Puerto Rico is SAFE.
There is a misconception that Puerto Rico is an unsafe place to be. Somewhere between the reports of some-high-number of murders and crime rates in New York it arose, terrifying would-be Americans and other tourists from visiting.
"Isn't it dangerous?" people have asked me.
It surprises them when I tell them I often feel safer there than in many big cities here. I would dare to say I feel very, very comfortable walking around Puerto Rico, despite being an obviously American young woman. Now, granted, I haven't been alone too often while there, but even still it's not something I would mind because I always feel safe.
I think this stems from a few factors...
- Puerto Rico is in the Caribbean. Yes, it's true (go look at a map if you don't believe me). But this doesn't mean that their neighbors share their crime with them... duh.
- Puerto Rico has poor people. Also true but sort of deceiving. Compared to most of America, Puerto Rico is far behind economically. On the other hand, compared to most of the Caribbean, Puerto Rico is thriving. The difference between them--and I'm going to go on a limb here, because I haven't been to other parts of the Caribbean, so feel free to correct me--is that there is no huge class disparity that is seen in other countries. Most people live on about the same level, and, while they do exist, there are very few pockets of incredibly poor and incredibly rich people. Another part of it is that most people make more than enough money for necessities and then some. After all, $20,000 is considered (low) middle class while in the U.S. it would be not much more than pocket change. However, the prices of living are increasing much faster than the wages (for example, water has gone up quite a few times by as much as 400% and real estate is getting ridiculously high), so eventually there may be some problems.
- Puerto Rico has black people. Shocker there! Now, I know there are racists both on and off the island who would like to blame crime on them. It shouldn't be really too surprising that I'm going to say it's nonsense, especially for Puerto Rico where blacks, while certainly marginalized, receive more equal treatment than in the U.S. and certainly better than in their sister countries... DR, I'm talking to you. Racism in PR is complicated and I'll be touching on it later. In terms of crime though, it is definitely a non-issue.
The other question is what exactly are you doing? About 90% (I believe... I read it somewhere a while ago) of homocides are drug-related. If you're not messing with drugs and gangs you shouldn't have any problem at all.
For tourists, pickpocketing isn't as common as, say, Europe, but it is something to prepare for as would be done in any American city or even less, since most tourists only stop at Old San Juan, which is incredibly safe. Point is, there is no reason to be scared of the Island of Enchantment.
(Sorry for such a long hiatus between posts! They will continue in due order from now on I hope)