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Brexit may have begun but it is not over, indeed it may never be finished.

Four years after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the pain and suffering continues

Brexiter

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Sept. 20, 2021, marks the four-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico. Four years is but a moment in time when you have lost loved ones. Grieving, pain, and memory does not fade even when the tragedy that has swiftly changed your life forever is no longer headline news and the media world has moved on to other concerns.

I am not Puerto Rican, though I have a close to 60-year history with the island and its people here on the mainland. My husband is Puerto Rican, as are some of my cousins, and many of my closest friends and political allies. After Maria when I saw how quickly news from the island disappeared from headlines here on the mainland, or that articles on Puerto Rice were covered only from the perspective of those in power, I made a commitment, “a promesa,” to do what I could to amplify skimpy mainstream media coverage of recovery efforts on the island—as well as covering the Puerto Rican community here.

To the best of my ability I’ve kept that promise, and have continued to post stories and promote social media posts about Puerto Rico every day. Though Monday is an anniversary and I expect that a few mainstream media outlets will mark the day, I will post again tomorrow and in the days that follow. Though prayers to “descanse en paz” (rest in peace) are still said daily for those who died, there can be no true peace for the island’s living people if they continue to be second-class citizens of the U.S.

After any natural disaster, the next phase always uses the term “recovery,” which applies not simply to grief and loss, but to the repair of the damage to homes, businesses, infrastructure, the economy, and to a way of life. In the case of Maria, that phase was severely hampered and has not been completed due to the politics of both a Trump-headed hostile government up until January 2021, and the complicated and fractured politics of the island itself, strangled in the grip of a territorial and colonial relationship with the U.S. mainland that predates this particular disaster.

Before addressing where things stand today and what the future may hold for both the island and Puerto Ricans here on the mainland, let us first remember the lives lost and the families who grieve.

This 2018 tweet links to a database of the names and stories of many of those who died.

2,975 people died in Puerto Rico. It is the worst humanitarian disaster in modern American history. For the first time, here are the names of hundreds of the dead. And their stories, told by grieving family members. Bold, courageous reporting by @qz: https://t.co/JzU0fifKnZ

— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) September 14, 2018

I went back and read a few of those stories this morning and thought about the family members who survived, wondering if they stayed or fled to the mainland. Then I did my daily search for news and was glad to see that there was at least one story, filed by Nicole Acevedo, who reports for NBC News Latino:

The memories of surviving Hurricane Maria still haunt people in Puerto Rico, four years after the storm wreaked havoc on the U.S. territory on Sept. 20, 2017.

There are reminders of the destruction, with thousands of homes, many of them still covered with blue tarps, yet to be fixed. Constant power outages remind Puerto Ricans that essential work to modernize the antiquated electric grid decimated by Maria has not yet begun. Deteriorating school buildings, roads, bridges and even health care facilities point to a slow reconstruction process that has not yet picked up its pace.

A new analysis by the Center for a New Economy, a Puerto Rico-based nonpartisan think tank, argues that rebuilding after the hurricane is just one of three "systemic shocks" — along with the Covid-19 pandemic and the decadelong financial crisis — that is challenging Puerto Rico.

Hurricane damage is still not repaired, homes still have blue tarps, and the impact of COVID-19 and the continuing power outages are all part of the problems and challenges. Starting this year, the Biden administration was able to reverse the Trump-initiated stranglehold on congressionally approved recovery funds. However, deep problems and conflicts remain. The un-elected Financial Oversight and Management Board, which is dubbed “La Junta” by Puerto Rican progressives and activists, still has a stranglehold on the island’s finances.

The political history of the island and its relationship to the United States is still not well understood here on the mainland, and the island’s government is controlled by a very powerful moneyed class who are allied with mainland Republicans and pro-statehood forces.

Progressive Puerto Ricans here in the diaspora are actively engaged in fighting for the island’s future.

On the eve of the 4th anniversary of Hurricane Maria, ppl flocked to East Harlem #NYC to march in a Silent Procession for Puerto Rico https://t.co/nD444p4Uv1

— Andrew J. Padilla 🇵🇷 (@apadillafilm6) September 20, 2021

What that future holds for Puerto Rico is still unknown. My prayer is that Puerto Rico will one day have the power to determine its own destiny. Pa’lante Puerto Rico.
 
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