Puerto Rico is a protectorate of the United States, located in The Caribbean Sea. It’s official name is The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. It is comprised of five islands, the largest bearing the name Puerto Rico also. The area of the five islands combined is 3,500 mi². It’s capital, and largest city, is San Juan, which has a population of 500,000. The population of the protectorate as a whole, has fallen in the last two decades, from almost 4 million to roughly 3.3 million now. Spanish and English are the two official languages, but Spanish is more widely spoken.
Puerto Rico was first “discovered” by Christopher Columbus in the late fifteenth century, which he claimed for Spain. The native people were The Taíno at that time. Over the years, The French, Dutch, and British all invaded without success. Spain’s rule continued for four centuries.
After the Spanish-American War, the U.S. aquired Puerto Rico on April 11, 1899. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, and enjoy all the rights afforded with that status, except the right to vote. Only states’ citizens have the right to vote, and Puerto Rico is not a state. They have no representatives in The Senate, and only one member of Congress, The Resident Commissioner, who has no voting rights. They also can not vote for The President or The Vice-President. They do have a Governor.
Recent referenda in the protectorate have shown support for Puerto Rico to become a state. That has not been implemented.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria
Hurricane Irma was a devastating hurricane that hit Puerto Rico on September 6, 2017. It was an extremely powerful hurricane, a category 5, and the strongest to hit the continental U.S. since 2005. When it hit Puerto Rico it was still a very strong category 4 storm. On September 20 [date needs checking] a category 4 hurricane, Maria hit the island. It was much stronger than Irma.
The two back-to-back storms, left the protectorate devastated. It’s power grid was all but destroyed – according to the Governor, 1 million people were without power. Thousands of homes were badly damaged or simply destroyed, leaving many Puerto Rican’s homeless. They had an already struggling economy, which was made that much worse. There was a huge shortage of fresh water on the islands.
Response to the Hurricanes
The response to Irma and Maria was seen as pitiful by most. Puerto Rico is entitled to the exact same aid and protection as any U.S. state, yet the help they received was minimal in comparison to Texas and Florida. President Donald Trump did visit on October 3, 2017. He said he did not want to interfere with first responders up to then. In what was seen as a farcical display of ignorance for the plight of every day people, he threw paper towels into a crowd of survivors. Now this was likely an attempt at a show of solidarity, but lacked compassion, and really summed up how ridulous the response by the government, and Trump, was to the crisis.
It was reported in January 2018, four months after the disaster, that 40% of the island was still without power. The water supply was almost completely restored by that time, but wasn’t potable without boiling first. Thousands fled Puerto Rico after the storm, including some 200,000 to Florida alone. Access to healthcare is minimal. The people of Puerto Rico need help, especially from their fellow Americans.
How Can I Help?
If you can, please considering donating to The American Red Cross Puerto Rico campaign.