Puerto Rico is hurting. Puerto Rico has been devastated by Hurricane Maria and the United States has done little on a congressional level to help them. With more than three million Puerto Ricans in need of food, water, shelter, basic medical care and sanitation, it’s hard to imagine why we haven’t reached out to help them more. More than half of Americans don’t know that Puerto Ricans are American citizens, according to a New York Times poll, and those who do are far more likely to back an aid bill for the territory.
San Juan’s Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz criticized the federal aid distribution already in place. On Friday night, she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, “People are drinking out of creeks here in San Juan. You have people in buildings, and they’re becoming caged in their own buildings — old people, retired people that don’t have any electricity…” These conditions drive people away from their homes and their communities, and if not solved, many Puerto Ricans will come to the mainland seeking refuge.
Cruz also had an especially potent message to the United States and President Donald Trump: “We’re dying here. We truly are dying here. I keep saying it: SOS. If anyone can hear us; Mr. Trump can hear us, let’s just get it over with and get the ball rolling.”
Trump tweeted against Cruz, quickly claiming that she “…has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump.” Trump went on to admonish Puerto Rico’s requests for federal aid, tweeting: “Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.”
On Sept. 30, Trump also urged Puerto Ricans, “Do not believe the #FakeNews! #PRStrong,” ignoring the fact that Puerto Ricans are living through the nightmare the news is reporting on. Former President Barack Obama’s former Director of Speechwriting, Jon Favreau, fired back in a tweet that read: “They’re not watching the news because they no longer have televisions, power, or homes, you f—— dolt.”
Ricardo Rosselló, Governor of Puerto Rico, told CNN the island faces a humanitarian crisis and reminded us that Puerto Ricans are American citizens. This matters because, while many Americans favour foreign aid cuts, Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States and its widespread destruction is a domestic issue.
Amidst the circulating news and tweets about the NFL and the national anthem, Puerto Rico has been forgotten. We must refocus and help our fellow Americans, lest the strife of an entire island be lost beneath the waves.