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UCF Establishes Research Hub For Puerto Rico

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Matthew Peddie, WMFE
The Florida Channel
Fernando Rivera is director of UCF's Puerto Rico Research Hub.

As Puerto Rico recovers from Hurricane Maria and evacuees from the island settle in Central Florida, the University of Central Florida has created a Puerto Rico Research Hub designed to identify solutions to challenges and issues affecting the community.

Founder and director of UCF’s Puerto Rico’s Research Hub Professor Fernando Rivera tells Intersection about UCF’s initiatives to help the Puerto Rican population and its diaspora.

“I think for the Puerto Rican community here in Central Florida, it was finally a recognition that somebody is paying attention to me, somebody is paying attention to the needs of my community and that was a long time coming,” says Rivera.

“Unfortunately it took hurricane Maria to awaken that attention to this community but at the end of the day I’m a hopeful person, I’m positive so if this was an outcome of that storm, then let it be.”

The Puerto Rico Research Hub is still working to create lasting partnerships with academic and community organizations in Florida and Puerto Rico.

“I want the community input. I want people to tell me what would be more useful for them. This is about collaboration,” Rivera says.

Rivera tells Intersection in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, many Puerto Ricans looked to Central Florida as their safe haven because the community was so receptive.

“The recovery from the hurricane, a lot of it took place here [Central Florida],” says Rivera.

“People flew here. This was a shelter. This was the over the sea shelter that we had,” he says.

“There was nowhere to go for a lot of people in Puerto Rico so Central Florida provided that refuge. The level of [welcome] that this community provided was amazing.”

The Puerto Rico Research Hub will formally be inaugurated on the anniversary of Hurricane Maria on Sept. 19.