We see it all the time, people are failed by those they are supposed to trust, government corruption, illuse of funds that are meant for the citizens. It has been a common theme we have been exploring throughout this class and how it affects the people of Puerto Rico. After Hurricane Maria, residents of Puerto Rico looked to the Government to provide them with what they needed, however the government constantly gave people the run around, excuses for why they weren’t receiving help or making it so that only certain people would receive help and that there was a “How bad is your damage standard?”.
Many people believed that Puerto Rico actually got the aid they needed and that the government was supportive in the rebuilding of Puerto Rico, however, I believe that Puerto Rico was deserted and left to fend for themselves. In times of natural disaster, the people are left to rebuild and help each other in times of need. The government leaves the burden of their responsibility on the people that they are responsible for. Natural disasters shed light on the true intentions of countries, it sheds light on the idea that many countries are not equipped to successfully handle crises. Hurricane Maria occured in 2017, it left people’s lives upside down. President Trump takes pride in failing as a president, he failed Puerto Rico when he went on twitter rants instead of aiding Puerto Rico in their recovery. According to the Washington Post “On Thursday, after the governor of Puerto Rico publicly denounced Trump’s failure to fulfill a promise of a meeting to address issues with recovery from Hurricane Maria, Trump proclaimed that he had treated Puerto Ricans better than not just any U.S. politician but any “human being.”” President Trump spent more time speaking of how much he helped Puerto Rico than he did actually helping them. He bragged and boasted about the effort that he put in, however, footage from Puerto Rico surfaced of trump throwing paper towels at the citizens of puerto rico, in a “you get one, and you get one” fashion.
It is as if having control over Puerto Rico was the help that he had given them. Instead is the fact that Puerto Rico is a colony of the US and depend on them for help during times like this. It is the United States’s responsibility as an “empire” to provide support to Puerto Rico. This idea is something that is often explored after many major natural disasters. However, this is not limited to only the United States and Puerto Rico, but has been seen with Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Gilbert and most recently Hurricane Dorian. These have one connection, the United States. It brings the question to mind, what does the United States, the best country to live in, really have to offer survivors of natural disasters, and why does is so easily influence the governments of the places that are affected and why do they have a say in what happens to the lives of innocent people simply affected by natural disasters?
The United States sat back while Puerto Rico suffered. They watched as the people cried and begged for the help of the giant while president Trump sat back and complained about how much Puerto Rico was making a dent on the budget and how needy people were. This was a big slap to the Puerto Rican people who are a part of the United States due to Puerto Rico being a colony. It is as if the US had forgotten its moral obligation is to help Puerto Rico in the time of need. Puerto Rico is being affected unfairly due to climate change. Bigger global powers such as the United States pollute the environment and leave small island like Puerto Rico to deal with the wrath of Mother Nature with her very unpredictable and dangerous storms. The incompetence of the United States and FEMA only proved that the Puerto Rican people can only really count on themselves.
It was the people of the small communities that created soup kitchens and support groups to help one another get through the toughest times of recovery after Maria. It was neighbors that helped rebuild when FEMA didn’t provide enough aid to even get supplies. It was people within the community that fed others that couldn’t afford to be fed, or ran generators to help others.
The differences didn’t stop the people of Puerto Rico. People gave when they had nothing to give, gave because that is all they knew. Puerto Rico didn’t need the help from the United States because they had each other, an island of loving people who overcame the odds and differences they had to support one another through this horrendous tragedy.
Hurricane Gilbert was a hurricane that occurred during the 1988 Hurricane season. It is the most destructive storm in history to hit the small island of Jamaica. On September 12th, 1988 the winds reached 175 miles per hour, making Gilbert a category 5 hurricane. Gilbert had a 40-mile wide eye that covered the island. About 80% of homes were seriously damaged and 500,000 people of the 2 million on the island were left homeless. Almost all homes lost electricity and more than 200 people lost their lives. Hurricane Gilbert caused over $700 million dollars (USD) in damage to the island of Jamaica. Growing up, I always heard the name Gilbert floating around, I would always say, “Who’s Gilbert”, I had no idea I had a relative named Gilbert. It would always be thrown around in conversation usually by my mother, “Dis nuh suh bad as Gilbert.”, “Itta rain bad like Suh it rain home inna Gilbert.”. I never mustered up the courage to ask my mother what Gilbert was and why she always was talking about Gilbert until about 3 years ago and her response was “Hurricane Gilbert happened when I was growing up”. I never questioned my mom on how bad it was, or how it affected her. It wasn’t until I had to do this assignment interviewing a survivor of natural disaster that I realized my mother was always talking about Gilbert and it had affected her to a point in which she constantly references it. I decided to interview my mother when given the opportunity to do so. She is the survivor of a natural disaster, one that she so frequently references, as it has traumatized her. My mother was 15 years old when Hurricane Gilbert had hit the island. She lived in the country area of Jamaica, in a house that all her siblings were birthed in and that my grandfather still lives in today. I asked her what it sounded like and how it looked outside and she recalled it vividly, her face blank almost as if she had numbed herself to remembering the storm, She recalled it as,
“Scary, winds were like a person making a really scary noise. The winds roared like a lion. Looking through the window. It was pitch dark, everything was dark. It came in the night and all you could hear was the rain pouring. The house was wet, almost flooded and part of the roof was gone.” My mother recalled to me that her family was already close but “During the night of the hurricane, we stayed together, we slept in one bed.”
