Speaking Up for Puerto Rican Hurricane Maria Relief

By Tedi Rollins
Elm Staff Writer

The U.S. has recently faced a series of hurricanes. From Harvey to Irma, there has been a constant cycle of news coverage on the natural disasters, with one exception: Hurricane Maria.

Hurricane Maria first hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 20. Karl Vick, a writer for Time, said the storm brought “stronger winds than Irma brought to Florida and the kind of rain that Hurricane Harvey dumped on Houston.”

Maria has resulted in multiple deaths and a loss of power for approximately 3.4 million people. Yet, the American government and press appears to be ignoring the catastrophe. Many celebrities have noticed the silence. Stars like Jennifer Lopez and Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of “Hamilton,” have been very outspoken in the aftermath of the tropical storm. Miranda even went so far as to directly call out President Donald Trump after he tweeted a criticism of the mayor of San Juan’s leadership abilities. In a series of his own tweets, Miranda said that the president is “going straight to hell.”

On Oct. 6, Miranda also released a song in an attempt to raise money for hurricane relief. The song, titled “Almost Like Praying,” features 22 celebrities, in addition to Miranda. The proceeds will go to The Hispanic Federation, an organization which created the UNIDOS Disaster Relief and Recovery Program, and has been working to help families who have been affected by Hurricane Maria.

Despite the attention from celebrities, Puerto Rico is still severely in need of help. A week after the storm, only 9 percent of citizens had power. The geographical layout of the island makes the process of regaining power even more difficult. Though Puerto Rico is a part of the U.S., Americans are not working together to assist the people of Puerto Rico in the same way they did for Florida and Texas.

“Parts of San Juan, the capital of this U.S. territory, were underwater. The verdant island was stripped of its foliage. U.S. citizens lapped water from natural springs. But on the mainland, the topics of the day were a special election in Alabama, the latest GOP stab at repealing Obamacare and a fight Trump had picked with the NFL,” Vick said.

While Puerto Rico is technically a U.S. territory, many Americans, including government officials, do not actually consider Puerto Ricans to be citizens. This is inexcusable. Puerto Rico needs help, and the White House should be providing assistance in every way possible instead of criticizing the relief efforts already in place.

In addition to his comments about the Mayor of San Juan, Trump recently undermined the severity of Hurricane Maria. While in Puerto Rico on Oct. 3, Trump said, “If you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the hundreds and hundreds of people that died — what is your death count? Sixteen. You can be very proud of all of your people.”

The worst part of the storm may have passed, but that does not mean that the people of Puerto Rico are not still suffering. There is concern amongst doctors about the death toll climbing due to both the spread of diseases and the lack of access to prescriptions. Additionally, many feel that an insubstantial amount of aid is coming in from the mainland.

With all of this in mind, it appears that Trump’s visit to Puerto Rico was more for publicity’s sake than out of concern for the people. People are trying to stay positive, nonetheless. In an interview with Harriet Alexander for The Telegraph, Charlie Robles, a citizen of Puerto Rico, said, “We’re U.S. citizens, but we’re not getting the help that other U.S. citizens do. I don’t like Trump, but if he comes and sees and makes things better, then that’s good.”

It is hopeful that the country will learn to work together to help all its citizens in times of distress, regardless of their location. As Ricardo Rosselló, governor of Puerto Rico, said, “When we speak of a catastrophe, everyone must be treated equally.”

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