Puerto Rico became a US territory in 1898. Puerto Ricans are American citizens but their struggles often don’t get the same attention or support as those living in the states.
In 2017 when Hurricane Maria hit the island, close to 3,000 people died. In the aftermath, survivors were faced with catastrophic damage, widespread flooding and an electrical blackout that lasted for months. Then came a series of earthquakes. Residents complained that the federal government took too long and didn’t do enough to provide relief.
Then on September 18th Hurricane Fiona struck, once again knocking out the power grid.
Late last month Boricuas from all over Minnesota came together outside of the high school El Colegio to share their concerns.
“Years ago we had another challenge with [Hurricane] Maria and… Minnesota people, they was there with us,” recalled Miguel Ramos. “I was in Puerto Rico when the earthquake happened but again the people from Minnesota say ‘we are here, to support our people, because we are our people.’ I am grateful for the community of Minnesota but you know what? We really need your help to be sure that our communities receive what is right. We are not asking for more… we are asking for the same.”
Minnesota State Senator Melisa Lopez Franzen shared steps Minnesotans can take to support Puerto Ricans.
“I know there is action at the federal level to send some relief through FEMA but we know that that relief does not get there soon enough,” she said. “That is why it is so important to unite as a community here and across the country, which we are, to make sure that the families make sure that they have the support they need today because Puerto Rico is not as wealthy as Minnesota.”
Franzen says organizers are revamping El Fondo Bouricua, a fund that was created to support Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Franzen also urged people to pay attention to what is going on in Puerto Rico.
“We are in mourning but were in mourning because things have not gotten much better and it is in our prerogative to make the rest of Minnesota and the country to know that these are US citizens that are living trapped in an Island with the resources you would not bear to live in, in this day and age after a storm. There’s time to plan. We need people to mobilize, we need communities to mobilize but we are doing our part here in Minnesota to do that work.”
Franzen says it’s unacceptable for the residents of an American territory to be forced to live in such poor conditions.