Puerto Rico's debt and dismay after Hurricane Maria is not of it's own
Image by Agenzia Fideles
In September Hurricane Maria swept through Puerto Rico and left the renown "isla bonita" in an absolute state of disaster.
90% of population was without power or cellular service, leaving the 5 million plus that form the Puerto Rican Diaspora in the US without any communication with loved ones and families, fearing the worst.
Flooded roads, destroyed homes and desperate pleas for help from residents as supplies and humanitarian assistance were delayed were a common theme across media outlets around the world.
In a time of national disaster and disparity, where leadership and unity is needed to calm the angry and desperate public, many resorted to going on social media and declaring how Puerto Rico brought this upon themselves, blaming lack of efficiency and delivery of supplies on Puerto Rican system. Some even went as far as to say, the USA doesn't need to respond speedily as "America comes first and Puerto Rico isn't America".
An update : Puerto Rico is a US territory and has been since it took it over from Spain in 1898.
To make it worse, US President Donald Trump went as far as to say it's Puerto Rico's fault as it's bankrupted in comparison to Florida and Texas (who suffered from devastating storms earlier in the summer - Hurricanes Irma and Harvey).
It has since sparked debate that Puerto Rico, having faced over $70 billion in debt and with a growing population in poverty with around 58% of children living under poverty line, is just sucking more at the US tax payer and no paying its fair share.
As being both from the Bronx and Latino, there is very little tolerance in me for downright bullshit.
In all respects, it's not Puerto Rico's fault. Sure, Boricua (as known by locals) isn't a saint but no country - not even the Vatican - is. But to blame the debt and the disparity on the Puerto Rican people is quite frankly just pure ignorance.
If anything, it's US policy on the ground which has reduced the island to its current situation.
Take the Jones Act which dictates that imports must be sent to the US first (mainly Jacksonville, Florida) before reaching San Juan, reducing the island's capability to generate income via Port taxes and tariffs but giving benefit directly to US Mainland instead. This act was still in place even in the days after Hurricane Maria which only delayed the island further from receiving assistance faster. In fact, Trump lifted it only for ten days after massive protest to do so.
But even ten days isn't enough.
Or even better - the tax cuts given to investors from mainland who instead built resorts, clubs and other amenities (such as Donald Trump) on the island but paying shockingly low or virtually no taxes, which didn't help investment in the island one bit.
The affect of these two factors played a crucial role in Puerto Rico's borrowing to stay afloat (in addition to a mass exodus of its inhabitants to the mainland) but inability to pay back, resulting in the debt. And as Puerto Rico is a US territory (neither state or sovereign nation) it cannot declare bankruptcy,
It is therefore unforgivable that a US President in power would say it's Puerto Rico's fault when he is in full knowledge (as is his personnel) that the history of Puerto Rico's blight stems from US governance over the island that led to unfair results.
Now I'm not Puerto Rican - I'm half Dominican but being proud to share a geographic location such as the Caribbean and Latin America with Puerto Rican's gives me complete certainty that the island will survive. Because it's not just a fighting spirit that makes caribeños such as Dominicans, Cubans and Puerto Ricans but it's the consistent positivity and making the best with what they have. To smile when you should cry and dance when you should bleed.
And after all these false accusations, heartaches and sense of hopelessness following the disaster that was Hurricane Mari, the Puerto Rican people will live up to their name as being from the "shining star" and shine through the future with better determination and fortitude than before.
¡¡Por qué Puerto Rico se levanta!!