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The Women Of Puerto Rico ♀

The women of Puerto Rico have been the center of movements that created lasting change on the island so it is no surprise that they have stepped up to help others in need. After Hurricane Maria, a series of profane chats from Rosselló and his cohorts showed chats including, sexist, and homophobic attacks, which three days later the women-led Center For Investigative Reporting published the text messages that kicked of a wave of protests against the #RickyRenuncia. 

There are hundreds of thousands of women across the island that come from all ages and backgrounds that are participating in the revolution. While some are in the front lines of confronting riot police, others are behind the scenes helping their communities by tending to farms, leading community workshops, healing, and education. 

This is an incredible thing that women in Puerto Rico has done for the people like building homes, taking care of those in need, making sure their families were fed but one thing some people may forget is how women are marginalized not only do they not get treated unequally but after hurricane maria violence against women was an all-time high. According to RI interviews with organizations providing services to GBV survivors, and as was documented in several news reports, violence against women in Puerto Rico increased after Hurricane María.

This is hardly surprising given that GBV almost invariably increases with any natural disaster. In Puerto Rico, however, documenting the full nature and scope of the increase in GBV incidents in the hurricane’s aftermath has proven challenging for two main reasons. First, the three hotlines used to report incidents went dead with the collapse of the island’s telecommunications system. Even weeks after the hurricane, the 911 call center, the Office of the Women’s Ombudsperson’s emergency line, and the line to the Center for Assistance to Rape Victims were not fully restored. Second, key systems designed to prevent and respond to GBV collapsed. After the hurricane, only five of the island’s eight domestic violence shelters were functional. According to shelter staff, at no point did any authorities visit the shelters to undertake a needs assessment or request input from shelter directors on the emergency response. So while the women were making sure that everyone else was taken care of it seemed as if they forgot that women in Puerto Rico need to be taken care of as well.

By Alexus Rios

The Ones Who Stayed

By Alexus Rios

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 20th, 2017, it wreaked havoc on the island causing widespread destruction and disorganization in American History. Two weeks had passed after the storm and most of the island residents lacked access to electricity and clean water. This was the worst storm to strike the island and will haunt the residents for many years to come.

The scale of the destruction of the hurricane was devastating and for months after the initial disaster, most families and businesses remained without power, clean water, food, medicine, and limited cell phone service. Unable to have their basic needs met, hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans left altogether but what did this mean for those who choose to stay.

Many people are still struggling to get enough food, access to social services, like healthcare, and cope with the emotional stress of losing homes and loved ones.

I interviewed a family friend (who prefers to keep his identity private) that currently lives in New Jersey and is a retired security officer, who grew up in Puerto Rico. Growing up he remembered Puerto Rico being a lot of things “ Man growing up in Puerto Rico was definitely something different before I came to New York, I never thought I would be bullied for my accent, but looking back at it, I’m glad I left because look at it now”. He had a very humble upbringing and grew up in a house with his mother, father, and 6 siblings. He recalls being in the sun all the time and enjoying the presence of his family, culture, and food. Although he does not regret his decision moving to New York he was saddened by the way his people back home are getting treated in this time of need.

He felt that he was lucky enough to be able to afford moving out of Puerto Rico and to get a job that would help support his mother who decided to stay. He expressed that even though he did not experience the hurricane himself, he was mentally distraught and will never forget that feeling and horrible thoughts running through his head of what could have happened to his mother who is 90 years old and was all by herself at the time without knowing if she was alive or not. “It was the worst feeling ever, I was scared and felt hopeless and I really thought she had died. I was never going to forgive myself for not being there to help her out. Man I tried calling so many time but since the electricity was out I never got an answer and it was just horrible. “ 

After this interview took place I realized how a disaster can not only destroy someone’s home but also their hope and faith in a government that is supposed to help them in a time of need. Luckily enough the people of Puerto Rico were resilient to come together and help each other. Even though they should not have to only depend on themselves, they realized that if they were not going to help themselves then who was? Some were reconnected with their families and others sadly were not so lucky.

Puerto Rico And Its Forced Resilience

By Alexus Rios                        

It was two years ago on September 20th, 2017 when one of the deadliest category five Hurricane hit Puerto Rico and other islands alongside it. Not only did this damage the island but it also damaged the people living on that island, both physically and mentally. Now although this was not the first time Puerto Rico was hit by a Hurricane which can stem back all the way to 1956, Hurricane Maria definitely made a huge impact on the people of Puerto Rico as well as others who watched how this disaster was handled by our President of The United States. This disaster gave the people a glimpse of how Puerto Ricans are treated as second class citizens. Many may think because they are allowed to travel in and out of the United States without being deported means they must also have all the rights that come with actually being a citizen. That is where this claim or thought is completely wrong and unfathomable.

Old San Juan, two years after Hurricane Maria

Let’s go back to when Hurricane Sandy hit Texas which let’s keep in mind are their own state and do not belong to the United States but are a part of it. All I can remember is the support and resources they received during this devastating time which of course was the humane thing to be done when a disaster like that happens. But where was that same treatment when Puerto Rico needed the support and help. Many people alongside the President were so insensitive towards this devastating time, not only did the people of Puerto Rico not have clean water but they had no electricity which was crucial for keeping hospitals running to help or keep alive injured people. Remarks were made saying they did not need electricity because they did not need to be on their phones but left out the fact that they needed electricity for actual necessary purposes like air conditioning, keeping hospitals running and being able to communicate with their loved ones to make sure they were okay or even alive. No one talks about how this tragedy and not being able to communicate with a family member affected that person mentally, imagine not being able to a loved one and not knowing whether the last time you saw them would really be the last time. People on the island were left with dirty water, no electricity, and no help with food resources. Containers were found filled with food and supplies that were rotting away when people who needed it had no access or idea it was even there.

The President was not interested in helping them and did not care. Not only did he spread false information about the death toll and the amount of money that Puerto Rico was supposed to obtain after the Hurricane he also did not speak about Hurricane Maria until after seven days it happened. He did not show any kind of leadership or responsibility of the people in Puerto Rico. The people of Puerto Rico were forced to be resilient because if they did not uplift themselves from this horrific situation and have the help of others they probably would be in a much worse situation spiritually, mentally and physically.

Some people think because Puerto Rican’s have bounced back before that they could easily do it again after this but that’s just not the case. Not having the proper support and help that an island needs when something like this happens is not fair and traumatizing. Puerto Rican’s should not have to be forced to be resilient or to be okay after something tragic like this happens. Last month I had the privilege to go to Puerto Rico after two years since Hurricane María and just being on the Island and being around such caring and loving people makes me sad to think that at one point they were suffering and being ignored of the true horror that they had to face. Below are some pictures I was able to capture the beautiful island two years after Hurricane María. 

Ocean Park, Puerto Rico
Rainy day in Puerto Rico
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