The Greek diaspora can be found thriving across the world. Indeed, the Greeks of Puerto Rico have established a small but high-spirited community on the Caribbean island.
With its warm tropical climate and friendly island culture, Puerto Rico, despite being over 8,500 kilometers away from Greece, is an ideal place for expatriate Greeks to settle down.
Many Greeks in Puerto Rico have found that the pace of life and cultural values on the island resemble those of Greece. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the US, but it is culturally closer to Latin America.
Puerto Rico has a tropical marine climate. The weather tends to be sunny, hot, and humid for most of the year. More than sixty percent of the island is mountainous, which may remind many Greeks of home. Of course, the Caribbean island is also well-known for stretches of idyllic sandy shorelines—perhaps another reminder of home for expatriate Greeks.
“I came for vacation, and, after two weeks, I realized I loved Puerto Rico,” Angeliki Mantaga told Greek Reporter. “I was looking for any opportunity to stay.”
“What made me stay and what made me love Puerto Rico is I was instantly reminded of Greece,” Mantaga continued. “The rhythm is a lot slower, especially. I was living in New York City, so New York is a totally different animal.”
Theodoros Ladias, who has lived in Puerto Rico for nearly three decades, is also reminded of Greece by his adopted home. “I love the life in Puerto Rico, the happy people, people just come to your house and scream outside, ‘Hey, open up the door!'” he said.
“So, I love the warmth of the people [because] it made me feel like I was back in Greece where I…[grew] up,” he added.
The cultural affinities between Greeks and Puerto Ricans might in part be explained by the latter’s history. As a former Spanish colony, Puerto Rico has a “kind of European flair,” said Elias Verras, who is originally from Athens.
“Puerto Rico is definitely more Mediterranean than any other place,” Verras said. He added that there “has never been a big Greek community in Puerto Rico, but they’re always loud.”
The Greek diaspora in Puerto Rico
The Greeks of Puerto Rico are active in a wide variety of professions and business ventures. “We have quite a few Greeks, you know, quite a few doctors, we have dentists, we have ophthalmologists, a jewelry store; most of them are businessmen,” Theodoros Ladias told Greek Reporter.
Ladias opened a number of businesses during his time in Puerto Rico. “I had an art gallery and flower shop and about twenty-four years ago, I decided to [start] a little Greek restaurant,” the Greek ex-pat, originally from Kandila, Aitoloakarnanía in Greece, said.
Elias Verras ended up in Puerto Rico when he came to the United States to study at the age of twenty-three after his military service in Greece. “I had the opportunity to visit Puerto Rico, and it was love at first sight,” he said.
In Puerto Rico, Verras opened a tiny jewelry gallery on 202 Cristo Street in Old San Juan, where he began importing artistic, high-end jewelry from Greece. With the assistance of two friends and business partners, Verras was able to transform Club Jibarito into a leading luxury retailer in Puerto Rico.
The Greeks of Puerto Rico have also found success in sports. Christopher Megaloudis is a professional football player of Greek descent, who has played for Sevilla FC Puerto Rico and the national Puerto Rican team.
Megaloudis scored two goals for Puerto Rico in international games, including a game in the FIFA World Cup qualifier. His father, Michael, also played football for Puerto Rico in the 1990s.