Hurricane Maria brought a lot of realities to light. For me, one big lesson has been:
Only small community based businesses and organizations can and will save Puerto Rico.
This week marks 1 year since the tragedy of Hurricane Maria. We all know stories of many heroes who risked their lives to save others. Along with showing gratitude to them, I want to highlight a different kind of hero:
- The food truck guys.
- The lady selling fruits and veggies under her blue tarp.
- The pet supply store in a mobile home.
- The brothers with the lawn cutting service they run from a pick up truck.
- The corner store bakeries.
- The tiny doctor’s office down the road next to the local pharmacy.
- The local husband and wife run construction company/ hardware store.
- The locally owned gas station.
- The girl that runs the hair salon out of her house washing and braiding hair.
- The little old ladies selling food by the plate from their tiny kitchens.
- The community non profit rushing from home to home checking on the elderly.
These people also rose up to answer a call for help after Hurricane Maria.
The roads weren’t clear but we had access to food* and basics thanks to them. (*not all communities were as lucky, many had much less access to anything for a very long time.) These people were working while the government floundered to do anything.
To these local community based initiatives we owe special gratitude and loyalty. They remind us the power and absolute necessity of local community based businesses.
The small business vs the corporate logo.
When tragedies like this come around, it's the local people and businesses who pick up the pieces from day one. The local population is the most invested in their island's survival. They see the humanity of the people around them that big businesses never will.
Banks and politicians have convinced the people of Puerto Rico that only foreign entities can help us survive. Living through the aftermath of Hurricane Maria has helped many to wake up and see behind that lie.
We don't need the government to beg Amazon or cryptocurrency experiments to move here. We need more small businesses owned by Puerto Ricans with profits that stay here. We need to end bureaucracy that rewards foreign businesses and punishes local ones. We need to support small local community initiatives and let go of the lie that it's only good if it comes from somewhere else.
What can we do to start change?
With all big changes, we can all start small. If you live in Puerto Rico, support local small businesses wherever you can. It helps and best of all, your money stays in your community! When your money stays within your community, your community becomes stronger! And remember, small local businesses come in all shapes, sizes and colors.
If you’re outside of Puerto Rico, find awesome artisans to shop from on platforms like Etsy and Instagram. You can also find a list of some of my favorite local brands to start with by clicking here.
It is in our hands to build our future and make choices with our wallets and our votes. To the small community based businesses and organizations that made #puertoricoselevanta a reality, thank you!
Vanessa Jiménez is a virtual assistant that helps creative women across the U.S build and run handmade businesses on solid foundations. She lives and works in Puerto Rico.
To learn how more about how Vanessa can help your business, click here.