Why You Should Still Care About Puerto Rico

By: Kara Haselton

 

No power. No water. No hope.

Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico hard, and we have no idea how they feel.

Can you imagine even going a day without electricity, without running water, without wifi, without money, without a roof, without transportation?

What about three weeks?

It’s easy for us to feel detached and unaffiliated when things like that occur, and we see it on the news. Sure, we feel bad, but it’s not affecting us—it’s not affecting Americans.

Oh, wait. It is.

Puerto Rico is a US territory, folks. They are considered US citizens. They are supposed to have the same rights as the typical US state. Except that they can’t vote. Also, we’re not treating their aid as equal with the aid of Texas and Florida, both also hit with hurricanes.

Interesting, isn’t it? When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, we all wanted to help. We all got involved with getting our fellow Americans back on their feet. That was a necessary thing to do—an action that should continue.

“People are dying,” stated the San Juan mayor, crying for help.

What are we doing about it?

I know that Pitbull sent his private plane to transport Puerto Rican cancer patients back to America to give them the medical help they need. I know that Royal Caribbean sent a cruise ship in order to rescue people and provide supplies. These acts are incredible. Heart-warming. But does that remedy the fact that we, as a notion, are not doing much else? There’s no such thing as doing too many good deeds. Let’s become the Americans we saw rise out of the ashes of Hurricane Harvey: people who helped those they didn’t even know because they knew it was right. Let’s love our neighbors.

“This is an island, surrounded by water. Big water. Ocean water.”

Alright, well, that never stopped us from colonizing it. The US controls Puerto Rico. It’s our responsibility to help them. It can’t be just a “fairweather” relationship.

It’s not only our obligation as Americans, but as human beings, which is a title that underlies all nationalities and skin colors. It’s one that connects us all. We have means. We have money.

Did you know that Puerto Rico is nearly entirely a cash economy right now? Their people can’t access the money in banks. The only way they can get cash to spend is from ATM’s. People wait in lines for hours, even days, to get that cash in order for them to keep going. Money that they need to buy food for their families. Gas for their car. Necessities. We would riot if we didn’t have access to those needs, and our government wouldn’t provide them for us. Guess what. That’s their reality.

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Sure, Puerto Rico’s government has been corrupt and accused of misusing money. But have you seen their mayors and political leaders getting their hands dirty and helping their people? Like the San Juan mayor, who was seen wading through waist deep water helping her people. I don’t think their motive right now is self centered and dishonest.

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Everything?

Let me ask you: What is the appropriate aid response that an American should give to another American? Are we fulfilling that?


UPDATE

Last Thursday, Trump sent out more tweets in regards to the US’s support in Puerto Rico.

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He’s right, the US cannot, and shouldn’t, keep their own people in Puerto Rico forever. They eventually need to be self-sufficient, as every country wants to be. However, is it appropriate to point that out only after three weeks of one of the most devastating hurricanes in history—one that nearly wiped out an entire island?

The death toll has now risen to 45, according to CNN, and resources are running low. Hospitals’ funds, supplies, and fuel levels are declining, which could easily lead to a higher death toll. The water shortage is still an issue, and the majority of the island is still without power.

So, why are we talking about removing aid again?

Just because it’s been three weeks, doesn’t mean the issue is over. Just because it’s not in the news doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist anymore. Just because Trump made a comment about how the US needs to stop aiding Puerto Rico, it doesn’t mean we should.

No, we shouldn’t think that we can “save” people. No, we shouldn’t do work for people who have the skills to do it themselves. No, we shouldn’t think we are the answer to everyone’s problem. But yes, we should work alongside people and ask them what they need and then follow through. Yes, we should support people until they are self-sustainable. Yes, we should help our own—even if they’re not “our own” — we should still help them if they ask for it.

And Puerto Rico has asked.

And they’re our own.

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