Retailers in Florida Seek Puerto Rican Products for Avid Consumers
Puerto Rico’s economically strapped condition has forced many people to emigrate to the mainland U.S., particularly Florida, in search of better job opportunities and improved quality of life. As the Puerto Rican community grows in Florida, so does the yearning for those familiar, everyday things that have been left behind.
From acerolas and quenepas, to maví, and coquito, Puerto Ricans in Florida have become avid consumers of everything Puerto Rican. That is why the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce of Florida (PRCC) is in the process of developing “strategies for the profitable exchange of goods, and the domestic trade with our island of Puerto Rico.”
To that effect, the PRCC has engaged the commonwealth government for the past couple of years to help small businesses eliminate the obstacles that prevent them from exporting their products to Florida.
“Due to the economic decline of Puerto Rico, many small businesses have closed their doors, now new businesses are starting again with new dreams…. Florida and Puerto Rico could benefit from having an MOU [memorandum of understanding] to benefit both regions, with services and goods that will help Florida and Puerto Rico businesses while serving the interest, commitment and investment of participating parties,” said Elizabeth Cuevas, founder & CEO of the PRCC of Florida.
Cuevas announced her organization is sponsoring what she characterized as a networking event with the participation of several companies showcasing their products and services for the purpose of increasing exports to Florida. According to Cuevas, consumers in Florida are interested in products such as: maví (an exotic drink from the sugar plant), natural juices and nectars, tropical fruits and vegetables, rum, cigars and coffee, among other products.
The list comes as no surprise if one takes into consideration the words of renowned Puerto Rican writer María Teresa Babín, in her essay “Manjares de la Isla” (“Delicacies from the Island”), included in her 1956 anthology “Fantasía Boricua,” where she describes Puerto Ricans in terms of what they eat.
“Puerto Rico has its cuisine, its aromatic herbs and its own way of cooking its food. This determines a significant part of being Puerto Rican and how different he is from other men made with different food. That is why Boricuas resist shedding their culinary customs so much and carry in their saddlebags the necessary things to preserve them,” said Babín in her emblematic essay.
That is precisely one of the reasons offered by Cuevas to justify the trade exchange.
“These products were enjoyed since childhood [by Puerto Ricans now living in Florida] and are missed,” she said.
Cuevas said Puerto Rican products “can easily compete in the Florida market against products from Central and South America and the Dominican Republic, whose nutritional benefits have been depleted” by premature harvesting and long transit from their origins.
“However, we have encountered some difficulties when shipping some of the most sought after and valuable agricultural products. We require fresh produce and frozen goods to be delivered in a short period of time to provide the nutritional demands from Puerto Rican families [living in Florida],” Cuevas said.
For the PRCC founder, there is a great opportunity for Puerto Rican entrepreneurs willing to export their goods to Florida, but the commonwealth government must help them out. Unfortunately, she is convinced “past government administrations have been nearsighted” and have left this opportunity fly away.
Cuevas openly admits she does not have high hopes with Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s administration. Nevertheless, the PRCC has scheduled the “Meeting of the Minds Networking” event in an effort to export Puerto Rican products and services to Florida.
The Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce of Florida Inc. is a nonprofit chamber of commerce established to promote and empower Puerto Rican businesses with exclusive Puerto Rico products not found in Florida.