For years Puerto Ricans have moved to the state of Florida and contributed to its economic and social well-being, as well as the continental United States. The population movement accelerated after Hurricane Maria hit in September 2017. It was a game changer for the small island. People began arriving in Tampa, Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami seeking relief from the destruction of Hurricane Maria and the island’s ongoing financial crisis. In response to these demographic trends, UCF created the Puerto Rico Research Hub with the purpose of investigating, disseminating knowledge and promoting creative solutions to pressing issues affecting the Puerto Rican population, its diaspora and surrounding communities.
The mission of the UCF Puerto Rico Research Hub is to investigate the Puerto Rican population and demographic trends to better inform public policy decisions including housing demands, job creation, health issues, social integration and education. Additional areas of emphasis include bilingual training, disaster response and recovery and partnerships in the community.
The state of Florida is now home to more than one million Puerto Ricans. One out of every five Latinos in Florida is Puerto Rican, and the Orlando metropolitan area is one of the most concentrated regions with Puerto Rican residents. The estimates of the post-Hurricane Maria migration indicate Florida as the most likely destination for Puerto Ricans leaving the island.
Like other public universities in Florida, UCF welcomed many students relocating from Puerto Rico to Florida. In 2017, the UCF Board of Trustees temporarily extended in-state tuition for these students. The Puerto Rico Research Hub supports UCF’s mission as a Hispanic serving institution by providing a center of intellectual inquiry and programming to enhance the needs of the community, students and faculty. Affiliated faculty seek to create and enhance academic courses and curriculum related to Puerto Rican issues. We view the Hub as an essential component of fulfilling our responsibility as a public metropolitan research university.
A key element in our approach is to develop partnerships with academic and community organizations in Florida, Puerto Rico and the nation. Partnerships with organizations interested in the economic, environmental and human well-being of the island, its people and the Puerto Rican diaspora on the mainland.
UCF Sociology Associate Professor, and founding Director of the Puerto Rico Research Hub, Fernando Rivera, Ph.D., is already leading the way with work in the fields of medical sociology/sociology of health, race and ethnicity and the sociology of disasters. Rivera has been studying the movement of Puerto Ricans to the Central Florida community for over 10 years. He has studied the differential patterns of health among Puerto Ricans in the United States by analyzing different social indicators such as: perceived discrimination, residential segregation and socioeconomic status and their impact on Puerto Rican health.
In the area of race and ethnicity, he has studied racial relations among college students, the process of incorporation of Puerto Ricans to Central Florida, and several aspects of the Puerto Rican diaspora in the US including, health disparities, culture, and discrimination, among others. For the study of disasters, his work has emphasized on disaster resiliency and the importance of social and economic indicators in promoting resilience to the process of preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery to disasters.
A native of Puerto Rico, he continues to be involved in issues affecting the Puerto Rican community and he is recognized as one of the leading voices with regards to Puerto Rico in Central Florida.