate with the environment.

As visitors move away from this section of traditional art styles, patrons move through a small hallway housing a video presentation titled “Foreign in a Domestic Sense” by Natalia Lessalle-Morrillo and Sofia Gallisa Muriente.  

“It’s a four video installation that syncs up with each other,” says Olortegui about her favorite part of the exhibit.  

The video artwork displays fragmented events which the spectator then becomes part of as they assemble them all together in their mind. This piece of interpretative art is a decompression chamber of sorts that prepares patrons to enter into the more abstract final section of the exhibit.

It is more than obvious once you reach this last section of the Constant Storm exhibit. In contrast with the entrance, visitors are bombarded with bright colors, loud competing sounds, and the jarring use of bold materials. 

Standing out are two artworks prominently featured in the promotional material for this particular USF CAM exhibit. First, you run into a brightly colored shaved ice cart titled “Pimp My Piragua” by Miguel Luciano. The piragua, or shaved ice, is a staple of Puerto Rican culture. The piraguero who makes the piraguas is easily identifiable by the carts that they push.  

To a Puerto Rican, “Pimp my Piragua” needs little explanation as an art piece that highlights the melting pot of Puerto Rican and US mainland culture. In his piece Luciano takes the traditional piragua cart and “pimps it up” by attaching it to a low-rider style bicycle and painting the whole thing with bright orange paint. To top it off, Luciano added an audio system that would easily be found in any fiebru’s (audiophile) car.

If the organizers of the Constant Storm exhibit would start this section with an extremely bold specimen, they should find an art piece that’s just as strong to finish the exhibit with. Wanda Raimundi and Kristina Tollefson’s combined performance and material art piece fit the bill perfectly.

A professor at the University of Central Florida, Tollefson created a traditional Afro-Puerto Rican dress out of materials such as blue tarp, advertisement signs, and other debris left behind by hurricanes. Wanda Raimundi then used this dress to create an interpretative art piece part where she walked through certain city venues and danced to traditional Afro-Puerto Rican music.

The result of all this effort became a piece titled “Exodus / Pilgrimage” displayed by showing the performances on a video screen and by prominently displaying the dress on a mannequin facing the exit. It’s almost like the exhibit organizers wanted to remind patrons that despite the hardship faced by the people of the Puerto Rican Diaspora, they will make the best of what they have and continue moving forward to preserve their culture into the future.

Constant Storm: Art From Puerto Rico And The Diaspora” is on display at the USF Contemporary Art Museum through December 4th, 2021.

Puerto Ricans Here, There, and Everywhere; A Sociologist Studies Puerto Rican Diaspora In Tampa

The people of Puerto Rico have been through a lot in the past four years. Hurricane Maria and Irma packed a double wallop causing widespread destruction that cost more than $90 billion in damages in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The human toll was worse with an excess of 2975 deaths in just Puerto Rico as a result of the storm. 

As if these disasters were not shocking enough, Earthquakes continue to rock the island. Damage includes structural damage to homes, schools, and businesses making them uninhabitable. The New York Times reports that thousands of families sleep outside their dwellings for fear that tremors may finish off their homes while they are inside.  

Four years since Hurricane Maria, physical and emotional scars are still felt by Puerto Ricans that lived through back-to-back disasters. During these emergencies, recovery aid was painfully slow and some are still waiting for recovery money and assistance. 

These events touched Puerto Ricans of every part of the social strata. Even US Representative Alexandra Ocasio Cortez’s own grandmother had hardships living in post-Maria Puerto Rico. Many felt the desperation that comes from not being able to find a stable place to work or live, opted to immigrate to the United States mainland.  

Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States and its people are US citizens. As such, Puerto Ricans can move in and out of the US mainland at will. In 2017 over 100,000 Puerto Ricans did just that as they fled in droves to places like Florida.

What greeted them there was not that much better. Groups that decided to settle in the area of Tampa, walked into more frustrating circumstances which in turn created deeper more complicated issues. Sociocultural anthropologist Dr. Alessandra Rosa calls this a “cascading disaster.” 

