Puerto Ricans March Down ‘Las Américas’ Freeway to Protest LUMA Energy

Oct 17, 2021
12:03 PM

A protester holds an anti-LUMA at a march against the energy company in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Friday, October 15, 2021. (Photo by Carlos Berríos Polanco)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Outraged over constant blackouts and increases in the price of electricity, more than 4,000 protesters marched in San Juan, Puerto Rico, calling for an end to the contract the local government signed with LUMA Energy that privatized part of the island’s electrical grid.

Thousands of Puerto Ricans poured into San Juan under gray skies early Friday afternoon. Many of them had planned to park in the Hiram Bithorn Stadium parking lot only to find that the gates, which usually remain open to the public, had been closed and only police had access to the lot. As I arrived, an anonymous source sent me a fake flyer they’d seen making the rounds online that said the protest had been rescheduled. 

A disinformation poster circulating before the protest on Friday, October 15, stating that protest had been rescheduled for Wednesday, October 20

Undeterred, thousands of protesters singing and waving flags occupied Franklin Delano Roosevelt Avenue in front of the locked gates. 

“Our community doesn’t have water or electricity, right at this very moment,” said the spokeswoman for Carraízo Embellece, a social justice group working toward bettering the Carraízo neighborhood. Carraízo is one of the neighborhoods most affected by the blackouts.

Around 6 p.m. protesters, led by a truck with a loudspeaker, slowly made their way onto Highway 18, also known as Expreso Las Américas, screaming “¡LUMA fuera!” (“Out with LUMA!”) and “¡LUMA se va pa’l carajo!” (“LUMA go to hell!”).

When night fell, the freeway was solely illuminated by the lights of trucks driving along with the march and the thousands of protesters’ phone lights. It is currently unclear if the light posts were turned off by the San Juan government or if they were affected by the same blackouts the protesters were addressing. Video from the day before confirms that the light posts were working fine before the march.

“Today, Puerto Ricans vehemently proclaim that we’re done being patient,” a speaker told the crowd from a stage in front of the ballpark’s gates once protesters returned. She also called for protesters to attend the next protest at the island’s Capitol building on Monday, October 18.

Unlike the majority of anti-LUMA protests that have been organized by labor or social justice groups, Friday’s protest was organized through social media and by word of mouth, though several groups did give their support for the protest. The Electrical Industry and Irrigation Workers Union (UTIER), the Workers’ Socialist Movement (MST) and the Teacher’s Federation of Puerto Rico (FMPR), among others, were present at the march.

After the protesters cleared out, hundreds of police officers filed into the area. The cops, who’d been on the periphery of the march the whole day, blocked traffic at the head of Avenida Plaza Las Américas. One officer produced a birthday cake from her squad car just as the group started singing happy birthday. They sang to the tune of hundreds of stopped cars honking their horns and looking to get past the blockage. San Juan Police headquarters, less than a quarter-mile away, towered above the scene.


LUMA Energy took over the distribution and transmission of Puerto Rico’s electrical grid on June 1 2021. As reported by Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism, there has been a certifiable increase in the number of blackouts across the island. There have also been four increases in the price of electricity in 2021 alone, the last one instituted less than a month ago. 

A report released by the Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority (PREPA) on October 3 showed that only eight out of 16 electrical generation units were working properly. Of those eight, five were in need of major repairs. On October 6, PREPA Executive Director Josué Colón declared that the island’s electrical generation fleet was in “critical condition.” Two days later, PREPA approved a state of emergency for the island’s grid.


LUMA Energy set PREPA’s repair budget at $108 million, less than the over $160 million PREPA claims is needed to fix the grid.

Anti-LUMA protests have been a staple of the island since LUMA was first awarded their contract in 2018, and they show no signs of stopping. Puerto Ricans are already making plans to bring in the new year by protesting outside the Puerto Rico Convention Center when Gov. Pedro Pierluisi hosts “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.”


Carlos Edill Berríos Polanco is a freelance journalist, mostly focused on civil unrest, extremism, and political corruption. Twitter: @Vaquero2XL