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‘Guagua Aérea’ Heads to Florida

guagua aerea
The term ‘guagua aérea’ refers to a well-known 1993 film about the Puerto Rican migration to the states.



Note: This story is based on interviews conducted earlier this year but never before published.

María T. Padilla


The guagua aérea has changed its destination from the Big Apple to the palm shores of Florida, where 1 million Puerto Ricans now live – slightly less than in all of New York state and equal to about one-third of the entire population of Puerto Rico, according to the latest census figures.

For many Central Floridians the trend means more people with which to speak Spanish, and a warm and welcoming culture. For others, the growing population of Puerto Ricans produces anxiety, worry and the desire for more political activism.

Pro or con,  Florida is the new heart of the boricua diaspora in the United States. It’s where planeloads of guaguas aérea keep landing, a reference to a well-known 1993 movie based on the book of the same name by Luis Rafael Sánchez.  Central Florida, generally defined as a six-county area, is the place where experts and others forecast the future of the Puerto Rican diaspora is likely to unfold.

“Central Florida definitely is the new epicenter of Puerto Ricans,” said Betsy Franceschini, regional director of the Central Florida office of the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA), which reopened offices here in 2013 after being closed for several years due to budget cuts. Each year PRFAA helps thousands of migrants looking for area jobs, housing and schools.

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1 Million Puerto Ricans in Florida

Puerto Rican lady w. flag
It is now official that Florida’s Puerto Rican population surpasses 1 million. /Maria Padilla



By María T. Padilla

It’s official.

There currently are more than 1 million boricuas in the Sunshine State, more than any other state except New York, according to the latest population numbers from the Center for Puerto Rican Studies in New York.

Given the unprecedented level of migration from Puerto Rico to the states in recent years, it won’t be long before Florida surpasses New York as the state with the highest number of Puerto Ricans.

As of 2014, there were 1 million Puerto Ricans in Florida versus 1.1 million in New York, stated the center in a press release. The statistic is already a year old, which means the Florida number is bound to be higher.  The just-released numbers are based on the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which is an annual population estimate.

I have predicted this moment for a long while – have even given presentations about it around Orlando. Simply stated,  Florida has become the favorite migration destination of Puerto Ricans both from the island and other states. It’s the milestone that many have been waiting – although what it ultimately means is still to be determined. (Politically, however, it’s true that Puerto Rican voters are painting the state blue.)

Florida is the place that Puerto Ricans are reinventing themselves after decades of migrating to, or residing in, the north. As an Orlando-based journalist for nearly 20 years, I’ve had a front-row seat to watching this trend unfold.

“In 2014, Florida became the second state with one million Puerto Ricans,” the center stated in a press relealse. “The data released … show a deepening trend for settlement destinations for stateside Puerto Ricans,” the center wrote.

Of course, Florida’s gain is Puerto Rico’s loss, and the data show that the island’s population is barely holding at 3.4 million – flummoxed by a financial crisis and recession that is over nine years old.  Other states benefiting from the island out-migration are Texas, Connecticut  and Virginia – all three posting increases of better than 10 percent.

Enough talk. Here’s the graphic.


Top 5 State Increase


My Promise to Orlando Latino Readers

well-hello-thereWelcome back!

As many readers know, Orlando Latino® has been on hiatus for nearly a year. I let the original Orlando Latino® lapse and returned to the real world of work. Unfortunately, because I didn’t renew the web hosting I lost my archive of many stories. Some very good stories, too.  Poof! Lo que el viento se llevó.

But it’s all right now.

Orlando Latino® is back in slightly different format and form. I thought I’d start out by making a promise to Orlando Latino readers going forward.

Here goes:

• This blog is about Latino issues and the Latino community of Central Florida. On occasion I’ll write about things that may have news value to the community.

• I aim to be as fair and unbiased as possible but I won’t pull punches either.  You’re probably cheering now, but if I touch a cherished subject you’ll be cussing me out.

• I’ll focus on the facts, rather than make them up as I go along (very fashionable these days). That means I’ll do my research.

• I won’t write about anything in which I have a vested interest. (I didn’t before but I’m just sayin’. Besides, my “vested interests” are few indeed.)

• That includes politics. I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican. I’m not pushing an agenda. I can see the fault in each political party.

• You’ll never read a story here because somebody bought an ad. A story published in Orlando Latino® is one that I think is worthy of your time, and my effort and space.

That is all. Time to get to work.  Oh, and if you want to keep in touch, subscribe to Orlando Latino®.


Maria Padilla