In a city where residents have long complained about the slow pace of repairs, the construction of new hotels and condos is becoming increasingly popular, even though the island has the second-largest population in the United States after Florida.
As many as 200 new hotels are planned for Puerto Rico, including ones on islands in the mainland that are close to Puerto Rico’s coast.
And that trend is likely to accelerate as the island faces a growing epidemic of tuberculosis, a disease that kills more than 1,000 Puerto Ricos a year and is expected to reach 1 million by 2021.
The first Puerto Rico hotels opened in February, after a $3.5 billion deal was signed in July to construct four new luxury resorts on the island.
The latest development, the biggest of which will be completed by the end of next year, comes as Puerto Rico is still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island’s tourism industry and led to the closure of major airports.
While the recovery from Maria is still underway, there is growing pressure on the Puerto Rican government to ease restrictions on building on the islands, including a bill that has been stalled in Congress for months.
“We have a lot of work to do,” says David Vásquez, a Puerto Rican-born architect who heads the construction firm Vásquieras.
“The island is in a great way of being built, and there are plenty of people who are working on it.”
Puerto Rico has been hit hard by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which killed an estimated 1,400 people and left the island with only 5 percent of its infrastructure in place.
The island has also suffered a series of natural disasters, including one that devastated the tourist industry in 2012 and a series that damaged hospitals and killed nearly 1,300 people.
The government also has been grappling with the impact of Hurricane Maria.
In December, the government declared a state of emergency in Puerto Rico after two hurricanes slammed the island in just four months.
But while Puerto Rico now has a long recovery process in place, many residents complain that the island is still not properly protected from hurricanes.
Maria and Tropical Storm Jose left some 1.4 million people without power and left many more homeless.
And the devastation caused by Maria has been compounded by the economic crisis, which has forced many residents to flee the island, as well as by an ongoing bankruptcy case that has left many Puerto Ricas with no state or federal income tax liability.
“I don’t know why the government is doing nothing, why it is continuing with this crisis, why Puerto Rico continues to suffer from a severe economic crisis,” says Juan González, a professor of public health at the University of Puerto Rico-San Juan.
Puerto Rico was hit hard during the devastating hurricanes, too, but its recovery has taken longer than many other U.S. states.
Since the start of the recession in 2009, the U.P. has been in the midst of a series a recovery from the devastation of the economic downturn.
The territory has recovered $2.5 trillion in GDP, more than the combined output of Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania combined.
Puerto Ricolas economy has also grown by a staggering 12.3 percent since 2012.
In contrast, the recovery in the U of T-Dominican Republic, which was hit hardest by Hurricane Irma, has been slower.
“It has been a very long recovery,” says Maria Ochoa, an associate professor of economics at the university.
“They haven’t had the recovery we had in Florida.”
While there is still a lot to be done to restore the island to health, Puerto Rico may also have a longer future ahead.
The U.N. estimated in March that nearly a quarter of the island was uninhabitable, and many Puerto Rican leaders say that the lack of adequate funding for the rebuilding effort is hampering recovery.
In January, the island issued a new request for proposals for $4.6 billion to build more homes and other infrastructure.
The proposal will require a full public review, which could take up to two years, but the government hopes to begin building by the beginning of the year.