Hurricane Dorian lashes Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, could hit Florida as Category 3

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

Hurricane Dorian lashes Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, could hit Florida as Category 3

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency as forecasters said Dorian promised “life-threatening flash floods.”

TRUMP DRAINS MILLIONS FROM FEMA’S DISASTER RELIEF FUND

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NEWSWEEK)

 

AS TROPICAL STORM DORIAN HEADS FOR U.S., TRUMP DRAINS MILLIONS FROM FEMA’S DISASTER RELIEF FUND

As Tropical Storm Dorian strengthened and continued towards the United States on Tuesday, President Donald Trump decided to pull millions of dollars from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) including a disaster relief fund, to boost resources to migrant detention at the southern border.

The Trump administration pulled $271 million from DHS including from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund, according to department officials and a letter California Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard sent to DHS and obtained by NBC News Tuesday.

According to the letter, $155 million would move from FEMA’s disaster relief fund to DHS’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), for more migrant detention space and temporary hearing sites for people seeking asylum. The shift of funds would reportedly allow ICE to hold close to 50,000 migrants at a given time.

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NEW: Trump admin. is pulling $271M in funding from DHS, including FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund, to pay for immigration detention space and temp. hearing locations for asylum-seekers, according to dept. officials and a letter sent by a Calif. congresswoman. http://nbcnews.to/32bu5kv 

Trump admin pulling millions from FEMA disaster relief to send to southern border

Combined with existing space, the funding would allow ICE to detain nearly 50,000 immigrants at one time.

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To fund temporary locations for court hearings for asylum-seekers along the southern border, ICE would gain $155M, all from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund, according to a letter from Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, which was seen by @NBCNews.

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Trump’s decision came as Tropical Storm Dorian, potentially strengthening into a Category 1 hurricane, approached Puerto Rico, leading the U.S. territory to declare a state of emergency. Dorian could hit Puerto Rico by Wednesday afternoon, reach the Bahamas by Friday, and southwestern Florida by Sunday, forecasters predict.

Officials in Puerto Rico said Monday they declared a state of emergency in order to coordinate with FEMA for resources.

On Tuesday afternoon, Trump acknowledged Dorian and touted past relief to Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017, but did not mention his new drainage of FEMA funds.

“Wow! Yet another big storm heading to Puerto Rico. Will it ever end?” Trump tweeted. “Congress approved 92 Billion Dollars for Puerto Rico last year, an all time record of its kind for ‘anywhere.'”

Trump’s tweet about $92 billion in aid to Puerto Rico was misleading — that amount is an estimate of what could be provided to Puerto Rico through the next 20 years. The island has received $12.6 billion as of May, while the Trump administration has allocated $42.3 billion, according to the Center for a New Economy.

Trump Tropical Storm Dorian FEMA
President Donald Trump waves as he arrives at the Muniz Air National Guard Base for a visit after Hurricane Maria hit the island on October 3, 2017 in Carolina, Puerto Rico. The President has been criticized by some that say the government’s response has been inadequate.JOE RAEDLE/GETTY

Congress received a notification, not a request, from the Trump administration to shift funds away from FEMA to ICE because the administration thinks it is entitled to do so after Congress refused to approve more funding for detention beds in an emergency funding border bill two months ago, according to NBC News.

DHS would be able to pay for about 6,800 more migrant detainee beds while losing $116 million previously marked for aviation security and the Coast Guard, among other programs.

Trump was widely criticized for a lack of urgency and organization in his response to Hurricane Maria’s destruction in Puerto Rico.

President Trump once joked about trading Puerto Rico for Greenland

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SALON NEWS)

 

President Trump once joked about trading Puerto Rico for Greenland: report

Trump has had a rocky relationship with Puerto Rico, and he appears to find the idea of getting rid of it appealing

SHIRA TARLO
AUGUST 22, 2019 4:27 PM (UTC)
In the months before President Donald Trump expressed interest in purchasing Greenland, he reportedly joked in a meeting with aides about trading Puerto Rico for the semi-autonomous Danish island, which is not for sale.

Trump has had a tumultuous relationship with Puerto Rico’s leadership, especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which tore through the U.S. territory in September 2017 and killed thousands of people and left more without power — all amid a decade-long financial crisis.

The president has previously called Puerto Rican officials “incompetent and corrupt” and opposed sending additional federal aid to the territory after Hurricane Maria. He also claimed, without evidence, that Puerto Rico’s government was using disaster relief money to pay off debts.

