The devastation in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria was far greater and long lasting than most had expected. When discussing the aftermath, immediately thoughts of destruction and survival surface to the forefront of the conversation. In the moments immediately after, that is what’s important. What was lost? Who was lost? Who is alive? Who is in need? What do they need? The focus is on helping survivors make it another day, and hopefully find normalization again. Rarely is it that simple, however, as reconstruction is never a one day fix. The question for Puerto Ricans would become, How do we fix something that was always broken?
As time went on, the aftermath of hurricane Maria exposed many systemic problems on the island. Many confuse Puerto Rico’s relationship to the United States as a commonwealth as full statehood instead of a colony. Although Puerto Rican’s have citizenship they do not have the right to vote, nor do they have representation in Congress. The governor is responsible for vocalizing the needs of the island, and this was Ricardo Rossello at the time of the storm. With Donald Trump as our president, the media was looking at him for his response to the disaster.
Both Rossello and Trump took little action and a lot of credit for the aid in Puerto Rico. The lack of government aid throughout the island left people without homes, electricity, water, supplies, jobs, schools, and the list goes on. With everyone’s focus on survival and returning to normalcy, some aspects of life in Puerto Rico were forgotten about.
There are elements of a culture that become essential outlets of self expression and ritualistic lifestyle. Both art and sport are so universal but become unique and symbolic of one’s homeland in the context of a single nation. While these two elements are embedded in our everyday lives, they are categorized as a leisurely activity rather than a necessity. In times that prioritize survival, like hurricane disasters, non necessities get brushed to the side. A lot of time has passed since hurricane maria first hit the island, and locals have already begun considering taking steps back to these cultural aspects, but funds make it difficult to have a lasting impact. Fortunately, some celebrities have decided to respond to the lack of aid, and help rebuild themselves.
One celebrity making strides for Puerto Rico is Lin Manuel Miranda. Miranda is a composer, lyricist, singer, actor, and playwright best known for his works In the Heights and Hamilton, both widely successful Broadway musicals. On Fortune, Emily Price describes how Miranda has been using ticket sales from Hamilton to donate funds to the arts in Puerto Rico, raising over $14 million by February of 2019. Partnering with the Flamboyan Foundation, an organization dedicated to philanthropy, Miranda created the Flamboyan Fund for artists and art institutions throughout the island. The money raised has particularly gone to the rebuilding after Maria, but also to some recipients selected by the foundation’s board. Amongst the recipients include the Puerto Rico Art Museum, a theater company Y No Habia Luz, and Música pa’ Culebra.
More recently, the salsa and latin trap artists Marc Anthony and Bad Bunny have come together to contribute as well. Both singers are Puerto Rican born stars that dominate the music charts in and out of the Latin community. HOLA!’s Robert PeterPaul discusses how the two partnered with several organizations to form the “Play Ball Again” program, in which they will rebuild six baseball fields that were destroyed by the hurricane. The specific field are located in the cities of Vega Baja, Loiza, Isla Verde, Yabucoa, and Yauco. The grand opening is estimated to happen around December of 2019, and after that the program plans to expand on restoring more fields. These playing fields are geared towards children, and it is important to the singer’s that kids have a place to play.
Mental health is a topic that has been very taboo throughout the history of the latin community. Fortunately it is a topic that has been highlighted in recent years, especially in Puerto Rico after the island as a whole experiences trauma. In Alejandra Rosa & Patricia Mazzei’s article, “A Space Where You Could Be Free’: Puerto Rico’s L.G.B.T. Groups Rebuild After a Hurricane” they highlight the importance of a safe communal space for the gay community, and what having these spaces can do for these people. Human beings need to have outlets to rely on where they can express themselves and work out their emotions. Although the arts and sports are passed off as activities of leisure, people need places of leisure. It is important to provide them with a source of social interactions and community spaces, which these centers of leisure offer. Art and baseball are a huge part of Puerto Rican culture, and allowing citizens to continue aspiring in these fields provokes growth for the island. The foundations behind Lin Manuel Miranda, Marc Anthony, and Bad Bunny stress the idea of a safe space for both artists and children. Focusing on projects like these allow Puerto Ricans to access a healthy way of living and a strength to push forward.
In selections from Aftershocks of Disaster we learn about stories of resilience and rebuilding from residents of Puerto Rico. In Giovanni Roberto’s “Community Kitchens” he discusses his experience running a soup kitchen that becomes a center of community, but faces many problems from the local government and institutions. Stories like these remind us that Puerto Ricans have the willingness to work towards self recovery and regulation, but often face obstacles from outside forces. The aid of celebrities help to overcome these obstacles.
The wealth and popularity that comes with fame opens up many doors of opportunity that are closed off to the general public. More celebrities should use their positions of power as a non government official to contribute to the people’s causes. It is a wonderful thing what Lin Manuel Miranda, Marc Anthony and Bad Bunny are doing but there is still so much left to do. To this day Puerto Rico is fighting many battles such as lack of electricity, schools closing, and gender inequality. The people have been protesting and pushing back for a long time. With more help from celebrities providing resources and adding pressure through the media, the job will get done much faster and have a long lasting impact.
Hurricane Maria was an outlet that revealed many issues to Puerto Rican citizens. As Puerto Rico emerges in this state of revolution, little by little people are finding ways to answer the question, how do we fix our nation? For celebrities with a platform, people like Lin Manuel Miranda, Mark Anthony and Bad Bunny have chosen to organize the rebuilding themselves. It is not just in the money they provide, but the example they provide, of taking action into their own hands that makes these gestures so important. What I love most about Puerto Ricans like myself is the pride we have and the willingness to work for what we want. Moving further into this revolution, each day more and more Puerto Ricans are stepping into that mindset, and working towards rebuilding a nation for themselves. With more celebrities on the people’s side, it will be much easier for Puerto Ricans to achieve their goals in sustaining the island in ways that benefit them.