HuffPost RYOT journeyed to the island to meet with some of those on the front lines.
Lyvia Rodriguez is the executive director of ENLACE Caño Martín Peña Project in Puerto Rico’s capital city of San Juan. The organization works with communities located along the Martín Peña channel, in cooperation with the government and the private sector, to restore the environmentally vital channel and develop the area in a way that is respectful to local residents.
To watch HuffPost RYOT’s 360-degree footage on a desktop browser, tap and drag to look around. On a phone, pan by moving your phone.
Rodriguez described how the channel has dried up due to decades of haphazard development. The body of water's deterioration is jeopardizing the health of the surrounding communities, as well as the country’s infrastructure.
Now, funding for a restoration project is stalled, thanks to the stress the debt crisis is putting on the Puerto Rican government's finances.
How did Puerto Rico get here? Successive Puerto Rican governments relied on borrowing to defer difficult budgetary choices. Wall Street played its part by eagerly granting the island risky loans.
Analysts who are sympathetic to Puerto Rico's predicament note that its in-between status as a U.S. commonwealth has made the current crisis harder to avoid. The island is saddled with many of the costs associated with being one of the 50 mainland states, while enjoying few of the states' freedoms -- including the power to extend bankruptcy authority to distressed municipalities.
Watch the HuffPost RYOT video above to meet more activists fighting for their home amid legislative inaction.