ABOUT THE AUTHOR | Ariela Rivera is the Social Media Manager & Marketing Assistant at Álvarez-Díaz & Villalón.
Since my decision to return home to Puerto Rico, I’ve witnessed a lot of my fellow millennials experience a similar internal conflict: stay and work in the U.S. or to go back home and work in the Island.
Now, with the pandemic, it has gotten worse as many of my millennial friends are afraid to return home. There are too many what if’s that create anxiety and uncertainty. Through my personal story I will dive into several “fearful myths” and will try to debunk many of the misconceptions about returning to Puerto Rico.
After completing my master’s degree in Communications at FIU two years ago, I struggled to decide whether to stay in Miami, or return and work in the Island. It was difficult because on one hand I knew there were great career opportunities within my industry in the Mainland, but on the other I was a bit homesick after five years away.
I thought about all the pros and cons about staying or moving back home. Still, I was unsure of what I wanted to do. I asked for advice from several people including colleagues, friends, and family members. What seemed interesting was that everyone seemed to ask me the same thing “What would make YOU happiest?”. That was a tough question to answer because from a professional standpoint it appeared obvious that I would be happy growing professionally in the Mainland because I thought it would be more difficult to find a good and stable job in the Island.
On the other hand, even if I could not get the “ideal job” in Puerto Rico, staying in the Mainland seemed a lonelier path to take. So, I decided to pack my bags and move back home to the Island.
I arrived home and to my surprise, less than a month later I had a great job! It was in an industry I had no background in, but my unique skills and education made me ideal for the open position. I began my professional journey working as a Social Media Manager and Marketing Assistant at Álvarez-Díaz & Villalón, the leading Architecture and Interior Design firm in Puerto Rico. Two years later I’m still thrilled to be back home with my loved ones and proud to continue as part of the AD&V® Team. I have learned and grown a lot.
After going through the internal turmoil of not knowing what decision to make, I realized that I worried about the classic “What ifs?”. One can never know where life will take you or if you are making the “right” decision. In my case, I listened to what my loved ones said and just focused on what made ME happy. The main thing I learned during this difficult process was not to dwell on the “What ifs?” or let fear take over my decision making because life usually has other plans for us. I hope that my experience can help debunk the following 4 myths below:
MYTH #1: IF I MOVE BACK, IT WILL BE PERMANENT
This myth may sound a little odd, but it is a real fear that millennials have of getting too comfortable and stuck in the same place. In other words, millennials worry that if they come back to Puerto Rico they will get too comfortable and miss out on personal or professional growth.
This is not true at all. For one thing, local opportunities can provide enormous personal and professional growth. We assume that only the Mainland can allow for these opportunities, but that has not been my case at all.
I have friends who went back to the Island after graduating and decided to leave because they wanted to continue their studies or start a new adventure, and then returned. Anyone can leave the Island if things don’t work out. You just need to keep yourself in check and look for what works best for you.
MYTH #2: I WILL NOT HAVE THE SAME INDEPENDENCE
For millennials who fear that if they move back to their parent’s house they will not have the same independence, don’t worry. Moving back to your parent’s house will not make you lose your independence.
You can still be a strong independent person no matter where you live. You will also be saving a lot of money and will eventually have enough saved to get your own place. Remember that rent prices are usually higher in the U.S. than in Puerto Rico.
MYTH #3: THERE WILL NOT BE ENOUGH CAREER OPPORTUNITIES
This is a myth I strongly believed until I saw all the job opportunities available when I moved back to the Island. And now with the countless jobs that people have lost because of the Pandemic, millennials are losing hope. However, locally, many companies are in need of young talent and 3 years after Hurricane María, federal funding is finally beginning to get distributed. So, while the rest of the Mainland is in a contraction, Puerto Rico is currently in an expansion.
Additionally, there are millennials that have gone back to the Island who’ve started their own thriving businesses here. There are tax incentives and programs like Red Ventures (formerly known as Foward787) that focus on job increasing opportunities for millennials and that encourage young professionals to start their own businesses.
For example, the Young Entrepreneurs tax incentive is open to any Puerto Rican resident between the ages of 16 and 35. The Puerto Rican government’s intention with the act is to entice young professionals who have left Puerto Rico to return to their homeland and start a business under favorable startup conditions. Benefits of the Young Entrepreneurs Act include:
- 0% fixed income tax rate (for the first $500,000)
- 100% tax exemption on property taxes
- 100% tax exemption on municipal taxes
This is a great opportunity for millennials!
MYTH #4: IT WON’T MAKE A DIFFERENCE IF I MOVE BACK
Unfortunately, the biggest myth that I’ve seen that millennials believe is that it won’t make a difference if they move back to the Island. Millennials play a key role when it comes to improving Puerto Rico’s economy. According to a study conducted by GFR Media, there are 768,727 millennials in Puerto Rico that make up 21.6% of the Island’s population. The study finds that 90% of millennials give importance to employment opportunities and that 78.6% said that they would set up their own company if they had the option.
Additionally businesses created by millennials like Lote 23, and Bien Cool have thrived and survived under these difficult times. Parallel 18 and the Guayacán Venture Accelerator (GVA) are excellent local accelerators that provide everything from education, seed funding and coaching to help startups thrive and scale. These are great opportunities that millennials can take advantage of while at the same time helping to provide innovation and lift up the Island’s economy.
I wanted to share my story to inspire other millennials or anyone going through the same uncertainty I went through two years ago. Coming back to Puerto Rico is ultimately up to you, but Puerto Rico has a lot to offer and you have a lot to offer the Island as well. It would be awesome if you could join me in the millennial fight for our beautiful Island’s recovery! #YoNoMeQuito