Earlier this year, White House press secretary Hogan Gidley twice referred to Puerto Rico as “that country” in a televised interview, in which he defended a series of disparaging remarks Trump made about the island.

Given his rocky relationship with Puerto Rico’s leadership, it is likely the notion of trading it for Greenland appealed the former real estate developer, who likened the proposed acquisition to a “large real estate deal.”

Trump’s play for Greenland was swiftly squashed, however, as Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen called the idea of selling the territory “absurd” and declared it is “not for sale.”

He thanked Frederiksen on Tuesday for being “so direct,” because it saved “a great deal of expense and effort” only to change his tone a day later amid a global laughing fit.

“It was nasty,” Trump said of the prime minister’s statement. “I thought it was an inappropriate statement. All she had to do is say, ‘No, we wouldn’t be interested.'”

He then made clear that he interpreted the prime minister’s response as a personal affront to the U.S.

“She’s not talking to me. She’s talking to the United States of America,” he said. “You don’t talk to the United States that way, at least under me.”

The president later took to Twitter to further assail the longtime U.S. ally over its contributions to NATO’s military budget. He then took aim at NATO as a whole for not spending enough on the military.

“For the record, Denmark is only at 1.35% of GDP for NATO spending. They are a wealthy country and should be at 2%,” he wrote, referring to the goal set by the alliance for members to spend at least 2% of their gross domestic product on defense. “We protect Europe and yet, only 8 of the 28 NATO countries are at the 2% mark.”

Trump also canceled his scheduled trip to Denmark next month, even though he initially said the planned trip was unrelated to his interest in purchasing Greenland. In cancelling the trip, however, Trump noted it was scrapped for that exact reason.

Frederiksen decided not to fire back.

“I’m not going to enter a war of words with anybody, nor with the American president,” she said on Danish television, adding that she found the Danish response to the cancellation of Trump’s visit “good and wise.”

It fell to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to downplay Trump’s explosive rhetoric and take up damage control duty. He called Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod on Wednesday to express “appreciation for Denmark’s cooperation as one of the United States’ allies,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

“Appreciate frank, friendly and constructive talk with @SecPompeo this evening, affirming strong US-DK bond,” Kofod wrote on Twitter. “US & Denmark are close friends and allies with long history of active engagement across globe. Agreed to stay in touch on full range of issues of mutual interest.”

 

SHIRA TARLO

Contact Shira Tarlo at [email protected] Follow @shiratarlo.

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Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello resigns after weeks of protests

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ABC NEWS)

 

Embattled Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello resigns after weeks of protests

PHOTO: In this July 16, 2019 file photo, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello, accompanied by his chief of staff Ricardo Llerandi, right, attends a press conference in La Fortalezas Tea Room, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.AP Photo/Carlos Giusti, File
WATCHPuerto Rico governor may resign amid massive protests

Gov. Ricardo Rossello, the embattled leader of Puerto Rico, has resigned after weeks of protest and multiple declarations he would remain in office through January 2021.

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Rossello, who has faced intense pressure from protesters and politicians to step down after the leak of offensive text messages between the governor and his top aides, made the announcement in a live streamed message late Wednesday.

His resignation is effective Aug. 2 at 5 p.m.

He and his staff are accused of making homophobic, misogynistic and sexist comments against opponents and critics and mocking victims of Hurricane Maria.

In a lengthy message, Rossello cited the accomplishments of his administration when it comes to infrastructure, corruption reforms and LGBT rights. He also noted the challenges the island faced after Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Secretary of Justice Wanda Vazquez will become the next governor of Puerto Rico.

“I understand he made the right decision, for the good of both his family and for Puerto Rico, as I let him know,” Vazquez said in a statement. “He just announced that this resignation will not be effective today. We will be working together to have a responsible and transparent transition process.”

The streets of San Juan have been filled with protesters over the past 11 days. Tens of thousands turned out to massive protests on Monday, which ended in police firing tear gas at some protesters late in the night.

PHOTO: Demonstrators pose for a photo during march on Las Americas highway demanding the resignation of governor Ricardo Rossello, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Monday, July 22, 2019.AP Photo/Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo
Demonstrators pose for a photo during march on Las Americas highway demanding the resignation of governor Ricardo Rossello, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Monday, July 22, 2019.more +

The governor’s resignation comes after Ricardo Llerandi, Rossello’s chief of staff, announced Tuesday he was resigning, which will go into effect on July 31. Llerandi was one of the two government aides who survived the firings after the release of nearly 900 pages of Telegram group chats that prompted outcry.

