Before Puerto Rico was ravaged by Hurricane Maria, it was treated like a stepchild by its parent, the United States of America.
During the past 50 years, virtually nothing changed.
The island’s economy grew haphazardly without infra structure being put in place to support its population of 3.4 million.
When Hurricane Maria blew through two weeks ago, it swept up and spit out Puerto Rico’s feeble infrastructure, and to such an extent that after two weeks, the island is left largely without electricity or fresh drinking water, roads that are impassable, and the Mayor of San Juan crying out in a fit of despair instead of rallying the troops to do something to get out of the fix.
Maria, the most powerful storm to strike Puerto Rico in nearly 90 years, has destroyed roads, making it difficult to deliver aid and move the heavy equipment needed to fix damaged infrastructure across the island. The hurricane has killed at least 16 people, according to the official death toll.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz’ behavior was that of a leader appearing impacted more by instability than the power to lead — and coming at a time of the island’s greatest need, her outbursts were deplorable and frankly, pathetic.
President Donald Trump fired off an angry set of Tweets about her leadership and her complaints.
“Such poor leadership by the Mayor of San Juan and others in Puerto Rico who are not able to get their workers to help,” said Trump. “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.”
Puerto Rico had been swamped some months earlier with about $80 billion in debts and defaulted on its loans — a fact making the island’s misery even more difficult to comprehend.
At the same time FEMA and the Defense Department were rushing thousands of troops and resources to the island to sort it out — a nearly impossible task — as parts of the island are nearly impenetrable even during the best of times.
Yulin Cruz made a star appearance on television announcing: “We are dying,” she cried out.
The official toll right now stands at 16 but because nearly every government office is closed, even death certificates can’t be issued and so the dead pile up in mortuaries and statistics that are valid are impossible to determine with any accuracy.
Disaster experts say as many as 30 people may have died but some of those died from natural causes and others from the effects of the hurricane.
Bottom line, Puerto Rico needs a Marshall Plan and right away — and perhaps President Trump will be the first president to finally bring the island up and out of its second-class status and present misery.
Every president since Dwight Eisenhower paid little to no attention to the island of Puerto Rico.
Without natural resources, without the ability even to grow its own food, Puerto Rico’s second-class citizenry forced a great wave of emigration from the mountainous island to New York City and Boston and to other locations along the East Coast beginning in the late 1950’s.
Those newcomers to the US — even though citizens of the US — were greeted by hostility and racism.
Unlike generations of immigrants who came years before, the Puerto Ricans preferred their own culture to American culture and were slower than others to assimilate.
They did not learn English as did generations coming here in the past.
They preferred their Taíno Indian-Spanish roots and language to the vestiges of Anglo life in the U.S.
They did not easily adapt to the new nation and its harsh winters, nor were they with the resources to adapt.
They came him with nothing.
They worked for nearly nothing.
It was impossible to advance during the early years of emigration.
They lived in decrepit pre-Depression three deckers in poor and struggling cities like Chelsea, Massachusetts, where thousands of Puerto Ricans settled during the late 1950s, to the 1970’s.
The Puerto Ricans who came to places like Chelsea immediately became a sub-class, the working poor and the welfare poor.
They worked for the lowest wages.
They were shunned and discriminated against by the Anglos who ran the older American cities they settled in.
They spent decades getting their feet on the ground in the United States.
Against heavy odds, they have fully assimilated — and Hispanic culture in the U.S. today is one of our largest population demographics.
Now Puerto Rico, the homeland for so many who emigrated here, is at a full stop.
Its infrastructure already weakened with band-aids put on everything everywhere on the island for decades, is now in full failure.
This failure is not about President Trump.
It is not about former President Barak Obama.
It is about every president who came before Trump doing little to nothing to support the island’s needs, to build a stronger infrastructure or to prepare the island for the ravages of a disaster such as it has just suffered.
In such an environment, Puerto Rico is reaping years of inattention and misery as a result of it… and mainly because of Hurricane Maria.
Those of us who know the island and its people understand the predicament.
The mayor or San Juan was out of bounds with her hysterical plea.
She should have been leading her department heads instead of playing to the crowd.
Complaints get her nothing.
Working hard against all odds is what will bring Puerto Rico back.
That, and a ton of money to make the place right coming from the U.S. Treasury.