Op-Ed: Are Puerto Ricans Their Own Best Resource?

Puerto Rico Resilence BELatina Latinx
Photo credit via pri.org

Puerto Rico is truly a majestic island. It has superb weather most of the time, the people are ever-so friendly, and their food is a taste of heaven. It’s all so beautiful from the moment you get into their airport all the way to the different places that Puerto Rico has to offer. Well, at least the superficial surface of Puerto Rico looks great. But once you take a closer look, you know, a REAL look, the reality is different. 

While you’re in Puerto Rico, you’ll notice that most people are cheerful. Walking into a new place is so delightful because you’re almost immediately welcomed as a regular customer. After seeing all of this, one is not left with much choice but to wonder about the tragedies the island has been exposed to in recent times. You’ll look around and notice many things falling apart, but it’s practically shadowed by the attitude of the people around you. 

It’s then when you notice that this is their form of survival. 

Despite the struggle that Puerto Ricans have had to endure in the past few years, their optimism continues to fervently burn. Realistically speaking, the situation of Puerto Rico is not one that should evoke much feeling of optimism. Without diving in too deep into it, you can see the subtle smoke rising from Puerto Rico. This is all due to a government that has been less than focused for quite some time now. For starters, the various political parties are creating the naseauting speciality of arroz con mango, while starving their people of Puerto Rico. Quite literally, may I add. Let’s not even try to hold our breath on federal help, either. What’s next? Donald Trump playing catch with paper towels with the people of Puerto Rico again? It doesn’t matter how much time has passed since that event, it’s still so despicable. Aside from that, Puerto Rico is practically disintegrating by the chunks as they wait for bureaucratic crap to dissolve and miraculously help out the island once and for all. But, should that happen, we must document it as a miracle, which will cause fanatical chest-thumpers to kneel down to the mercy of these politicians. Yet, gratitude is the least these politicians need. Puerto Ricans need for the people creating and implementing policies to finally get on their side. Or well, that’s what they’ve been waiting for, but the sand in the hourglass has run out. It’s now or never and Puerto Ricans know this more than ever. This is why they are taking charge of their island little by little. 

I started to notice this whenever I went into the towns that had been affected by unexpecting earthquakes. The destruction was evident, but there was something that stood out even more — its people. 

BELatina Latinx Puerto Rico Resilence
Photo credit via abcnews.go.com

The streets were filled with local community and church groups going house by house to bring supplies to the ones drastically affected by these earthquakes and aftershocks. Though it was a rather hot day, these people were on a mission and the residents of such towns were welcoming them with open arms. Even though there wasn’t much to do, the people who had found they’d lost quite a bit to these natural disasters sparked up conversation with anyone visiting them. They were gracious and pleasant. It was even more heartwarming to see how many people would decline help because they already knew they had enough supplies. Instead, they would direct these groups to other places where people could possibly need them more. It’s as though greed was nonexistent in this place and it was refreshing to see that. 

 

I won’t lie, there was some government help out there, too. FEMA had a few sites and there was even a large military-style campground for those who had lost their homes or were too afraid to sleep in their own homes anymore. But it made me wonder how accessible these sites were to everyone. 

Aside from the large camps that were government-based, the locals had created their own campgrounds. It was more humble, but they all seemed to look after one another. There was even an instance where a community group was serving homemade food for these refugees and they offered us some food as well. Their kindness and selflessness moistened my eyes. Here, we have people who find it challenging to obtain a hot meal on a daily basis, yet they were willing to share it. That’s the true personification of someone who is trying to rebuild. These are qualities that should be taken into account by more people than just the ones in their immediate communities. Puerto Ricans need to be backed by those who can make a difference throughout the entire island, not just in the regions they feel will vote for them.

Sure, hearing some of these politicians may make some people feel optimistic about the future of Puerto Rico. But many are just fed up with the empty promises. The island has taken a turn since the summer of 2019 and it’s demanding for a better everything. Yet, this predicament can also stand for something else. Maybe Puerto Ricans don’t need the government as much as many claim they need it. Perhaps their salvation is within themselves and nothing else. Or maybe something else needs to be established in order to have a functioning democracy in Puerto Rico once again? Whatever it is, Puerto Rico already has its best resource, that being their people, and it needs to incorporate that in whichever way they will be heading. 

Before experiencing any of this, I was a bit hesitant to go out into the island to explore. Initially, I didn’t want to do this because I thought I was going to encounter an island that was going to be in terrible shape. For some reason, I believed I was going to be more of a nuisance to the people of Puerto Rico if I went to the affected destinations, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. These people taught me that the sense of community was more important than anything else. Even if they struggled more than others, they made sure everyone was accounted for and helped appropriately. However, I will say that this is not just a behavior I’ve experienced in the recently affected areas of Puerto Rico. This is island-wide. Everyone makes sure that no one stays behind and that their basic needs are met. If anything, this is Puerto Rico’s best virtue and what will be the pivotal factor in determining what happens on the island in these upcoming elections. I don’t know, but I’d be wary if I were running for office this year considering how much Puerto Ricans have realized they mean to each other.