The Perseverance of Puerto Ricans

By Hayden Renaghan

In an era characterized by harsh natural disasters due to the clear onset of global warming, families around the world are plagued by the tragedies caused by mother nature. Following the unprecedented hurricane season that struck the globe in 2017, many families in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and in Houston after Hurricane Harvey were left suffering in the wake of rapid winds and rain. In Puerto Rico, people were left with little aid from the government.

When comparing the aid that FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) gave to victims of Hurricane Maria and those affected by Hurricane Harvey, one can see a clear disparity, most likely based upon the fact that Puerto Ricans are seen as “second-class citizens” in the eyes of the U.S. government. 31,000 federal aid personnel were sent to Houston after Harvey, but only 10,000 were sent to Puerto Rico after Maria. In addition, in the 9 days immediately following each disaster FEMA sent many more supplies to Houston. FEMA sent 5.1 million meals, 4.5 million liters of water and 20,000 tarps to Texas and only 1.6 million meals, 2.8 million liters of water, and about 5,000 tarps to Puerto Rico.

The most serious issue in the discrepancy of federal aid to people in Puerto Rico has to be the lack of electricity that the island suffered for almost one year after the disaster. Citizens were living in total darkness, and the federal government was doing little to help them. However, even with the total lack of federal aid, Puerto Rico has persevered and worked to solve problems and destruction created by the Hurricane Maria.

Now, with the impacts of the recent 6.4 magnitude earthquake making recovery from the Hurricane even harder, it is difficult to see how exactly Puerto Rico will recover from this earthquake. Yarimar Bonilla, author and expert on the recovery of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, believes that “It’s debatable if Maria was the beginning or if it was the economic crisis or the longer colonial history, but in Puerto Rico, there is an atmosphere of perpetual uncertainty produced not just by Mother Nature, but also the government.” This is a common feeling among citizens of the island, little confidence in the ability of the U.S. government to adequately provide aid in the wake of natural disasters. Donating to independent charities who are on the ground in Puerto Rico, like World Central Kitchen, is a great way to ensure the people of Puerto Rico are equipped with the funds they need to recover.

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