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Puerto Rico continues its struggle to be heard

by Breonnnah Colon - Lifestyles Editor
Tue, Feb 6th 2018 05:00 pm

“Everything, everything is deserted and the town is full of need. Oh, of need; the mourning is heard everywhere in my unhappy Borinquen.” 

These verses from a famous Puerto Rican song Lamento Borinquen, originally sang in spanish by Rafael Hernandez and then later remade by beloved Puerto Rican singer Marc Anthony, Lamento Borinquen rings true even through the hardships faced by Puerto Ricans today. For a small island continuously ravished by misfortune, these words acknowledge the heartache and overwhelming desperation felt by millions of Boricuas both on and off the island. The song raises two questions which has been plaguing the Puerto Rican people for around five generations now: who will help the island of Puerto Rico, and what is to happen to our beloved Borinquen?

As of yet, there are still no answers.

There is so much to the story of this little island in the Pacific. It seems almost as impossible to address it all as it is for today’s Puerto Ricans to regain stability after the devastation of Hurricane Irma and Maria that ripped across the island only four months ago. An island stripped of its freedom, devoid of the ability to flourish and starved of proper aid, even before the hurricanes forced the issues faced by Puerto Ricans into mainstream America’s eyes, once again finds itself isolated and at a loss for what to do.

Yet, the typical American on the mainland wouldn’t know this if they followed the media and listened to the empty verbage that too consistently flows from our president’s mouth. With articles explaining that FEMA has donated “more than $1.6 billion in food and more than $361 in water,” as stated by a New York Times article written by Patricia Mazzei, it is quite understandable that an individual not completely informed about the state of the island thinks some great progress is being made. As Trump so disrespectfully said, Puerto Ricans have to help themselves right? If only it were that simple.

As much as the United States loved to narcissistically assume it’s the number one destination in the world for everyone who doesn’t live in this country, that’s not exactly the case for Puerto Ricans. In fact, the only times we see excessive emigration of islanders from the island to the mainland is when situations are so dire there is ultimately no choice but to seek out better living conditions. The economic devastation on the island over the past decade has resulted in a mass exodus, according to statistics presented by the Pew Research Center. In 2014 alone, upwards of 84,000 Puerto Ricans left their island in an attempt to attain a better quality of life. Yet this number pales in comparison to the masses that fled the island after the destruction caused by the hurricanes. NBC news reports that 200,000 Puerto Ricans entered the state of Florida alone since the natural disasters occured.

While it may seem that progress has been made, especially with reports that supermarkets are up and running and 75 percent of the island has electricity, it would be best for people to take off their rose colored glasses and truly assess what’s happening to the lush and green paradise the island once was. These numbers mean nothing to people who were struggling to survive even before the hurricanes hit, for the island under U.S. rule has poverty levels higher than every state on the mainland, including Mississippi. Millions are still without electricity, food and access to health care. And even three years from now, when America has once again forgotten about their own people, we will continue to struggle. We’ve been struggling for 400 years due to the lack of adequate treatment and consistent exploitation by this supposed “land of the free.” 

Recently, news broke that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would be cutting aid to Puerto Rico; information which resulted in an uproar from politicians both on the island and on the mainland. The concern was that the island was not nearly capable to maintain itself without further assistance from it’s colonizers, colonizers who forced the island into the position it’s in now, against both the consent and better judgement of its inhabitants. FEMA quickly addressed the situation, claiming the statement was a miscommunication and ensured that there would be further assistance for as long as “there continues to be an identifiable need for [it],” agency spokesman William Booher said in the aforementioned article by The New York Times.

While Puerto Rico may be off the hook for this time around, it is apparent to every Boricua that their time is running out. Eventually, public scrutiny will not be enough to force the government to continue aiding the island and FEMA won’t have any identifiable reason to continue its aid. Yet the people of the island will still need help, because the devastation goes beyond what the hurricanes did.

The true disaster is America’s insurmountable oppression of the island. The struggle of the people is not a mere headline, it is a devastating reality and it will continue to be for decades to come as it was for decades past. For as long as the government on the mainland refuses to truly acknowledge the people they forced to be in a precarious situation in the first place, the answers to Hernandez’s questions will remain unknown. And the mourning will continue in my unhappy Borinquen.



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Taken by Vincent Croce:
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