Hurricane Fiona has raised a lot of questions.
As someone who lives in a hurricane-prone area, I know the fear that grips you as a powerful storm barrels its way to your home.
A feeling of foreboding overwhelms you as you stack canned food in the pantry, store ungodly amounts of batteries, and make sure you have enough water bottles to share with the neighbors. The sentiment is heavy, but you push it away, hoping the weather person made a mistake.
For hurricane-lifers, category one is considered a non-threat, although professionally trained meteorologists claim otherwise. Yet, for the most part, the understanding is that the destruction will be minimal.
At least, that’s the case for areas that can rely on a sturdy infrastructure, access to government help, and competent local officials. But, of course, remember that these factors do not always coincide. Still, they are vital to restoring a semblance of normalcy after the storm.
However, fate deals the Caribbean a heavier hand.
What Hurricane Fiona exposed
Fiona, a category one hurricane, swept through three magical islands in the middle of the Caribbean. She wept and wailed and cared not an iota about how vulnerable the people in the middle of her path were.
Her wrath plunged Puerto Rico into an island-wide darkness and left 750,000 residents without water. Video of intense flooding in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic dominated social media.
Mother Nature is unforgiving and a complete bitch, if we are honest. But, I don’t blame her. We’ve screwed up the gifts she gave us, the beaches, forests, habitats, and more due mostly to corporate greed. The colonization and now gentrification of these islands have robbed them of their self-determination and prevented them from growing into their natural wealth.
The Dominican Republic was left to fend off a corrupt government. Though it has a thriving tourism industry and other natural resources such as silver and gold, most of the island lives in poverty; bribery continues to be the government’s negotiating currency. Thus, hurricanes can storm through an island that is naked and leave its people defenseless.
Then, we have Puerto Rico.
Many try to portray Puerto Rico as part of the U.S., but let’s cut through the B.S. It is a colony. Puerto Rico, like Latin America, was colonized first by the Spanish. Then, in 1989, the U.S. invaded la Isla del Encanto.
Before colonization, Puerto Rico thrived – on its own. The year the U.S. put its boot down, its economy was in a surplus. But unfortunately, that hasn’t happened since.
The injustice has been a constant
The archipelago has been strangled by a $70 billion debt; an imposed fiscal control board; cuts to education, pensions, and health services. The aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and María; earthquakes; corrupt governments; a pandemic; and, to add insult to injury, the gentrification of the island under Act 60 threatens to marginalize Puerto Ricans in their homeland.
Maria also showed Puerto Ricans how little the U.S. cares. The previous administration withheld aid, called Boricuas dirty and poor, and wanted to swap the island for Greenland.
In the forthcoming book, The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021, authors Peter Baker and Susan Glasser write that the former president suggested taking federal money from Puerto Rico to make the deal happen. Imagine toying with people’s lives in such a manner as if they were expendable — what a pendejo.
I wonder if the U.S. sees Puerto Rico as its trophy wife. After all, the island is blessed with magnificent beaches, spectacular views, and a corrupt government that opens the door to dodgy foreigners and crypto bros.
But, the real Puerto Rico, and the people of Puerto Rico, have been neglected to no end.
There is also a constant debate on whether Puerto Ricans should receive full access to US benefits. It’s as though it pains the “mainland” to look after a territory they took by force. But, historically, sending help during the island’s most difficult moments has taken longer than it should have.
And let’s not forget how the 45th president tossed paper towels to scared and tired Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria. Puerto Rican government officials don’t help with the cause, either. Months after the recovery efforts were underway, workers found a warehouse filled with undrinkable water bottles.
Oh, and the money Puerto Rico received for its recovery and reconstruction is – well, who knows? Yes, it’s a clusterfuck.
And since Act 60 took off, many Boricuas have been forced to leave the island. The end result: Puerto Rico without Puerto Ricans.
The United States is not the only one screwing with the island. LUMA Energy, the private power company responsible for power distribution and transmission, is also high up there.
As Hurricane Fiona pounded the island, it became evident how unprepared the government was. Not much has changed since Maria, even after Boricuas were assured ad nauseum that reconstruction was happening.
Unfortunately, it only took a category one hurricane to expose the damage. Can you imagine if it were a more potent storm?
Though the Puerto Rican government is responsible for what has happened, so is Washington, D.C. Both have turned a blind eye to the collapse of the basic infrastructure of the archipelago, the depletion of its population, and the rabid gentrification of the island.
Compared to the access states can tap into, Puerto Rico has to wait for a miracle to get the aid it needs. So, I could care less about Biden’s official statement about Hurricane Fiona. Talk is cheap at this point.
What happens next?
After Fiona, reports state that large swaths of the island won’t have electricity for at least three months. In addition, access to water is in question, and some areas were destroyed due to flash floods, again.
Thank goodness Puerto Ricans help each other in times of despair. Otherwise, the tragedy would be worse.
This happened two days shy of Hurricane Maria’s fifth anniversary – and during Hispanic Heritage Month. And, as we speak, Puerto Ricans are at the mercy of a corrupt and inept government and a Washington that doesn’t give a toss.
Let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself, but no one feels confident after remembering what happened five years ago