Isabela, Puerto Rico-On the morning of Dec. 8, Juan Cruz was packed and ready to catch a plane at the airport Borinquen, Aguadilla. He gave his last goodbyes to family and friends; prepared to start a new life at Houston, Texas.
Cruz is a 25-year-old graduate with a bachelor’s degree on mechanical engineering at University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez. He left the country that morning after accepting a job offer from the URS Corporation.
He said that he will leave with great expectation of improving his life and for his loves ones. With the idea of progress and success he left the country to grow professionally in the mainland, Cruz shared.
Just before his depart, he was interviewed at his home where he lived with his mother, Dec. 6, Cruz invited us to his room where he had set up a desk for the interview. The room had a twin bed, a desk with a computer, and a small closet. Everything was organized and clean, signs of discipline and good hygiene. This humble outlook is common on this sector of Isabela called La Mina.
Additionally he had many awards hanging from the walls, including recognition plaques for community work. “I love participating on this kind of events,” said Cruz, pointing at a plaque that was given to him March 26, 2011 for his attribution to the event that raises money and awareness for cancer patients, Relay for Life, at Isabela. Not to forget, Cruz is a cancer survivor himself, after overcoming testicular cancer at the age of 19.
On the other hand, Cruz graduated from the UPRM with a 3.92 GPA, he said his motivation to find success in school was his mother, “I wanted to be able to take care of her,” he said. When asked why he’s leaving the country, “I will get better paid in the United States,” he said with a smile, “I will eventually get my mother to move to the mainland as well.” Moreover he said that the privilege for him to work at such a prestigious and recognized corporation is great for his future.
“It wasn’t hard to find a job after graduating,” said Cruz, “mechanical engineers have a vast amount of opportunities in the United States”, he added. When asked, if he considered working in Puerto Rico before looking for jobs out of the country, he said that he always considered finding a job in Puerto Rico first, “but I just found a better one in the States,” he added.
But when asked what would make him stay in Puerto Rico instead of making his living at the United States, he said the only thing that would keep him in the island would be a better job offer, “Is not that I’m greedy, I just want to be secured financially,” he added. “But I know that offer will never happen.”
Nevertheless on Nov. 2, 2013 Cruz received an award from Carlos Delgado Altieri, the major of Isabela, where Juan was recognized as an overcoming citizen and an example of improvement. “Is a shame young people like Juan leaves the country to seek better lives and contribute to other economys,” said the major. “Only a small amount of people would refuse such jobs offers just to stay at their home country,” he added.
Furthermore the major said he believes the brain drain in Puerto Rico is what causing such a major decay on the country’s economy, “We need to keep our young,” he added.
In fact a new report from the Center for Puerto Rican Studies titled The State of Puerto Ricans 2013, states that the population of Puerto Ricans on the United States now exceeds the one in Puerto Rico by 1 million people.
When asked about a possible solution for the brain drain, “There’s many ways to attack this matter, one would be raising awareness to the upcoming graduates, so they can also understand how they could help,” said Major Delgado.
In addition an article published on the carribbeanbusinees website by James Ferro, talks about a study which states that the people who left for the states are better paid and better educated than those relocating to the island from the mainland.
Aside from the fact that Cruz will take part of this migration, he says he loves his country and wish he could stay, but he’s determined on what he wants. On the other hand he is excited to start his new life, his also sad to leave behind the two persons he loves the most, his mother Maria Cordero, and his boyfriend Carlos Valentin. “I know he will do good”, said the mother.
“I love my kid and I support him no matter what,” said Cordero glancing at his son. “He’s not the first one, or that last one that is going to leave this country for a better life,” she added.
“Bebe”, Cruz nickname, “has gone through a lot,” said his mother. As a matter of fact Cruz has been bullied due to his sexuality, has survived cancer, had to grow up with the void of a present father. “He is my fighter,” she added.
In the meantime independent organization like conPRmetidos are working to help Puerto Rico’s society and economy by looking for solutions to the brain drain. The purpose of this non-profit organizations is to raise awareness on the public of Puerto Rico, to what job opportunities are offered in the island.
Even though Cruz understands the effects of the brain drain and how he leaving will take part of this problem, “I love my country, and I wish I could stay, but is about my future and my family,” he said.
Eventually more and more people will leave the country, since the progress of the brain drain only grows; when the possible future employers leave the country as well, said Cruz. Only solution that could possibly stop the continuous migration would be obligating graduates of public Universities stay and contribute to the country by working in the island, he added.