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Hurricane Maria Leaves Puerto Rico in Need of Assistance

Gina Quatrino, Production Editor

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“Thoughts and prayers are great, but thoughts and prayers are not enough. We need supplies, we need aid, we need a government response that matches the response of our people.” –Lin-Manuel Miranda, American composer, lyricist, playwright and actor.

It has been two and a half months since Hurricane Maria met the shores of Puerto Rico. The Category Four hurricane is the most devastating storm the Caribbean has seen in over 85 years. Trees were uprooted. Houses were flooded and destroyed. Families are still searching for loved ones in the wreckage. Winds of up to 115 miles per hour struck the island, causing an island wide blackout; a power outage that is still a prominent issue to the citizens of Puerto Rico today. The response to other natural disasters in the United States have been quick and efficient. People traveled from across the country to donate and provide aid to the survivors in Texas after Hurricane Harvey impacted Houston. So where is the help for the millions that are homeless, sick and lost in Puerto Rico?

One of the main reasons it feels like nothing is being done is the way the government is handling this disaster. The American Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is calling their reaction to Hurricane Maria “one of the nation’s most logistically complex responses in history.” And while they have made strides by repairing 92% of the cell towers and increasing the amount of potable water by 83% on the island, there is still so much work that needs to be done. The drinkable water on the island is not accessible to everyone and 59% of the island is still without power. So what happens to the people who do not live in the main cities of Puerto Rico? What happens to the people who live in the areas that are without power, water or cell service? They are still there. The government is doing what they can, but it is frustrating to wait around for more to happen. It is a slow process, but it should not take this long to get the basic necessities to the island.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, playwright and actor well known for the creation of Hamilton: An American Musical, wrote a song in hopes to increase funding for the island he calls home. The song is titled “Almost like Praying,” and features artists of all Hispanic/Latino backgrounds. The song reached the Billboard Top 20 instantly after its release. All proceeds from the track were donated to the The Hispanic Federation in hopes to expand the action taken on the island. It is admirable that Miranda is using his power in the media to promote the relief for Puerto Rico. According to Miranda, the people are still “making up for the slowness of the initial response.” However, he has acknowledged the work of government officials, stating that his “hat goes off to every single member of FEMA, every troop on the ground, every member of the Puerto Rican National Guard that’s working so hard there.” While thankful for the government’s help, the citizens feel like they are working harder to keep up the momentum. If they do not continue to remind the government that there are people in need, it seems as though they will forget.

It is important to remember that just because this hurricane is no longer the highlighted tragedy on American television, it is still affecting the millions of people trapped on the island. Many people fail to realize that Puerto Ricans are legal American citizens. It is easy to push their tragedy to the side because they are not a part of the contiguous United States; but their misfortune affects mainland America just the same. Those who have not left the island literally cannot afford to, or have no way out. Lack of wealth or available transportation should not be a punishment these people face alone. Everyone needs the opportunity to reach a better life, but sadly most people on the island do not have the option. The process of relief needs to be expedited as much as possible. The strides we have made have been substantial, but there is still so much work to be done. Thanks to the gracious proceeds of Miranda, donations have been pouring in to help Puerto Rico. The Hispanic Federation is still taking donations to expedite the process of relief at their website, www.hispanicfederationunidos.org, and are urging people to give as much as possible. America can not stop now; the ball is in our court. There is an island full of heritage, history and American people in need of the mainland’s help.

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Hurricane Maria Leaves Puerto Rico in Need of Assistance