A street in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Photo/Alfredo Sosa/The Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images)

Parranda Global Summit: Empowering citizens to take action in Puerto Rico

A non-profit group created by Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. mainland as well as in the island has a pretty ambitious agenda – to tangibly improve the “greater Puerto Rico.” This includes bolstering its economy and entrepreneurship, education, health and public safety, all of which have been pretty buffeted as of late. Giovanni Rodriguez, one of Parranda.org’s founders, says there is really one way to do it – “people have to stand up and take power into their own hands,” he says.

To that end, a group of over 150 leaders who reside on and off the island will gather on Thursday, May 30th at the University of Puerto Rico for its first Parranda Global Summit. The  main goal, says Rodriguez, is to go beyond talk, and walk out at the end of the day with a true action plan for tackling the different issues. “The key is to get really focused on who is going to fund it, who is going to do the work and when we get started,” Rodriguez explains.

Puerto Rico, a U.S. commonwealth, has been facing some serious challenges, including high debt levels, an economy hard-hit by the recession, and high crime rates. This has has caused an increase in the number of residents who have left the island in recent years.  On the other hand, the island has a high literacy rate and a robust business and tourist industry. Its main science university (University of P.R.-Mayaguez) was one of the top  50 U.S. schools awarding engineering degrees in 2010-2011.

Rodriguez says, however, “there will never be enough resources – especially government-driven resources.  So it’s about empowering through civil society,” he says. “We want to give Puerto Rican citizens the feeling that look, we have permission to be our own leaders,” he adds.

Some of Parranda’s founders and main organizers, like Rodriguez and Natascha Otero, have experience in technology and social media,  as well as political and community organization.  The main goal of the interactive session is to discuss and organize – but most importantly, emerge with concrete plans of action.

“We have to have people who passionately advocate for Puerto Rico – people have to learn more, and hopefully Parranda can educate,” Rodriguez says.

RELATED: Reinventing the Puerto Rican parranda as a networking website 

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