“The needs in the migrant community were great,” Dr. Rosa says. “They needed affordable housing,” but instead were met with inflated rent prices in Tampa. According to rentdata.org, “2017 Fair Market Rent prices in Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater are very high.”

In order to afford a place to live, Puerto Rican migrants needed jobs that paid enough to pay the high rent prices they were experiencing. In many instances, they did not find that. Dr. Rosa mentions that some challenges for these displaced families included “the language barrier, lack of affordable or free child care, and racism” just to name a few.  

One of the most important reasons why families migrated was their children’s education. They quickly found out that the hurricane had created several issues with that as well. Dr. Rosa says “it was a challenge for parents to enroll their children in school because in many cases their kids’ school electronic and hard records were lost due to the storms.” “In cases where children enrolled in local schools, the language barrier was sometimes an extra obstacle for keeping up with their studies.”

The “cascading disaster” Dr. Rosa speaks about is a result of all of these compounding issues. “The Tampa community especially was ill-prepared for the influx of immigrants from Puerto Rico,” said Rosa. 

Many of these Puerto Ricans had no choice but to return to Puerto Rico where they face similar hardships, but at least have family support. Some chose to stay and to confront the new challenges posed at the locations they immigrated to.

Evidently, four years after Hurricane Maria Puerto Ricans continue to feel desperation. They need the government at both the state and federal levels to provide them with the assistance they need to get on their feet. Government organizations and NGOs have still not implemented adequate action plans that will be effective in dealing with the state of emergency created by these compounding disasters.  

Dr. Rosa says “it is unfortunate that given what these communities have gone through during two hurricanes, several earthquakes, and now the COVID pandemic, that we do not have better programs in place in case other major disasters happen again in the future.”

Success, Puerto Rican Art Works at the USF Contemporary Art Museum

Puerto Rico is a melting pot of heritage. Inside churns a brew of African roots and Taino bones simmering in a Spanish broth. We now add tomatoes that were brought back to the island after years of toiling and harvesting in the fields of the US mainland.

All of these ingredients make up the flavor of modern-day Boricuas. Their flavor is served up worldwide mostly through music. Boricuas have savored the flavors of their art for years, devouring the paintings of Francisco Oller, Jose Campeche, and Miguel Pou.

Waves of migration have now spread the taste of our painting, sculptures, and prints to all parts of the US mainland and the world with exhibitions as far from Puerto Rico as Seoul, South Korea.

Toali (Aiba Buya) by Jorge Gonzalez and September Elegy by Angel Otero. Photo by Ricardo Hernandez

Tampa, Florida is one location where waves of Puerto Ricans ended up after being displaced by natural disasters and other socio-economic hardships. It is no wonder why the University of South Florida coordinated with Puerto Rican artists in Florida, New York, and Puerto Rico to put together an exhibition of Puerto Rican art at their Contemporary Art Museum (USF CAM).

“So the museum has been around since 1989 but we feature artists internationally and nationally,” explains Gillian Olortegui Fourth Year International Relations Student and Student Assistant at the USF CAM. She readily volunteered why this exhibit was significant.

Constant Storm: Art from Puerto Rico and the Diaspora” is a compilation of paintings, photographs, sculpture, video, interpretative art, and studies that tell the story of the Puerto Rican migratory wave that happened as a result of the impacts that Hurricanes Maria and Iris had in conjunction with the subsequent COVID-19 pandemic.

Exodus/ Pilgrimage by Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz. Photo by Ricardo Hernandez

The public can explore five different areas of the museum where they can see the works of art up close and personal. While there are traditional paintings and poster art, the exhibit also features performance and video artwork. “One of my personal favorites is actually the one in the hallway; It’s a for video installation and they all kind of sync up with each other, so it’s like four separate storylines and they converge and diverge,” says Olortegui with excitement.

While talking about intangible art, the student assistant also pointed out the investigation work contained in the symposium titled “Bregando with Disasters: Post Maria Realities and Resiliencies” which is posted on the exhibit’s website.

