What happened to Puerto Rico?

By Ralph Winfrey

Hurricane Maria, a category 5 storm devastated over 3 million people in Puerto Rico on Monday, September 18th. Since then many citizens outside the capital of San Juan are still struggling to survive. Clean water and other basic needs are still hard to find in less affluent areas.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency officially shut down the emergency aid on January 31, roughly four months after the storm dissipated. But people in rural areas are still in critical condition.

Orphans Promise, under the Christian Broadcasting Network went to Bayamõn during the week of Thanksgiving to help survivors. During that time about 70 percent of the island was still without power.

Their first stop, Josephs Orphanage was predicted to be without power for the next three years. This special need orphanage has a staff that is composed of 4 elderly women caring for over twenty babies. To add to the short staff the building has also been severely damaged and flooded. “When you walked in the place smelled horrible and there were trees on top of everything”, said volunteer, Jay Foster.

The only source of electricity comes from down power lines that have energized the flooded building. A few special needs children laughed off being shocked by the energized water, ” but that’s not cool”, said Foster.

“That’s what the people of Puerto Rico are very angry about, the fact that they are considered part of the United States, yet they have no rights…, ” said Foster. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory. Meaning that they are controlled by the United States, but the Constitution only partially applies.

Since the Jones Act of Puerto Rico in 1917 everyone on the island was granted citizenship. But not much has changed since then. As of today, residents of Puerto Rico are not represented in Congress. They can enlist in the military but are barred from voting for the president.

The citizens of Puerto Rico feel alienated from the rest of the states that are part of the Union. They are treated in instances such as this, as aliens and not a priority.

Photos are courtesy of Jay Foster