At the time of this writing, it is exactly three months since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, leaving the island –a territory of the United States–absolutely devastated. Sustained winds and massive flooding destroyed houses, severely damaged infrastructures, halted businesses, and caused hospital and emergency centers, whatever few that could function at minimal levels, overwhelmed. The beautiful isla del sol, frequented by fellow Americans and international tourists alike for that very reason, was shrouded in literal darkness due to a total collapse of its power grid. As of early December, a little less than 70% of homes finally have electricity. Still that is far less than the unrealistic, or perhaps naively hopeful, goal of 90% by December 15th set in October by Gov. Ricardo Rossello. The date has come and gone, and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority was not able to reach even an 80% threshold.
But the darkness that I am bothered most by is not just the inability to deliver quick and efficient relief to the people on the ground who are still suffering. What has become apparent is a certain insidious apathy towards the plight of Puerto Ricans, or dare I say, our fellow human beings. Whereas I concede that technical difficulties may very well inhibit the efficient and effective implementation of relief and rebuilding plans, I cannot help but wonder whether the same situation would have been dealt with much more decisively had it been an island of political donors. Surely the photo-op of a president coming to its rescue would have shown more than the distribution of paper towels.
To be fair, the response to blue states devastated by Hurricane Sandy was also highly political. It appears it has now become the norm for legislators to use federal response to calamities as punitive means to deal with opposition. At best, they are manipulated to score political wins at the expense of ordinary people’s physical and financial survival. It is a way to prove to the base that “we” will refuse to expend energy, efforts, time and especially money for people who aren’t like “us.”
When one spends every day purposefully, consistently, and methodically dividing people–pitting citizen against fellow citizen–almost as a sacred calling, then natural disasters that occur in your enemy’s backyard becomes seemingly divine in nature. And because no one grows up trained to aid the devil, no help arrives.
There are several theories that have been offered to help explain the sluggishness and lackluster effort, not only by politicians but by the mainstream media and the public, to this travesty of a human response. Some say that perhaps Puerto Rico is not remote enough or poor enough. And in our contemporary culture, able people are expected to fend for themselves. Of course, the opposite has also been proposed. Some maintain that Puerto Rico is too remote for aid to be able to come through quickly. “It’s surrounded by water.”
Cynics argue that if money could be made out of this tragedy, we would be seeing corporations descending on the island like vultures. So, perhaps corporations should come and help the rebuilding of Puerto Rico’s infrastructure not only because it is in an ideal state (you would be starting from scratch) or because it is the right thing to do, but because it also could be a profitable endeavor.
PUERTO RICO: SOLVING A PROBLEM LIKE MARIA
by Loy Bernal Carlos
Me? I think of Puerto Rico today and can’t help but think of West Side Story. Are we playing out the 21st century version of the Sharks versus the Jets. Are we seeing territorial warfare, a cultural clash? Brown versus white? Spanish speakers versus English speakers. Have we forgotten how that story ends?
Race is a hot button issue again. Like the 1960s Sharks and Jets, in 2017 everyone sounds aggrieved. And it’s tiring. It’s maddening. It’s counterproductive. And it’s a killer.
In 2018, we should, as a nation, somehow find a way back to valuing the ideals of respect, compassion, and good will. In order to do so we really should start in our own backyard.
So in deference to West Side story, I end with these hopeful lyrics:
There’s a place for us.
Somewhere, a place for us.
Peace and quiet and open air
wait for us somewhere.
There’s a time for us.
Someday there’ll be a time for us.
Hold my hand and we’re half way there.
Hold my hand and I’ll take you there.
Somehow. Someday. Somewhere.
That somewhere is the backyard of America–ALL of its states and territories. And that someday is NOW.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Laura Posada &
Life Coach Laura Posada and baseball legend and former Yankee catcher Jorge Posada have been at the forefront in efforts to provide relief to the people of Puerto Rico and to help facilitate its reconstruction. Their aim is not to just help rebuild, but to make Puerto Rico an example of a city of the future that rises from devastation.
The winds and rain brought on by Hurricane Maria had barely subsided when the Posadas began their outreach. News coming out was grim, so they immediately activated their network and commenced what has now become a full-time operation.
Puerto Ricans Laura and Jorge established the Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief Fund, which now has raised in excess of $380,000, totaling over $500,000 including donated supplies. By late October, with the help of Fedex which donated a plane, they were able to deliver 160,000 lbs. of supplies that include food, water and diapers.
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