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Puerto Rico Se Levanta by Lorraine Lopez [Latino Empowerment]

Puerto Rico was pummeled and devastated by Hurricane Maria on Wednesday, September 20th around 6:15 AM. Dumping over 20 to 30 inches of rain that also impacted several Caribbean Islands. The results were catastrophic with winds reaching over 155 miles per hour, causing widespread flooding and 100% power outage, leaving residents with no drinking water, food, utilities or cell service. As a result, Maria caused a total devastation of the Island’s infrastructure. Bridges collapsing, mudslides, roofs blown away, vegetation uprooted, roads closed due to down power lines and trees, leaving hundreds of thousands stranded and unreachable and 3.4 million Americans completely powerless, were just some of its parting gifts. The entire island was left without communication, life-saving necessities, children without school and workers without jobs.

What followed was more horrific than the impact of the storm itself. The Isla Bonita was left with a humanitarian crisis of unimaginable proportions. The response from the government was slow, to say the least. First, let me begin by stating that the President has shown his lack of empathy and his total disrespect to the Island. As of press time, Trump rates his performance a “10 out of 10,” describing his second-class response. He tweeted, “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort,” he continued. “10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.”In addition to throwing in PR’s economic status in their face by saying it was “largely of their own doing”, and accusing San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz of being a “nasty” woman. If that wasn’t bad enough he had the nerve to throw paper towels at the people and declared to the 95% of the population without power that they no longer need their flashlights, during his visit.

A look at the president’s response to the crisis in PR turns up the following; A disaster was declared which gave the people an opportunity to apply for 500 dollars in relief funds of which 2,335 have been approved. 16 Naval and Coast Guard ships including a Navy Floating Hospital that most folks can’t get to. Military aircrafts dropping off food and water to remote and isolated areas that there is no longer access to. 19,000 thousand personnel on the ground. Power restoration to some parts of the island. Supplied generators to hospitals. Working on the infrastructure and clearing roads for access. Supplying water and food for a day to several isolated towns. I can go on and on about the government’s efforts, but the truth is I would not be true to myself if I did not say that the response has been horrific.

Puerto Ricans are being treated like second-class citizens and worse. The death toll that the government has not acknowledged is over 450 and counting. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands in the mountains and other areas that are not accessible. We don’t really know how many of them are dead or alive. What we do know is that they have been without the basic necessities to live, without contact and without access. 85% of the island is still without power. 40% still don’t have potable water. 92% of cell service is not working. Grocery stores are closed and those that are open have empty shelves mostly due to the wealthy occupants who brought everything so they could stock up. 1,395 Fema personnel on the grounds and what we see them on television is them having parties and living the good life in hotels powered by generators. People dying to due to access to medical supplies, dehydration and drinking contaminated water. And Trump does not give a shit. There’s more, let;s not forget the local politicians stealing waters, food and supplies for their own consumption and not distributing them to the people.

Meanwhile, food supply is rotting in bins in San Juan and ports because they are not being distributed. Schools are stilled closed. 67 hospitals are open running on generators. Folks are missing, stranded and dying. Tens of thousands have left the island to the mainland once the airports opened. Some say the resources are not being distributed due to negotiating tactics being used by the unions, others say the drivers have no way to get to the sites and are taking care of their loved ones, while others say it’s just not reachable with the unsafe and destroyed roads. Supposedly, they are now hiring truck drivers to deliver those supplies. Fema is also hiring in PR.

But there is some good news and many blessings amongst this tragedy. Let me just say the coquis are singing again! The good folks of Puerto Rico have taken matters into their own hands. They have banded together and have shown a solidarity and resiliency that I have never seen before, anywhere. They are building makeshift tubes to bring in water from the streams and falls in the mountains. They have thrown ropes across rivers to get across and deliver supplies to their neighbors. They are looking out for the elderly and sick. They are walking for miles just to get a day’s food rationing. They, Mr. President are helping themselves. And the outpouring of support from the mainland is something for the history books. Hundreds of thousands are raising money, donating supplies and volunteering in the island. Folks like a group of veterans who have been on the island for weeks now, infiltrating the mountains, bringing supplies, and holding the local government accountable. There are the nurses and doctors like Dr. Rabadi from Yonkers who are there and bringing much-needed medical supplies and care. There are the wonderful artists like JLo, Mark Anthony, Ellen, Ricky Martin, Alex Rodriguez, Jay Z , Mark Cubin, Fat Joe, DJ Khalid and hundreds of others who have raised millions of dollars so the help can get directly through to those that so desperately need it.

There’s a slogan going around in the mainland and the beautiful Isla which has become its mantra “Puerto Rico Se Levanta!”, when translated basically means Puerto Rico gets up in English. But its more than that for the Puerto Ricans. Those 4 words mean, WE WILL RISE AGAIN, we are resilient, we would never give up, we will rebuild. Those 4 words mean Puerto Rico is not gone, just temporarily closed while we rebuild better than ever! I don’t know much but I know this….Puerto Rico is on my soul, it is my heritage, my ancestors, my entire family living there. It is every paranda I’ve ever participated in , in every sound of the coqui, in every pastele I’ve ever eaten and damn it , in every “Puñeta” I’ve ever spoken. “La sangre llama” is often said and it means your bloodline calls you. We hear you nuestra gente. Hermanos y hermanas, we hear you and unlike the pos president, we will respond. We will stand in solidarity, we will help you rebuild. You will never be alone again, cause God will make it all well in the end, of that I am sure….Pa’lante mi Gente!


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