It wasn’t rare in my mother’s childhood that she had shared the bed with her siblings because there wasn’t room for each person to have individual personal space. She spoke about Hurricane Gilbert bringing her family closer, although the storm wreaked havoc, she was still positive and able to see the good of what the storm had done. Similar to Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico where the storm had brought neighbors closer and allowed the people within the community to be open with others, my mother recalled a similar experience. During the interview, she said, “We were always close with our neighbors, the neighbor’s house got damaged totally, they stayed in our house for a while until they could repair their house.” During times of trouble, struggle or natural disaster, it is human nature to be able to lend a helping hand and ask for help if needed. It is times like this when you have nothing or seeing others struggle it will open your heart to helping others around you and not forgetting the kind act of others giving when you had nothing allows you to pay it forward to the ones that aren’t so fortunate. It was so bad that the prime minister of Jamaica reportedly said that eastern Jamaica looked “like Hiroshima after the atom bomb”, the hurricane ruined crops, which is a substantial part of Jamaica’s economy, buildings, roads, and small aircraft. It’s a government’s job to supply and help their people during times of disaster, similar to the inadequacy of the Puerto Rican government after maria, the Jamaican government responded poorly to the aftermath of Hurricane Gilbert. My mother recalled that it took months to get aid, the roads were terribly damaged, there was no public transportation and infrastructure that had been washed away. My mother also recalled that hearing about what happened in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria reminded her of how corrupt the government of Jamaica is, she told me that after Gilbert, the government took the resources and aid for themselves and also sold part of it for profit. The coverage of the storm was not as it should’ve been, my mother recounted that the media covered Hurricane Gilbert terribly, and even doing my own research there were little articles that had to do with Gilbert’s effect on Jamaica.
Video on damage in Jamaica
Song inspired by Gilbert
“Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
When I was younger, I’d wake up at 6:30 am every day, and just turn on the news. Like clockwork letting the news be my background noise, occasionally I’d sit and watch while getting ready. I then started realizing that certain points being addressed on the news were fake, they were made up or topics that didn’t necessarily need as much coverage they were getting. I also learned that in certain neighborhoods, the news was more likely to cover crime in communities with higher crime rates. The news also never really covered things that were of greater importance at that moment stopped watching the news as much as I was and stayed in the dark. However, staying in the dark isn’t an option for me, turning on the news every morning for a kid, much less turning on the news. My parents religiously watch the news, listen to the news. My dad wakes up at 4 am and turns on channel 2, watching it with my dog, his partner in crime. Every time I sit in the car with my parents, we drive to the sound of reporting on 1010 Wins, All News, All the time. Even though I no longer watched the news personally, word of mouth is something important. I heard of Maria, I knew a hurricane had hit Puerto Rico. All I heard was Maria, Maria, Maria, Hurricane Maria, days, weeks and months after the storm had hit and damaged Puerto Rico. What I didn’t know was what was really going on. The storm reporting was comparable to the coverage of crime for me, they were always reporting it but the things they were saying weren’t changing. It was all staying the same for me everything. It seemed as if the news wasn’t reporting what really mattered. I learned about what was really happening in Puerto Rico when I started learning about it in this class.
People without places to live, people without access to water, people without access to food, people with no electricity and people without access to travel to get any of the basic resources they needed to survive.
It was disheartening to know that not only were people dying as a result of the hurricane or being injured by the hurricane but also because of not having access to food, water, and medical care. People were sleeping on their rooftops, and embracing the open. It was really interesting to see that people were embracing who they were and being expressive of their inner personalities. It was almost as if the hurricane forced people to be open and appreciative of their neighbors, although Puerto Rico does have a problem with homophobia, people were letting their homophobic “guards” down and treating their neighbors with respect and love people. Everyone had to come together in the time of need. I learned in the 8th grade that the United States had acquired Puerto Rico and they were a property of the United States. However, what I didn’t know was that Puerto Ricans are considered “second-class” citizens and aren’t given the same amount of privileges as people who are mainland. They don’t have privileges such as voting on the island even though the president controls what happens on the island. I thought that the U.S was doing the best it could to help Puerto Rico, however, it turned out people weren’t even receiving the supplies that were sent because they were spoiling, or not everyone was receiving the help they needed. This nation has a very blurred vision, it stands on helping people in need and reaching out to others. However, the evidence shows otherwise. I truly believe that race plays a role in why certain places are helped in times of disaster while other places aren’t.
There is a lot of evidence of the fact that during Hurricane Katrina people weren’t helped and supported like they should’ve been. The population of New Orleans is made up of more than 50% Black/African American people.
When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas there was much more support and it was covered in the news very often about how much aid Texas was getting. In the Bahamas, Hurricane Dorian hit, and it was terrible. The U.S normally allowing Bahamians to come with ID, changed the rules last minute leaving many people stranded and looking for resources and help. Puerto Rico and the Bahamas? Less white than the United States or Texas could ever be. This country stands for helping people in need and extending help. However, I’m seeing that really isn’t the case. The United States has used tactical broadcasting to keep us in the dark. Is it our fault the United States keeps us ignorant and in the dark? No, but it is our responsibility to move forward, learn more and help others.
Video on Damage in Puerto Rico