Interview with a Puerto Rican Man Living in the U.S. About Hurricane Maria:
“It is incredible, it is devastating”

September 25, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |


From readers:

We had a chance to talk to C, who now lives in the U.S. but grew up in Puerto Rico and has many family members living there. C has been trying desperately to reach family members in Puerto Rico but has been unable to get through to anyone since Hurricane Maria hit. He had spoken with his mother on Tuesday before the hurricane. She was moved from a nursing facility to his sister’s house. Everyone thought that would be safer for her. But they hadn’t counted on a nearby river rising so fast and high that entire town where his sister lived had to be evacuated. He said many other people in the U.S. are in the same situation—desperately trying to reach their loved ones in Puerto Rico.


C: Millions of Puerto Ricans live here—at least four million—in New York, Chicago, Texas, Orlando. I was explaining how in the last four years there’s been a mass exodus to Orlando because of the economic crisis that Puerto Rico is going through. About a thousand families have been flying to Orlando a week in the last four years or so.

It’s terrible. All these people don’t have anything—they are going through the same thing I am—maybe worse. It’s terrible, and just to think this is going to go on for five to six months with no electricity and after this come the chaos of ... the lack of water, clean water. Most people over there depend on electricity for the stove. So if you don’t have clean water you cannot boil it. Food—how do you get food, if the roads right now are impassable? No, it is incredible, it is devastating.

Q: You said your mom is elderly and has diabetes...

C: She is 78 years old and has diabetes. She walks with a walker because she had surgery on both knees. She had heart surgery years ago, a special diet and so on.

Q: So even a shelter would be extremely dangerous...

C: Oh, extremely dangerous. Oh, yes, yes—that’s what concerns me most. Especially because shelters don’t have electricity either or don’t have a generator...

As of today I know there have been 37 dead, but they haven’t started really digging around... When you get 22, 24 [inches], two feet of rain, the whole ball game changes. It is terrible, it is terrible. And this was bound to happen, because there never has been investment in the [infra]structure of Puerto Rico. All these companies go over there because they are tax free or whatever, and when they can’t do no business anymore, they go somewhere else and, you know, they leave whatever behind.

I remember when I was a kid, my dad used to work for Union Carbide in Puerto Rico where they had the petroleum company where they used to make different products. When they decided to leave, they went to Mexico and they left the whole thing. I’m talking about the whole plant they left behind vacant. And this is a huge portion of land. This is not a little block... It is decayed, rusted. All these huge pipes rusted. This is toxic...

All these companies go over there. There are a lot of pharmaceuticals—Viagra is made over there in Puerto Rico, Celebrex, all the major companies. And so all these companies—all this waste and all these chemicals, they are throwing into the rivers and for many years.

These companies go there and offer these jobs, low-paying jobs, of course, minimum pay. And they get away by not paying taxes. Oh no, no, no, no taxes. That’s how they’re lured to come into the island and do business with the island you know.... When they can make no more money or they find out they could make more money somewhere else, they take their stuff and leave behind their garbage and they leave and go somewhere else. That’s the way it is. That’s the way we’ve been for many, many years. I mean for MANY, many years.

We were invaded in 1898 that’s 100... almost 120 years. The first governor of Puerto Rico, he was an American [Nelson A. Miles]. He was given the post because he was a high-ranked soldier. He went against the Native Americans. He had a successful campaign killing off the Native Americans, and I guess as a prize they give him the governorship of Puerto Rico. And he made his millions because he invested in sugar cane...

Q: Any final points going back to the hurricane?

C: Well I just hope that we get back there and people will be able to communicate with their loved ones, because it is not only them going through all this, but we kind of get anxious and even depressed for not knowing. Better to know, even if it is bad news, than not knowing. I hope we are able to get some kind of communication with the people we love.

And it’s not just that. Mexico just had an earthquake at the same time, and this is incredible. And this is the poorest—I mean, Mexico is poor, but I mean it is like the poorest in the south of Mexico... close to Chiapas where they are indigenous, where the earthquake happened and not too long ago. About two weeks ago they had the first one. And the same thing that Puerto Rico is going through now is going on in Mexico. Because they got all this poverty.




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