The Boricua en la Luna blog will soon feature a story dealing with recent Puerto Rican migratory patterns, what forces caused them to be displaced from their home, and in what direction they are headed. The page Olortegui pointed to contained case studies and interviews presented by Dr. Alessandra Rosa which provided insight into the very topics that this blog will be covering. In her conclusion, Alessandra Rosa’s study “highlights the importance of developing strategies that can promote not only resiliency but also mitigation and prevention of crises.”

In this respect, art strives not only to show how things were and currently are, but also how they can be. Exhibits like this one allow us to virtual taste the “Boricua melting pot.” Puerto Ricans will continue to add the ingredients of their experience to this pot and are responsible for how the “Puerto Rican cultural recipe” turns out in the future.

“Constant Storm: Art from Puerto Rico and the Diaspora” will be on display through December 4, 2021. The USF Contemporary Art Museum is open Monday through Wednesday and Friday from 10 am to 5 pm, even-numbered Thursdays from 10 am to 8 pm, and on Saturdays from 1 pm to 4 pm.

Flora Santiago Sigue En La Lucha



Record cover for Pepe y Flora’s “En la Lucha” album. Photo used with permission by Flora Santiago.


This month The Boricua en la Luna had a chance to catch up with Flora Santiago. Santiago is one of Puerto Rico’s first protest folk singers. She moved to the Bronx in New York City in the 1950s where her absence from Puerto Rico would inspire her love for the island.

Photo provided by Flora Santiago.

During her journey, she met many people that would join her on her voyage of self-discovery. One of these people was Pepe Sanchez with whom she would form the influential recording duo, Pepe y Flora.






Photo of Grupo Tahone. Photo provided by Flora Santiago.


Years later she after returning to Puerto Rico, she went on to form part of the famous music group Taone. Roy Brown, one of the members of this group, composed the music for the Song “Boricua en la Luna” which is the namesake of this blog.

Flora went on to take part in other music groups including Edgardo Delgado y Taller Criollo.



Flora Santiago performs a duet with her daughter Melisa Claudio. Photo provided by Flora Santiago.


Numerous albums, songs, poems, and books later, Flora continues to be an advocate for Puerto Rican independence. Her spirit continues to influence her compatriots through her talents in music and poetry.












Flora Santiago meets recently freed political activist Oscar Lopez. Photo provided by Flora Santiago.

Puerto Rico on Exhibition in Florida

Vulture Brand Yams; acrylic painting by Miguel Luciano. Photo by Ricardo Hernandez

The Boricua en la Luna Podcast prequel before arriving at the Art Exhibit.


Hispanic Heritage Month runs yearly  from September 15 through October 15 during the anniversary of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Nicaragua’s independence from Spain, through Columbus Day.

As a part of this year’s observances, Florida Southern University’s Contemporary Art Museum (FSU CAM) curated a display of Puerto Rican art titled “Constant Storm Art from Puerto Rico and the Diaspora.”  

Cibelle Hernandez visits the Constant Storm Art Exhibit. Photo by Ricardo Hernandez

“We feature artists both internationally and nationally,” says Gillian Olortegui a student assistant at FSU CAM. The collection was actually a year late, being delayed due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Pandemic delays seem to complement the theme, becoming themselves like another storm the contributors had to overcome to have their voices heard. 


Pimp my Piragua by Miguel Luciano. Photo by Ricardo Hernandez

Art on display included traditional canvas paintings, performance art, and even a “pimped-out” piragua (shaved ice) cart complete with its own audio system.  The binding theme for all the art was Puerto Rican reaction to the adversities brought on by climate change including the more recent destructive power of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.  

Cibelle Hernandez visits the Constant Storm Art Exhibit. Photo by Ricardo Hernandez

 “I’m exited to see such an exhibition here in the US” says artist Cibelle Hernandez. “I hope that [people] find a connection with us [Puerto Ricans] since we are like a people like a coqui hidden in the leaves.”

Multimedia by Ivelisse Jimenez and Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz. Photo by Ricardo Hernandez

Constant Storm Art from Puerto Rico and the Diaspora is on display to the general public at the FSU CAM through December 4, 2021.  