“The people have spoken,” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, one of the targets of Rossello’s vulgar chats, told ABC News. “Justice has prevailed. Puerto Ricans have shown the world that there is nothing that a people united cannot accomplish. Puerto Ricans have shown the world that evil can be defeated and that the power is in the streets. We are witnessing the birth of a new era a new sense of pride and a new principle of governance. I am prouder than ever today to be Puerto Rican.”

Protesters made it clear that the resignation they sought was that of Rossello. Three days before his announcement, the governor said in a video address he would not step down in the face of protests, but also would not seek reelection in 2020.

He also stepped down as the leader of the New Progressive Party. The announcement had the opposite of its intended effect, with protesters turning out in droves the following day.

PHOTO: In this July 16, 2019 file photo, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello, accompanied by his chief of staff Ricardo Llerandi, right, attends a press conference in La Fortalezas Tea Room, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.AP Photo/Carlos Giusti, File
In this July 16, 2019 file photo, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello, accompanied by his chief of staff Ricardo Llerandi, right, attends a press conference in La Fortaleza’s Tea Room, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.more +

Reports of Rossello’s possible resignation prompted cheers from hundreds of protesters Tuesday evening, but the official announcement didn’t come for 24 hours.

“We want a government that really represents us, that is working there for the people of Puerto Rico and not for their own benefit and the benefit of their own friends,” protester Daphne Lebron told ABC News on Monday.

The nearly 900 pages of text messages were obtained by the Puerto Rico Center for Investigative Journalism and posted on July 13. Among the chats, Rossello and aides used homophobic slurs when discussing Puerto Rican music star Ricky Martin, disparaged San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz as “off her meds” and said he was “salivating” to shoot her, referred to former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito as a “whore” and joked about the corpses piling up during Hurricane Maria.

Protests have followed every day since.

PHOTO: Demonstrators stand in front of riot control units during clashes in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Monday, July 22, 2019. Protesters are demanding Gov. Ricardo Rossello step down following the leak of an offensive, obscenity-laden online chat.AP Photo/Carlos Giusti
Demonstrators stand in front of riot control units during clashes in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Monday, July 22, 2019. Protesters are demanding Gov. Ricardo Rossello step down following the leak of an offensive, obscenity-laden online chat.more +

The 40-year-old Rossello is the son of a former governor and has served since January 2017, eight months before Hurricane Maria came ashore and delivered unprecedented destruction to the island. Almost 3,000 people died in the storm, which delivered massive destruction to homes and businesses and knocked out power to large swaths of the island for months.

President Donald Trump, most of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates and scores of politicians from Puerto Rico itself have called on Rossello to resign. Even the mayor of San Sebastian, Javier Jimenez Perez, the one person Rossello was able to cite as a supporter during an interview with Fox News on Monday, told ABC News he does not support the governor.

ABC News’ Bill Hutchinson contributed to this report.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló expected to resign today

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF USA TODAY)

 

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló expected to resign today

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló faces calls to resign after private chats leaked, revealing the men mocking women and victims of Hurricane Maria. Just the FAQs, USA TODAY

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Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló is expected to resign Wednesday amid a torrent of protests over vulgar, mean-spirited texting conversations recently made public across the island, multiple media outlets were reporting.

Rosselló could announce his resignation at around noon in a farewell address to be broadcast live, the island’s newspaper of record, El Nuevo Día, reported.

Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez would be his successor because the secretary of state position is vacant. Luis Rivera Marín, one of the closest associates of Rosselló, resigned on July 13 after the leak of 889 pages of private messages on Telegram between the governor and high-ranking officials.

It is possible, however, that a new secretary of state could be installed before Rosselló formally steps down.

A judge issued search warrants Tuesday for the cellphones of government officials tied to the two-week scandal. Every day brought more resignations and hints that criminal charges could follow. Rosselló chief of staff Ricardo Llerandi quit Tuesday, citing threats to his family.

Tens of thousands of protesters shut down streets in the Hato Rey section of San Juan on Monday to demand Rosselló’s resignation. Smaller rallies have taken place almost daily for two weeks.

Rosselló resigned the presidency of his political party a few days ago, also announcing that he would not run in next year’s gubernatorial election.

His place at the head of Rosselló’s New Progressive Party, the island’s most influential, will be taken by Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz, who was among the many politicos criticized in the private texts.

