Shelby: Puerto Rico is a beautiful island in the Caribbean. And even though it is officially a territory of the U.S., life in Puerto Rico is a lot different from life in the states. We hung out with a student named Miguel to learn more about what 24-hours in the life of a 17 year old here is like.
Miguel Valdez: Hello! We are here in my school. It’s in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It’s a beautiful school. We have the beach right across the street.
Shelby: Miguel Valdez goes to class in a city most Americans go for vacation.
Miguel: I want to study biology because I love the ocean and I just love being in it.
Shelby: His school is located in the capital city of San Juan in Puerto Rico, a tropical island in the Caribbean. Just a few hundred miles from the coast of Florida, its beaches are a hot spot for tourists and locals like Miguel.
The waters of Puerto Rico were discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493, and the land was ruled by Spain for more than four centuries. Then in 1898, at the end of the Spanish-American War, Spain surrendered the island to the U.S. Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory, meaning land that is governed by the United States. And Puerto Ricans gained U.S. citizenship in 1917.
Even though most of the people still speak Spanish, many are fluent in English too.
Teacher: We are going to be doing here a lot of things.
Miguel: All of the classes are in English. The teachers all speak in English.
Shelby: Statistics show that the public education system in Puerto Rico isn’t very good, so a lot of teens like Miguel go to private schools, which have better academics and often emphasize religious values.
Miguel: When the school was built and until now, the people have been very Christian.
Shelby: When he is not at school, Miguel hangs out with his friends and takes advantage of Puerto Rico’s warm weather.
Miguel: Right now, we’re going to have a scrimmage of soccer.
Shelby: He plays sports at a local park. And, of course, hits the beach!
Miguel: Well, we come to surf. I actually do kite surf. And if it’s flat, you can go to a reef and watch the fish.
Shelby: Another one of Miguel’s favorite activities is eating authentic Puerto Rican food.
Miguel: This is one of the typical lunches in Puerto Rico: rice and beans, and then there’s pork and salad.
Shelby: His love for the local cuisine comes from his grandma, who owns a restaurant.
Miguel: I love her very much. She is one of the people that raised me.
Shelby: Miguel has helped his grandma Maria serve customers for years.
Miguel: They are called platanos. These ones come from the backyard of my grandma. They use it in a lot in Puerto Rican food.
Shelby: Miguel says his grandma’s restaurant is successful because she serves traditional food that neighbors love. But he is worried about American chains that are threatening local businesses in Puerto Rico.
Miguel: Big companies from the U.S. that come here, they take a lot of jobs and they take over the businesses that are from here.
Shelby: It is a big concern on the island, and Puerto Rico’s economy has struggled to keep up. With the unemployment rate higher than that of any U.S. state, tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans move to the mainland every year in search of greater opportunities. In fact, there were 4.9 million Puerto Ricans living in the continental U.S., compared to just 3.7 million living in Puerto Rico in 2011. As a result, there has been a growing debate on the island to change its relationship with the United States.
Are you satisfied with the way Puerto Rico’s status is?
Miguel: I am not satisfied because Puerto Rico should be something, because you cannot just be a territory and stay like that.
Shelby: Some Puerto Ricans say that becoming a U.S. state is the answer, while others are calling for the island’s independence. But no matter what the future holds, Miguel’s goal is to live in Puerto Rico after college to improve his home.
You are proud to be a Puerto Rican.
Miguel: I’m so proud because you have so much beautiful things in Puerto Rico that you can experience. I’d like to do the most help here in Puerto Rico.
Shelby: You want to make Puerto Rico better?
Miguel: Yeah, of course.
Shelby: To learn more about Puerto Rico and life for 17-year-olds around the world, head over to our 24/17 page on Channelone.com.