Puerto Rico Is Not a Charity Case
On September 20, 2017, hurricane Maria tore through the island of Puerto Rico. Homes were destroyed, roads and bridges collapsed, and rivers flooded local towns. The failing of the electrical grid plunged the island into darkness. The death toll has risen to 48 and is expected to increase due to diseases lurking in the water and hospitals lacking resources. El Yunque, Puerto Rico’s national rainforest, was ripped from its roots. What once held tropical wildlife is now a graveyard. Our government has seen the damage, yet no one really listens to the Puerto Ricans cries for help. As a Puerto Rican, I find it offensive how our current president continues to humiliate us. Puerto Ricans are Americans too. We are not a charity case.
My parents took me to visit Puerto Rico every summer when I was a little girl. I enjoyed going to Playa Santa, Luquillo Beach, or Crash Boat to collect seashells and watch the sunset. La Pargera offered a variety of food and artisan merchandise. El Yunque and Mayaguez Zoo were the perfect places to see animals. Iguanas, small lizards, monkeys, bats, and different species of insects roamed the island. Old San Juan allowed me to reminisce on Puerto Rico’s history. At night, the coqui’s sang Puerto Ricans to sleep with their lullaby.
I can go on on about all the beauty Puerto Rico as to offer. It shatters my soul to see the damage both Irma and Maria has caused my island. Puerto Rico had been hit with strong storms before like Georges and Hugo, but those natural disasters never caused the damage Maria did. To see the agriculture go from vivid shades of green to brown and grey shows how Puerto Rico’s spirit was broken. When President Trump visited the island, he said, “Puerto Rico is putting a dent in our finances.” He humiliated Puerto Rico in a time of need. He then continued the humiliation by throwing paper towels to the crowd. President Trump is treating Puerto Rico as a charity case, knowing that more than three million Americans live there.
The Jones Act was established in 1920. Also known as the Merchant Marine Act, this law prohibits Puerto Rico to receive goods from other countries unless the people are taxed for it. Only American ships owned by American citizens are allowed on their docks. This puts both an economic and agricultural burden on the island. According to the New York Times, the Jones Act has caused “$17 billion in losses to Puerto Rico from 1990 to 2010.” President Trump has waived the act for ten days, which is not enough time for aid to arrive on the island. Food costs twice as much in Puerto Rico than it does in Florida due to the agricultural aspects of the Jones Act. Politicians from both Puerto Rico and the United States have been debating with congress to eliminate the Jones Act.
In 1941, The United States military took over the island of Vieques, a smaller territory of Puerto Rico. The NAVY built a base there for storing supplies, training soldiers, and using it as a practice shooting range for bombs and other weapons. Puerto Ricans protested against the naval base for years, especially when their young sons were forced to participate in the draft for World War II. After various bills passed around in congress, Bill Clinton finally agreed to the Puerto Rican’s plea about Vieques. The Naval base closed down in 2003, but Puerto Ricans are still part of the United States military.
There was also Operation Bootstrap, which set the economy for Puerto Rico in 1947. Luis Munoz Marin, who was governor of Puerto Rico at the time, collaborated with the United States to bring an industrial revolution to the island. Operation Bootstrap brought a temporary economic boost, but with machines taking over manual labor, unemployment rates rose. Women were also forced in sterilization and birth control. Operation Bootstrap was renamed The Puerto Rican Industrial Development Company. With Puerto Ricans contributing to both the military and industrial services of the United States, shouldn’t we be treated as American Citizens?
A clause in the Fourteenth Amendment states that Puerto Ricans are granted United States Citizenship, yet Puerto Ricans are not allowed to vote in Presidential elections on the island, and they cannot vote for Puerto Rico’s governor on the mainland. Many debate that since Puerto Rico is a territory and not a state, congress is delaying the aid to the island. If we are contributing other services to the United States then we should be receiving more aid. People are dying due to lack of food and medical care. We are American citizens. We deserve to be treated better. Politicians need to eliminate the laws that restrict the island, and create new ones to benefit Puerto Ricans in their time of need.