Banco Popular’s “Echar Pa’lante” institutional campaign, launched five months ago, is entering a new phase this year that calls for developing a long-term blueprint to foster entrepreneurship and education to help drive Puerto Rico’s individual and collective growth.
To achieve the ambitious goal, the bank is not going at it alone. Popular is enlisting the support of dozens of big-name companies, grassroots organizations, trade groups and the academia to brainstorm and roadmap the strategy, Mariel Arraiza, senior vice president of marketing and customer knowledge said Thursday.
“Echar Pa’lante is a movement whose vision is to impel greater competitiveness for Puerto Rico and how we as Puerto Ricans can overcome the challenges that lie ahead. In that unity and cooperation is where we will achieve success,” Arraiza said.
The initiative that in English means “move forward,” began in August 2011, when the bank signed up the enigmatic “El Gran Combo,” band to rework its classic “No hago mas ná,” anthem to encourage work, rather than complacency. The company also launched the www.echarpalante.com website, encouraging people to share ideas and their experiences on how they were able to move forward in their lives.
“We made the decision to do something for the island, and in the best way possible, get into people’s psyche through a melody that was motivating, which is why the lyrics were changed, because we wanted to give the message that change is possible and that hope is the last thing you lose,” said Eduardo Negrón, senior executive vice president of Popular Inc.’s administration group.
While the song became an instant hit, the interaction within the website — which received more than 150,000 visits in less than six months — resulted in the creation of short vignettes to highlight stories of local entrepreneurs who beat the odds to achieve success.
Strength in numbers
“In this next phase, we’re going to put together a very concrete project through that union with other companies, and we’ll be determining what each one will be responsible for doing within that common agenda,” she said, noting that Popular’s movement has found support in the likes of Coca Cola, Ford, and the University of Puerto Rico, among others.
Leading the charge of bringing all of the collaborators to the table is former Education Secretary and Sociologist, César Rey, who said Thursday “while Puerto Rico is facing multiple challenges and we may think that we’re the only place that is facing those challenges, I believe our talent is greater than the challenges we have.”
So far, the Echar Pa’lante movement has gained the support of more than 100 allies, which Rey said “speaks volumes of the networks that we can build to plant the seed for a new island.”
The first thing the group has done is take a “snapshot” of the island’s needs, challenges, efficiencies, which resulted in the decision of rescuing education and entrepreneurship, he said.
“Education is the basic ingredient to transform a country. Investing in education is not the exclusive responsibility of the government. I believe education is all of us, so that said, the movement wants to include all of those who are interested in moving education forward,” he said. “In terms of entrepreneurship, our economy needs a change in paradigm and we believe that too starts in schools, which could provide training and a curriculum.”
Free concert at Third Millenium Park
To wrap up the first phase of the “Echar Pa’lante” campaign, Popular will host a free musical event Jan. 28, headlined by El Gran Combo and other well-known artists — Olga Tañón, Melina León, Daddy Yankee, La Secta, Cultura Profética, Quique Domenech y sus Trovadores, Plenéalo and Grupo Manía — who will be performing on two stages at the Third Millenium Park at El Escambrón Park in San Juan, from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Some 30,000 people are expected to attend the event, which is being planned in conjunction with the San Juan Municipal government. Some 200 law-enforcement agents will be on hand to control the crowds, and some half dozen metal detectors will be set up at the park’s entrances to prevent people from slipping weapons into the event.