Puerto Rico, officially known as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or the Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico in Spanish, is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the northeast Caribbean Sea with an estimated population of over 3.7 people (per Wikipedia). All native-born Puerto Ricans are American citizens and can travel freely between the island and the continental United States. However, they do not have the right to vote in presidential elections.
Those fortunate to have visited the island have had the opportunity to play on her pristine beaches, drive through her tropical rainforest, or visit the mountains of this tropical paradise. For a tourist, the only downside to travelling here has to be the San Juan Airport. Those familiar with the verses of Jimmy Buffett’s song “Volcano” can readily identify with his words “Don’t want to land on no San Juan Airport.” And here for a little enjoyment is a video of his singing this song live.
Sadly, no one is singing happy songs in Puerto Rico now. This island, this part of our country, was totally devastated when Hurricane Maria hit it full at Category 4 level. The images of the destruction boggle the imagination.
At this time Puerto Rico, already on the verge of bankruptcy, now has to deal with damages that are estimated to be around $45 billion. According to MSN, Maria has already killed at least 45 people on Puerto Rico and the surrounding islands. The island is completely without power making it extremely difficult to get accurate reports of the death and destruction. Earlier today officials issued an Emergency Alert that a dam on the Guajataca River was failing, endangering approximately 70,000 people who live downstream. Buses are currently evacuating as many people as possible.
The New York Times reported Thursday that “Power was out everywhere. Cellphones were mostly useless, forcing panicked residents to scramble for news from far-flung relatives. Most of the island’s water was undrinkable. Roads were carpeted with debris….. By day’s end, Puerto Rico’s Governor, Ricardo Rossello, said there had been no contact with officials in 85 percent of the island.” Already federal disaster assistance is beginning to reach the tiny island, as the San Juan Airport has been partially opened. But for many of the island’s residents, the road to recovery is going to a long and hard one. Their entire power grid has been destroyed. A nation that depends heavily on tourism for income no longer has any infrastructure to provide for them. As an island, it is much more difficult for supplies and aid to reach them, unlike the victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Everyone who does pray, should be praying for Puerto Rico. But those people need more than our prayers. They need our financial help. Many Americans have already generously donated to organizations such as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, but we need to step up to the plate again. The people of Puerto Rico are Americans just like the residents of Houston and Miami. They need our help even more. We must stand by their side during this catastrophic disaster. We must dig a little deeper into our pockets. Because that’s what Americans do for each other.
Por la gente de Puerto Rico, estamos con ustedes. Nosotros ayudaremos. Somos familia.