Waiting on COVID, a Pandemic Story Revisited


Photo provided by Tricia Ortiz

Covid, pandemic, masks, vaccination, are things that are on everyone’s mind lately. For this story, we revisited Tricia Ortiz an IT consultant living in the Washington DC area to find out how the dip then subsequent spike in COVID cases has affected her business and social life.

Ortiz takes the pandemic seriously. She got vaccinated as soon as she was able to, but she tells us that she still chooses to wear her mask to protect others from the spread of the virus. If asked, she describes her approach to the virus as a conservative one. “I have a social responsibility to stay healthy for myself and for the country,” says Ortiz.

Photo provided by Tricia Ortiz

Staying engaged during the pandemic, Ortiz started work on a Master’s Degree in Photography.  Even when working on her assignments she is cautious.  “I take pictures outdoors, all my pictures are outdoors, and if I do any indoors it’s because I’m doing a self-portrait,” says Ortiz.  The same philosophy applies to her pandemic work, where dog walking keeps her socially distanced outdoors.

A major part of being Puerto Rican is our emphasis on family. Pandemic restrictions currently affect Ortiz in a very personal way. Since the last time we met, Ortiz’s brother passed away. The family was unable to gather together for a memorial and vowed to do so in the near future. That was a few months ago and the resurgence of COVID in the form of its new variants have caused new restrictions that once again postponed a memorial service for Ortiz’s brother.

There may be a silver lining for the Ortiz family in the way of vaccination. Puerto Rico Department of Health statistics show that as of October 3rd, 2021, the population in that territory has 87.4% of people vaccinated with at least one dose, and 78.9% are fully vaccinated against the disease. With total US statistics being at 64.8% and 55.9% respectively, Puerto Rico is well ahead of many other jurisdictions in protection from COVID.

For now, her family is maintaining the hiatus on her brother’s memorial but Ortiz is hopeful that they will be able to carry it out in the near future. “Knowing that Puerto Rico is doing such a great job at getting everybody fully vaccinated with such a high number, I think by the end of the year or early next year things will be in a better shape.”

The District of Columbia’s vaccination numbers are also pretty encouraging with 70.6% of residents receiving at least one dose of the vaccine and 59.9% being fully vaccinated. However, even Washington D.C. has quite a few doses to administer before it starts reflecting the successful vaccination numbers Puerto Rico is reporting. 

Photo provided by Tricia Ortiz

Meanwhile, Ortiz will remain cautious at home until the numbers look a little better and she is feeling more comfortable that her traveling will not negatively affect her family and others.

A One-Man Orchestra, Now that’s Entertainment

Work hard, play hard is a saying observed by many at the end of a long work week. During a weekend some people may go to a restaurant, some may look for a place they can enjoy music, but what if you find a place where you can do both. That certainly would make for an epic outing with friends or family.

Enter Luis Rios, an entertainer from Lares, Puerto Rico whose guitar and music skill was forged with over 40 years of experience starting at the tender age of seven. Rios is no stranger to the satisfying nature of music. “When I was a boy my father was a musician and there were many instruments in our home” Rios remembers”.

Growing up, Rios was surrounded by music. His father would regularly take him out to participate in Puerto Rican Christmas caroling called parrandas.

At some point in his life, Rios shifted his focus and learned a trade, and became a barber. “I dedicated myself to my studies and let the music fall somewhat to the wayside”. Being a barber is his livelihood, but it didn’t take too long for Rios to pick back up his passion for music.

“I put together a group called “Los Sabrosos del Ritmo” and for over 17 years we played music in many activities, weddings, and hotels”. “During this time I also learned how to be successful in a group and as a soloist as well”. It is during this time that he became “El Hombre Orquesta” or the One-Man Orchestra. 

It’s been forty years and Rios is fortunate to continue to work on both of his life’s passions, music and cutting hair. As he continues to nurture his musical talent, Rios would like to work on recording and distributing his music on the internet.

Asked why he enjoys performing music, Rios says that “being able to please an audience is fulfilling”. He also wants to thank his public for supporting, following, and accepting him throughout his career

To keep up with the entertainment scene in Central Florida, subscribe to The Boricua en la Luna blog.