Like many of you, we’ve read news of the potential discrimination in Puerto Rico’s newly revised Civil Code. We’ve been in discussions with LGBT+ community leaders on the island, their legal counsel, and the teams at HospitableMe and Discover Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico’s tourism marketing organization). We want to share our deeper understanding of what these civil code changes do and do not mean, and what we’re doing to support LGBTQIAPK rights in Puerto Rico.

While there’s no explicit anti-LGBT+ discrimination written into the new Civil Code, there are a number of ambiguities in the language that leave an open door to discrimination. There is anger over the way the new Civil Code was passed, in the middle of a pandemic, with no public hearings after April, when significant changes to the code were made. And there’s concern the ambiguity of the code’s language could impact the ability of trans people to change the gender marker on their birth certificates or marry. It’s too early to know what effect, if any, the Civil Code will have on LGBT+ people, and no changes can be made to the Civil Code until the legislature reconvenes in 2021.

Based on the news reports about the Civil Code, some of you expressed a reluctance to go to Puerto Rico or spend money there. A few have even called for VACAYA to change our embarkation port for the February 2021 Caribbean Cruise. While boycotts can be an effective tool for change, we’re choosing a different path in this case and we’d like to share it, along with how you can join us in affecting change.

We’re taking a 5-pronged approach to positively impacting the situation:

  1. Since knowledge is power, VACAYA joined forces with LGBT+ travel experts HospitableMe to develop a deeper understanding of what these civil code changes do and do not mean. You can read their educational statement HERE.
  2. We also joined forces with industry organization, Discover Puerto Rico, to make impact where we can. A statement from Discover Puerto Rico can be found HERE.
  3. VACAYA is sending an independent statement to legislative leaders in Puerto Rico to help them understand the economic impact of our visit and that they should not take our community for granted. That statement can be found HERE.
  4. On June 26 at 5pm ET, we’re co-sponsoring a Virtual Vacay Pride Celebration with Discover Puerto Rico, featuring a diverse roster of entertainers. There will be opportunities for you to join us in supporting local LGBT+ advocacy organizations on the island. To join the virtual celebration, simply go to VACAYA’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/myvacaya/) at 5pm ET on Friday, June 26 and scroll down until you get to the Facebook Live stream.
  5. When we visit Puerto Rico in February, we’ll have opportunities for you to meet community leaders and give back through VACAYA’s ReachOUT program.

We choose destinations based on myriad factors, but the single most important aspect in selecting a destination for our events is the destination’s embrace of the LGBT+ community. Puerto Rico is unique in the Caribbean — it has broader protections and rights than most of its neighbors and is home to a vibrant LGBT+ community. Discover Puerto Rico was one of the first in the world to provide LGBT+ training to their hotels and other tourism partners.

Boycotts can be an effective tool for change, there’s no doubt about it, but they often hurt the local LGBT+ community, who are disproportionately represented in tourism and hospitality jobs, and can face a backlash from their employers and colleagues who see the boycott as threatening their livelihoods.

From the discussions we’ve had with the community in Puerto Rico, a boycott isn’t the best way to help them. Instead, we are deepening our engagement with locals and standing strongly by their side.

Above all, at VACAYA we believe in the extraordinary power in bringing people together.  When we come together in celebration of our diversity and common humanity, we make change happen. As you will see in our statement to the Puerto Rican legislature, we’re very clear in our response to the Civil Code and our support of the LGBT+ community. And we’re educating and bringing along our tourism partners to stand up for the LGBTQIAPK community, too. We’re so grateful for the opportunity to do that, and for your support in making it happen.

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