Puerto Rican instagrammers answer crisis with beauty at #CrisisIsland

In an effort to showcase the beauty of Puerto Rico and the unwavering love that many young Boricuas have for their troubled island, a group of influential instagrammers has launched a grassroots hashtag campaign called #CrisisIsland featuring irresistibly comely photos and videos from the “Island of Enchantment.”

The non-governmental campaign is intended to “change the conversation about the island” by flooding social networks with user-generated content that reminds people that underneath Puerto Rico’s current economic and social crisis, it’s still land of beauty, adventure and romanticism, says Carmen Portela, of media consulting firm Synapse Social.

The campaign started by enlisting 10 of the island’s top young Instagrammers—with a total followership of 200,000—to do their thing. Their posts inspired a bevy of other Puerto Rican instagrammers and foreign tourists alike to join the movement. In one month, the hashtag campaign has resulted in more than 6,000 user-generated photos uploaded to Instagram, and nearly 14 million impressions on Instagram and Twitter, according to Portela.

En caso de crisis, flota. #crisisisland In case of crisis, float. #crisisisland

A photo posted by Laura Alemán (@lauraalemanofficial) on

The basis of the hashtag campaign, similar to Guatemala’s recent IG tourism-promotion campaign, is to harness the power of social media to influence public opinion about a country whose name is often uttered in the same sentence as the word crisis. But unlike the #VisitGuatemala campaign, which was funded by that country’s tourism board, #CrisisIsland is completely independent and pro-bono.

infinity pool. #CrisisIsland

A photo posted by REY FONTÁN (@reyluis) on

The hashtag #CrisisIsland was picked in an effort to appropriate the language people are using to talk about the country and disrupt the conversation, Portela explains.

“Everything you read about Puerto Rico in the media is crisis, crisis, crisis. But there’s another reality to our island,” she told me. “The first phase of this campaign is intended to change the way we look at our own country internally, because many people here feel sad about the situation. I think the first stage of promoting love for country has been a success, because we’ve seen people starting to have a new appreciation for our island.”

Phase two, she said, is to spread the love internationally, Kumbaya style.

Participating instagrammer Harold Camilo says the campaign is successful because the photos are genuine, not the staged stuff you see in typical tourism brochures. He says many of the instagrammers are friends in real life who were already exploring and photographing their country on weekends. Now they’re uniting those efforts under a common hashtag.

"Where’s the light I used to know? Slip, slip, slip through your hands" #WHPmakebelieve

A photo posted by Harold Camilo (@haroldcamilo) on

“We are just normal people enjoying the island,” the 23-year-old says. “We are truly in love with the island.”

Fellow instagrammer Rey Luis, 24, says the hashtag campaign is something he and his group take very seriously.

I live where you vacation. Puerto Rico… #CrisisIsland

A video posted by REY FONTÁN (@reyluis) on

“It makes us proud to be part of the solution and not part of the problem,” he told me. “I was upset that so many people were talking badly about my island without knowing it. So we’re using the tools at our disposal, namely Instagram, to to show that not all is wrong with the island.”

I could sit here all day and not be bored. #crisisisland

A photo posted by Pablo D. Quiñones (@snpshots) on

“My ability to impact the way people look at Puerto Rico makes me really proud,” he said.