By Michelle Kantrow-Vázquez
Xavira Neggers-Crescioni, who had nearly three decades of experience as a business reporter in Puerto Rico,passed away over the weekend. She was 51.
Her unexpected death has left her friends and colleagues with heavy hearts. On a personal level, aside from being one of the most incisive reporters I’ve known, Xavira was also one of my very best friends.
I met Xavira in 1993, when we coincided as reporters at Caribbean Business in San Juan. Me, a rookie, she, an already seasoned reporter with a reputation for brilliant writing and understanding of some very complex issues that she was able to explain clearly and succinctly.
But perhaps what was most noticeable about her was her kindness, bubbly personality and unmistakable laugh. Xavira was a powerhouse in every sense of the word, and we soon became fast friends.
Less than a year later, Xavira moved on to join the now-defunct The San Juan STAR newspaper’s business reporting team, covering local markets, industries, with a particular focus on tourism, shipping, aviation, retail. She also covered banking and finance, earning the respect of many in and outside the newspaper.
In 1995, we met again when I too was hired at The San Juan STAR, where I worked for 13 years until the newspaper’s closing in August 2008. While we covered very different beats, Xavira was part of a team of business reporters that collaborated on a number of stories, winning multiple awards over the years.
From January 2000 to December 2004, Xavira moved to the newspaper’s city desk, covering Gov. Sila María Calderón, the switchover of Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority management from Ondeo back to the commonwealth, and the Popular Democratic Party’s 2004 electoral campaign, among other topics.
From January 2005 to August 2008, she covered federal court, including the Superaqueduct trial against former Gov. Pedro Rosselló’s former campaign manager René Vázquez-Botet and former New Progressive Party General Secretary Marcos Morell-Corrada on extortion charges as well as the trial against Gov. Aníbal Acevedo-Vilá on campaign corruption charges.
During all that time, Xavira was able to express her creative side as Puerto Rico’s most discussed, popular, epicurean restaurant reviewer, writing under the “nome de plume” Xaviera Hollandaise, for San Juan City Magazine.
Her reviews were some of the industry’s most inspired and entertaining at the time, as she had one of the most developed palates in town. Her love for screaming hot and spicy dishes was legendary among those of us who knew her best.
She entered the field of journalism armed with an extraordinary educational background. Xavira earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Comparative Literature and Creative Arts Studies from Columbia University and a Master’s in Journalism from Universidad Complutense in Spain. She also spent a year earning a degree in Visual Arts Studies from the Parsons School of Design.
Xavira was wildly intelligent, incredibly witty and razor-sharp in her job and in life. She was thoughtful, generous, funny and a loyal friend. While living in Old San Juan — a community she cherished for many years — she could often be seen walking her beloved dogs Moi and Germanicus down the cobblestoned streets and hanging out at the local restaurants and watering holes.
She was a devoted daughter and granddaughter and a life-long animal lover. I will miss being greeted by her “hey girl!” whenever we spoke on the phone or ran into each other at press conferences. While in recent years we were competitors, that never got in the way of our genuine friendship…which is something I will miss terribly. ‘Til we meet again, my dear Xavira.