The following statement/call from Iris Morales was republished with permission
I recently returned from Puerto Rico and write to echo the urgency expressed by others. The situation is dire. The conditions are raw. Hurricanes Irma and Maria have laid bare the result of centuries of colonial control, austerity, and exploitation.
I’m sure you’ve read reports describing the humanitarian crisis. Most of the island is without electricity or medical supplies. Water and food are scarce. In the words of a local resident, “Water is like gold.” US governmental assistance has been minimal and inadequate. In the Loiza area, people showed me the FEMA ration they received – a pouch of vegan lasagna with instructions in English on how to prepare and a second pouch of apple jelly. That was all … It’s enraging, insulting, and inhumane. There is much more I could say, but I’d rather you seek out the stories circulating online from the people themselves. The massive assistance needed has not been forthcoming.
Facing this reality, people in Puerto Rico are organizing themselves, creating communities of support. Young people are at active participants 10 – 14 hours a day, doing whatever needs to be done. It is the Puerto Rican people who are clearing the streets and highways. I met brigades of young people doing garbage pickup. Young people and local residents are working together collecting food, cooking meals and feeding people breakfast and lunch, taking meals to people who are bed ridden or cannot leave their homes. They are also sharing seeds and planting small plots of land. Since communications and phone connectivity are nonexistent or unreliable, people are going house to house to ask what people need. They are finding places for the homeless to stay, putting up roofs, distributing solar lamps – when they receive them, and a million other things needed for daily survival.The tasks are enormous compounded by the lack of supplies, tools, electricity, and resources.
Throughout the trip, I was filled with a mix of emotions from rage to sadness and compassion. I gained strength and inspiration from the resiliency of the Puerto Rican men, women, and children bringing their creativity to overcome extraordinarily difficult circumstances, and showing love and kindness to each other.
My lifelong beliefs were reinforced. Those of us living in the US must keep the Puerto Rico situation visible to the world. We have both a humanitarian crisis and a political problem. We must press the US government to release and distribute water, food, and other supplies already on the island, and to send medical personnel and medicine. Houses must be rebuilt immediately with no displacement of people from their homes; the Jones Act must be eliminated; and the debt canceled. We must continue the fight against the colonization and militarization of the island.
Immediately, we can give direct support to the people of Puerto Rico by contributing to a local organization on the island. There are many community initiatives across the island that need resources. Support one of them. Basic supplies and tools are sorely needed. To make sure that the people receive them, please work directly with a contact person or organization to follow-up, or, when possible, take the donations to the island yourself.
I’ve joined with the Maria Fund Advisory Committee made up of volunteers from Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican Diaspora Stateside for the purpose of raising funds to support grassroots initiatives on the island that are organizing to meet immediate needs and long term recovery efforts. You can find more information at MariaFund.org.
This critical situation is a defining and turning point in Puerto Rican history. It calls for all hands on deck – everyone doing what they can. By each one of us supporting the relief and recovery efforts, we can contribute to the rebuilding of a new Puerto Rico.