I have not written much, to date, about Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria plowed through the island in late September. The U.S. response in the immediate aftermath was delayed, pitifully inadequate, and controversial. So where does Puerto Rico stand today, just over two months after the worst natural disaster on record in the area?
More than half of the island is still without power, and hundreds of thousands of residents are fleeing to the American mainland in an extraordinary exodus.
It has been weeks since President Trump visited to jovially toss rolls of paper towels to needy fellow Americans and brag about how successful the recovery effort was. But true evidence of progress has been hard to come by. Even the simplest symbols of government, like traffic lights, remain useless. Most of the Pentagon’s emergency troops have begun pulling out, except for those working on the island’s shattered power grid.
The storm’s official death count of about 55 may eventually be hundreds higher, according to forensic researchers measuring the cumulative effect on the island’s 3.4 million residents. Tens of thousands of jobs have been washed away. Thousands of small businesses remain closed, and even some hospitals remain on emergency generators. Federal Emergency Management Agency officials say that unusually tough conditions are forcing them to continue to focus on the emergency response phase across the battered island — potable water, roof tarps and other bare necessities. – New York Times Editorial Board, 25 November 2017
While Donald Trump did little more than criticize and throw paper towels at Puerto Ricans, there are others stepping up to the plate to help, and those are the ones who should be duly noted.
Take, for example, the Houston Astros: Star shortstop Carlos Correa, who is originally from Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico, sent a planeload of supplies to the devastated island on the first weekend of October. Astros owner Jim Crane, after donating $4 million, sent two planeloads of supplies and brought one plane filled with people – families of Astros players and people with serious medical conditions requiring immediate treatment — back to the states. He also assisted Correa in his efforts, as did grocery store chain H-E-B, and Texas-based sporting goods store Academy Sports.
Carlos Correa and Jim Crane of the Houston Astros
Singer, actor and author Ricky Martin, born in San Juan Puerto Rico in 1971, has used his foundation to raise funds and provide support to Puerto Rico. The foundation was initially established in 2002 as an awareness campaign to denounce and expose global human trafficking. In addition to Martin’s own donation of $150,000, he has sent at least 4 planeloads filled with supplies. Martin, along with Gloria Estefan, Luis Fonsi and many other Latino artists, traveled to Puerto Rico last month to help sort through donations and connect with people who have lost their homes and belongings.
Kevin Genao, a teenager living in Nashua, New Hampshire is raising money and donations for the people of Puerto Rico. He created a community donation drive called “New Hampshire United for Puerto Rico.” The group was at the YMCA in Nashua accepting donations where they raised thousands of dollars and collected lots of supplies. “Right now in Puerto Rico, it’s a tough situation,” Genao said. “They don’t even have the normal resources that everyday people have and it’s really difficult to grasp that especially knowing that my family’s been so deeply impacted.”
Many others, far too numerous to name here, are helping by giving either of their time, money, or other resources.
- A team from Massachusetts General Hospital has gone to assist with medical care.
- Feeding Children Everywhere partnered with five Loews hotels to assemble 375,000 meals for people in Puerto Rico.
- While still repairing damage to Volusia County schools and homes in the wake of Hurricane Irma, families and staff of the school district in Florida turned their focus to help Puerto Rico, raising $28,276 to support the island in its own hurricane recovery efforts.
And the list goes on. Meanwhile, the picture is still glum in Puerto Rico. Governor Ricardo Rosselló asked Congress this month for $94.4 billion in aid to help the island recover, while thus far Congress has approved only $5 billion. There are yet many needs to be met to restore the island to some semblance of a livable community for the 3.4 million U.S. citizens that call Puerto Rico home, yet to say that the man in the White House has let these people down would be an understatement extraordinaire. Trump has not donated a single dime of his own money … trust me, we would have heard about it ad nauseam if he had. He criticized San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, saying she wanted everything done for her, and tweeted criticism heaped on criticism …
“Puerto Rico survived the Hurricanes, now a financial crisis looms largely of their own making. A total lack of accountability. Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes. Congress to decide how much to spend. We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”
I am encouraged that so many are responding to the need of Puerto Rico and its people, disappointed in our own government, and saddened for the people who are still without adequate food, water, medicine, and may still be without electricity and telephone service. The infrastructure will be rebuilt, just as will the homes and businesses, but it will be neither quick nor easy, and meanwhile how many people will suffer. My heart goes out to the good people of Puerto Rico … let us make sure that we do not forget them.