Oxford University Press Announces the 2017 Place of the Year

Copyright Oxford University Press 2017

The polls have closed and the results are in: the Oxford Place of the Year for 2017 is PUERTO RICO. The race was close in the final poll, conducted on Twitter and Polldaddy, with Catalonia receiving the second highest number of votes. The Oxford Place of the Year continues to be dominated by places that have seen immense tragedy and loss, with Aleppo and Nepal named in the last two years.

For 11 years, Oxford University Press (OUP) has picked a Place of the Year to highlight the places that have inspired, shaped, and challenged history in that year. Starting in 2007, a regular panel of geographers and experts, including the editor of the Oxford Atlas of the World, chose the shortlist to highlight key places in the world from that year and also a singular “Place of the Year” that they felt had the most impact in the minds of the public. In 2012, OUP opened the choice up to a public vote. This year, employees of OUP, which has staff in over 50 countries around the globe, helped to create the longlist. From that longlist, the public shaped the shortlist through online polls and ultimately decided the Place of the Year.

Before becoming a United States Commonwealth in 1952, Puerto Rico was inhabited by an indigenous people called the Tainos. While the approximately 3.5 million residents are citizens of the United States, Puerto Ricans cannot vote in federal elections. They are, however, bound by the decisions of the President and Congress. Puerto Rico has been experiencing an extreme economic crisis for a decade, notably coming into the public eye when they filed for bankruptcy in May 2017.

In September, two powerful hurricanes devastated Puerto Rico. On September 6th, category 5 Hurricane Irma ravaged the Caribbean islands. Although it did not hit Puerto Rico directly, it left over one million people without power. On September 20th, Hurricane Irma bisected the island at category 4, leaving widespread destruction and long lasting impacts. Two months later, 50% of the island is still without power, and residents report feeling forgotten by recovery efforts. From the controversy of hiring a small Montana-based electrical company, Whitefish, to restore power to the island; to the light…

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