Photo: Chad Zuber/Shutterstock

Puerto Ricans Are Protesting the Attempted Privatization of Their Public Beaches

Puerto Rico News Beaches and Islands Activism
by Olivia Harden Feb 2, 2022

One of the best things about Puerto Rico is its natural beauty. In particular, the many amazing beaches across its islands — all of which are public. Though there are no private beaches in Puerto Rico, some beachgoers and newcomers apparently thought otherwise. On January 26, 2022, an incident was posted on social media that showed a couple who had purchased one of the multi-million-dollar homes on Ocean Park beach trying to block off a section for themselves. When questioned by the beachgoers, the unidentified woman in the video insulted them.

“Buy a million-dollar house, then you can give your opinion here,” the woman told Lydibett Santiago in Spanish.

@latinorebelstiktok Protest against privatization of beaches in #PuertoRico #news #lol #wow #latino #fyi #event #beach #saturday ♬ Tanto – Cassie Marin

So, Wilmar Vázquez decided to organize a protest and rally Puerto Ricans for a “Beach Olympics,” according to the Latino Rebels. The event was a beach block party hosted in front of the couple’s house to showcase that Puerto Rico’s beaches always have and always will be open to the public. The protest attracted hundreds of people who participated in beach tennis tournaments at the dozen-plus tennis courses set up for the event, along with beach volleyball, beach hockey, and air aerobics. Other event-goers came just to take in the sun, watch performances, and enjoy the food and beverages donated by community members.

@latinorebelstiktok Today at the #oceanpark beach protest in #puertorico🇵🇷 ♬ original sound – Latino Rebels

In recent years, some Puerto Ricans have become concerned about the gentrification of Puerto Rico and the new property developments on the beach. A 2009 Puerto Rico Coastal Zone Management Program document provides more details on beach access policies in Puerto Rico. One policy states:

“Development in front of the coast, be they public or private, should, in the measure in which it is practical, be designed to facilitate instead of obstructing access to the coast by the general public. It is recognized that the general wellbeing, on occasions, requires restriction of access (i.e. to areas of environmental crisis or endangered species or for public safety reasons). However, the de facto segregation of public beaches, as a result of development patterns, for the enjoyment of private landowners by preventing access by the general public is prohibited in Puerto Rico.”

These policies have not changed.

@latinorebelstiktok More from #oceanpark protest in #puertorico🇵🇷 ♬ original sound – Latino Rebels

So, it looks like public beaches in Puerto Rico are here to stay, regardless of what the owners of million-plus-dollar beachfront properties say.

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