M. asked me to write about what was happening in Puerto Rico soon after Hurricane Maria hit, and I tried, but ultimately couldn’t. My brain just couldn’t wrap itself around the totality of it all, enough to form a coherent thought, let alone process and write on it at the time.
As the weeks have passed, the situation in Puerto Rico has gone from bad to devastating.
*disclaimer* I am not sure my thoughts are any more coherent than they were a little over 3 weeks ago.
Puerto Rico is an island that has been abused by the United States since they “acquired” it from Spain in 1898. US Citizenship was forced upon the people of the island in 1917 which eventually made Puerto Rican men eligible for the WW2 draft. They were, however, ineligible to vote for president, or on several decisions made on behalf of the island. Then there was the US led mass sterilization of PR women from 1930s-?, The Jones Act, bombing in Vieques and its disastrous effects on the environment, Superfund sites, the elimination of Section 936, the recession, 40% unemployment, over 70 billion in staggering debt, Wall Street, Hedge Funds, and the bullshit PROMESA bill, to name a few.
Then came Hurricane Maria.
She left PR in ruin on so many levels.
Over 3 weeks later, there are standing bodies of water from the flooding (breeding grounds for bacteria, viruses and mosquitoes), homes that are still standing are infested with mold, 83% of Puerto Rico is without electricity, an already struggling healthcare system is now completely unable to care for it’s patients, 36% of PR is without potable water, and diesel, the country’s main form of fuel, is scarce.
The water situation is Puerto Rico is particularly dire, people are so desperate for water they are using contaminated reservoirs from those Superfund sites I mentioned above. Two people have died from leptospirosis due to consuming the water that is contaminated with human waste and raw sewage. Which brings the death toll blamed on Maria to 45. That number will likely increase as time passes.
The complete public health impact won’t be known for some time.
Puerto Rico is in crisis.
One would think that the president of the United States would be sending more help to the devastated island. But we live in a time when Donald Trump is president. After blocking help from reaching PR, telling PR the incredible burden it is when he visited “to assess the damage” and throwing out some paper towels to the folks to sop up the flood, 45 has now declared he can’t be giving Puerto Ricans aid forever… 🤔
Bills have been passed to “help,” but the reality is, they don’t address the need Puerto Rico had before Hurricane Maria made landfall on the island and THAT is the help PR needs in order to actually get on its feet.
I can’t help but think that an island of brown lives is not high on 45’s and the rest of the government’s priority list.
I can’t help but think that lack of response to the crisis in PR has a lot to do with the government’s relationship to the folks on Wall Street.
I can’t help but think about how the US government has been intent on killing us and taking our beautiful island.
I want to sit here and write that we are going to overcome this and be stronger for it, but the reality is that as each day passes it seems more and more unlikely.
So instead, I am sitting here typing through tears, keeping an account of my feelings, while I watch rich white men in power murder my people for our land.
Which isn’t anything new to America, is it??
Header Art by the talented Jaco Tartaruga