Juan Gabriel Moreno and his wife Laura Flores traveled on vacations to the island for the first time. Since they are both architects, the San Felipe del Morro castle, in Old San Juan, was in their priority list. They were attracted by its historical and architectural value
But they felt frustrated yesterday morning when they arrived at the entrance of the impressive building to find it was closed.
Juan Gabriel, Laura and their three-year old son Evan Domingo lamented that the Castle was closed and were even astonished about the reasons behind the closure.
The Morro, as well as other Puerto Rican facilities managed by the federal government, was temporarily closed until Congress reaches an agreement on the budget.
However, the problem at historical facilities was resolved after an agreement between the Puerto Rican government and the National Parks Service (NPS) to finance operations at the Morro and the San Cristóbal castle for a 13-day period.
“It´s a shame and also an irony. We are architects willing to experience and learn about this island´s culture,” said Moreno while he was holding his son.
Moreno, born in Colombia, and Flores, from México, live in Chicago. They lamented what is happening in the USA.
“People don´t know what´s going on or the impact of the shutdown for Puerto Rico, that is part of the United States. That´s what happened with the President (Donald Trump) after the Hurricane (María) and how they treated the island,” said the man about the criticism and questionings raised by the international community regarding the U.S. response to Puerto Rico after María.
A partial federal government shutdown remains in effect since Republicans and Democrats failed to reach an agreement over an additional $5 billion that President Donald Trump wants to include in the budget to finance the US-México border Wall.
"Well, now I am annoyed, that is, my vacations interrupted by the President. We came to Puerto Rico to see beautiful places, and we did not know that the President would stop us," said Joel Hardman, from Illinois, who is leaving the island tomorrow.
The next Congress session to address the issue in an attempt to reach a deal to re-open the government is not scheduled until Thursday
In this scenario, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company reached an agreement with NPS. Under this deal, they will pay federal employees in both castles through a contingency fund for tourism development.
According to Carla Campos, director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, these funds come from tax revenues on slot machines.
When announcing the agreement, Campos said that at 12:00 pm the facilities had reopened, however, El Nuevo Día was in the Morro area at that time and nothing had changed there yet.
Campos said that the agreement is to keep the castles operating for one or two weeks, what represents $3,000 daily, and that they are only going to cover the days that the federal government remains in a partial shutdowm.
“This is obviously an investment with a significant economic impact since there are thousands and thousands of visitors to the National Historic Site,” she added.
The contract analyzed by El Nuevo Día establishes that it is a “donation” or “gift” of $73,312.68 to operate for 13 days while funds from the National Parks Services are not “available”.
Campos and NPS associate regional director Chris Abbott signed the agreement.
Yesterday, in Toa Baja, the governor welcomed the agreement and said that they are working to identify where the partial shutdown is affecting the island and how the local government can assist for the areas to continue operating.
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