Census: 300,000 Puerto Ricans now living in central Florida

Census: 300,000 Puerto Ricans now living in central Florida

ORLANDO, Fla. — Channel 9 has found a record number of people from Puerto Rico are now moving to central Florida with new numbers showing as many as 100 families are coming in each week.

Anchor Jorge Estevez found a number of them are professionals who are not only looking for work but also impacting the economy.

 Alexis Torrez is the owner of Made In Puerto Rico, a theme restaurant on State Road 535. The restaurant started in Puerto Rico and serves traditional Latin food. Torrez chose to open the first United States branch of the chain in central Florida.

And dental hygienist Amaris Rivera told Estevez she came to central Florida to restart her career.

"A smile is the first thing you see in a person," said Rivera, who has found work and is in school to become a dentist.

Rivera said she left Puerto Rico seeking a better life for her family.

Betsy Franceschini runs the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration in Kissimmee, which dedicates itself to helping those who have just arrived from the island.

"There is a tremendous amount of migration coming from the island," said Franceschini.

According to the Census, almost 300,000 Puerto Ricans now live in central Florida, and that number is growing. The Puerto Rican population here is second only behind New York, where there are 1.2 million Puerto Ricans.

And numbers also show the population on the island is decreasing. There is now less than four million people and that number is dropping each year by more than 1 percent, officials say.

"They are looking for better jobs and education and a little more safety in their neighborhoods," said Franceschini.

And migrating to the states is easy because Puerto Rico is a commonwealth and people on the island are considered United States citizens and have the same rights. The only difference is they can't vote for president.

But transplants are also coming from the Midwest and the Northeast, both of which have big concentrations of Puerto Rican families.