Puerto Rican community members of Lee County are hopeful for the future of their homeland amid Gov. Ricardo Rossello’s announcement he will step down at the end of his term.
Puerto Ricans gathered in North Fort Myers Thursday night to celebrate a new era. They came together at La Casita Boricua to ring in a victory locals have been cheering on in Southwest Florida.
”For the first time in a long, long time Puerto Rican’s voice was heard,” Marilyn Santiago said.
Rossello garnered much backlash from Puerto Ricans after the publication of offensive chat messages, and his administration faced accusations of corruption.
The announcement has been met with widespread approval and viewed as a victory for Puerto Ricans.
“They came out in the street with the most awesome exposition of who they are because there was no violence,” Santiago said. “There was an expression of art. There was music.”
Juan Suaraz hugged his son in North Fort Myers over a moment he’s been waiting for since Rossello assumed office.
“Someone in that position should care about their people and want to satisfy their needs,” Suaraz said.
This is very different from what Suaraz said he saw when he visited his home island two years ago.
“A reflection of a lot of discrimination, economic disparities,” Suaraz said. “The reality is after Hurricane Maria, they suffered so much. They went through so much. They saw their people dying. They saw their schools getting closed and so many other things.”
Many Puerto Ricans in Lee Southwest Florida hope this triumph brings change.
Rossello’s designated successor as governor is Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez.
”There’s a new birth of Puerto Rico, and we’re very excited to it,” Santiago said. “And I send them my blessings. And I hope that they make Puerto Rico a better place.”
MORE: Puerto Rico’s embattled Gov. Rosselló won’t seek reelection