Two summers ago, in 2017, Puerto Rico was hit with two massive storms in August, Hurricane Maria and then Hurricane Irma. Ever since, Puerto Rico has not been the same as islanders lost their homes, starved, lost water and electricity, and worst of all, there were countless deaths.
The Island has not recovered from the impact from hurricane Maria. I took a trip down to the island to see up close what is happening.
During spring break, I took two weeks to go see my family and friends that live on the island; I wanted to reach out and learn more about the last two years. As I flew into Puerto Rico, I witnessed the fact that there were not many passengers on the plane, just a handful of people. There’s not much tourism going on now as many feel that it not an appropriate time to come to the island and tour around. There wouldn’t be many places to go anyway as one of the few places tourists can go is in San Juan, most spots are forbidden and closed down such as the rainforest, caves, and museums. Not even Old San Juan is fun anymore as that sector’s restaurants and hotel services are shut down or being renovated.
I asked my mother about the power outages throughout the island. I was told that there’s a new rule stating that after midnight people can drive when the lights are red due to ongoing problems with the traffic lights flickering on and off. Also, there’s a ton of crime happening right now and people are getting ripped off because there’s not much authority around so people can just come up to your car window and mug you.
It’s unsafe to go out on the streets anywhere at night, usually around the 10:00 pm you might want to consider going back home because anything can happen. There’s a lot of power outages all over the island and it’s gets dark really fast on the streets. A cousin of mine mentioned that due to the island losing money the government had to make a few cuts financially and those cuts were education and public services while they still have to pay over a billion in dept thanks to the island going into bankruptcy. According to theconversation.com, because the economy is suffering, the people are suffering; nobody is getting money in return, and not only that, but since schools are being shut down kids can’t get educated.
I worked at the house that my mother is renovating in Carolina, Puerto Rico. The house used to belong to a relative that has passed on but it stays in the Molina family, which will be owned for generations of Molinas to come. The house is still intact and so is the rest of the area in Carolina, however there’s bad signal and hardly any service so it’s hard to make phone calls or go on the internet.
Friends of mine are working, but working two or three jobs just to make a quick buck while others are losing their jobs; a lot of workers got let go and some people have it worse. Some of my family members aren’t really doing well financially because of the economy, but as far as I can tell, while they are struggling because of money situations their living situations are fine.
I got to explore more of the island, visiting another family’s house for the weekend over in Utuado, all the way across the island in the countryside way up on the mountains. On my way over there I saw a lot of stranded cats and dogs. Puerto Rico is known for having the worst animal crime rate, you see homeless dogs and cats on the streets every day. I saw houses abandoned and some wrecked from top to bottom due to the hurricane’s impact. If you go far out in the island the roads are pretty bad as there are numerous pot holes and not enough construction to fix those problems. It’s a risk to travel if you’re a tourist because a majority of the resorts are closed down but the sights are beautiful like the beaches and forests.
In the mountains it gets very cold and windy, but Utuado has such wonderful sights and my cousin lived right near the ocean; the ocean is their backyard but unfortunately due to the storm there was a massive flooding. My cousin told me that when the storm hit the ocean was rising, making a gigantic splash throughout the town and of course some houses got swept away along with it. I was shocked that my cousin and her family lost power for four solid moths that year. She explained that because of the power outage they couldn’t bathe, wash clothes, heat up food or anything, it’s a very sad scenario to picture in my mind.
After traveling across the island, I went back home to Carolina but then spent the majority of my time left in San Juan. San Juan was enjoyable but there is still certain sectors of the city without power, just enough to get by so that tourists can enjoy their nightlife. There’s more police within this area to quell fear and suspicion, and there’s less chance of crime. I’d say that other than San Juan the island is unsafe for the time being and is still in its growing pains.
There’s a lot to do, but here are a few key points to consider for the island to improve: work on schooling because everybody needs to be educated, faster service for the public, work on electricity and infrastructure/rebuild. I still believe that we can do better, Puerto Rico just needs a few adjustments.
Until the day I left, I still have faith that some way, somehow Puerto Rico can still survive but it’s going to take time, probably a long time, but we’re not going anywhere. There’s still a lot of fixing to do and I feel as though we need a lot of help. It’s sad that my people are suffering because of a harsh government not giving back, the economy is going in a downward spiral. We do need help from all around the world, to help us fight the big fight and stand together. There is a line drawn in the sand to say that we are people as well, there shouldn’t be any mistreatment.