The present struggles on the island of Puerto Rico didn't just begin with the hurricane last September. It's true, Hurricane Maria magnified Puerto Rico's troubles, but if we look at the past history, the issues have been going on for 100s of years. By looking at the past and the present, we can see how hard it has been for the Puerto Rican people to get help, to get credibility, and to get respect.
Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States of America. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, but they aren't treated like U.S. citizens. Their citizenship has long been disputed by uneducated Americans, but now their integrity is being questioned with the now official final death toll numbers that came out at the end of August of this year. Hurricane Maria wasn't a man made disaster and whether you believe one person has died or 1,000s-- we need to help this common wealth of the United States.
Since the United States invasion and take over of Puerto Rico in 1898, the U.S. has used the island's natural resources and has used it as a tax haven. U.S. companies came to Puerto Rico to profit.. The U.S. took away land and took away Puerto Rican rights. What's unfair is that this continues today. United States citizens have all their rights supported by the constitution, but the people born on the island do not.
Puerto Ricans have served the United States in World Wars I and II. They have served in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, the War in Afghanistan, and the continuing War on Terror. They have lost their lives to support the United States because they believe and have faith in the United States. Their patriotism was and is so great that during the Liberty Loan drives in World War I, they exceeded the island's quota because the people wanted to do their part. However, even with all of this support from Puerto Ricans, the people still cannot even vote for their commander in chief, the president of the United States.
What compounds this issue is that anyone can visit the island, but getting immediate help for the island was made much more difficult by the Jones Act of 1920 or the Merchant Marine Act, which states that only American made and owned ships can transport goods between ports. Even though the act was lifted by an emergency waiver for 10 days, it was only done so 11 days after the hurricane hit, a much slower response and a much more deliberated decision than the other hurricanes that hit the mainland U.S. : Harvey, and Irma, where the Act was temporarily lifted almost immediately.
Imagine what it would be like if we told the citizens in the Carolinas this week when Hurricane Florence hit, killing 32 and those numbers still rising as flooding continues to hit the region, that they have to wait for much needed aid because of an antiquarian act that is no longer relevant today? How would the people react then?
The inequality has to stop. The struggle is real, but it doesn't have to be. We have a choice, we can change, and create a better future.
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