“To those who vote for our party, your trust and support is our most valuable asset,” he said in statement. “We will do our part to never let them down. We are counting on all of you.”

But he had balked at resigning as governor, saying he was focused on completing the island’s recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Maria and on battling political corruption.

In a brief statement Tuesday, however, he showed signs that he might walk away.

“The people are talking and I have to listen,” Rosselló said. “These have been moments of total reflection and of making decisions that are executed based on the concerns of the people of Puerto Rico and their best interests.”

Rosselló took office less than three years ago to much excitement, a young family man and son of a former governor. But the territory was already saddled in debt, and the devastation of Hurricane Maria less than a year into his term added to the strain on his government.

He drew rampant criticism for understating the death toll from the hurricane, and the recovery effort struggled. He also drew fire for failing to challenge President Donald Trump’s behavior when he visited the island, behavior viewed by many Puerto Ricans as arrogant and dismissive.

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More recently, charges of political corruption within the government began to emerge. The texts were the final straw, Carlos A. Suárez Carrasquillo, a Puerto Rico native who lectures on Latin American at the University of Florida, told USA TODAY.

“The final blow to his legacy came in the aftermath of the Telegram chats where his – and his staff’s – disparaging words against Puerto Ricans from all walks of life, a public policy of targeting political enemies,” he said. “And his unwillingness to hear the demands of the people make his case remarkable.”

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Puerto Rico Governor Under Increased Pressure To Resign

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

By Nicole Acevedo

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló doubled down on his plans to stay in his job after protests calling for his resignation turned violent Monday night. The massive protests injured about two dozen police officers and roughly five protesters were arrested as a result of the demonstration, according to authorities.

During a press conference Tuesday afternoon, the embattled governor said, “I was elected by the people,” citing this as one of his main reasons for not resigning.

The remarks and the protests come in the wake of multiple scandals that have hit the Rosselló administration during recent weeks regarding corruption investigations and the leaking of private chats between the governor and some officials and close associates.

At least 889 pages of the private chats, which included profanity-laced, misogynistic and homophobic comments were released Saturday by Puerto Rico’s top investigative journalism media outlet after excerpts were first reported days before.

In the chats on the encrypted messaging app Telegram, Rosselló made fun of an obese man he posed with in a photo, called former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito a “whore” and said Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan who had announced her intent to run for governor against Rosselló in 2020, was “off her meds.”

“Either that, or she’s a tremendous HP,” the governor said, using the Spanish initials for “son/daughter of a b—-.”

The members of the chat group were Luis Rivera Marín, Rosselló’s secretary of state; Christian Sobrino, who held a series of important economic posts; Carlos Bermúdez, a one-time communications aide; Edwin Miranda, a communications consultant; Interior Secretary Ricardo Llerandi; Public Affairs Secretary Anthony Maceira, and Elías Sánchez, one-time representative to the board overseeing Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy.

Image:
Citizens protest near the executive mansion demanding the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rossello, in San Juan, Puerto Rico on July 15, 2019.Carlos Giusti / AP

The chat also contains vulgar references to Puerto Rican star Ricky Martin’s homosexuality and a series of emojis of a raised middle finger directed at a federal control board overseeing the island’s finances.

Talking about a lack of forensic pathologists as the death toll rose after Hurricane Maria, Sobrino said, “Can’t we feed a body to the crows?”

The scandal has sunk Rosselló into the deepest crisis of his career.

The messages were leaked shortly after Puerto Rico’s former secretary of education, former Puerto Rico Health Insurance Administration head Ángela Ávila-Marrero and four other people with government contracts under Rosselló’s administration were arrested last week and are facing 32 counts of money laundering, fraud and other related charges for the alleged embezzlement of $15.5 million in federal funding between 2017 and 2019.

The White House reacted to the unrest in Puerto Rico on Tuesday afternoon saying, “The unfortunate events of the past week in Puerto Rico prove the President’s concerns about the mismanagement, politicization, and corruption have been valid.”

“We remain committed to Puerto Rico’s recovery and steadfast in protecting taxpayers and the Puerto Rico survivors from political corruption and financial abuse,” the statement said.

In reaction to comments from the White House, Rosselló said that “corruption is a social evil” and it “has occurred in all administrations.”

The U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, is expected to make a stop in San Juan on Thursday, as part of an official trip that will take him to Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico and El Salvador.

The scandal comes as the U.S.Senate is prepared to add more restrictions that could limit federal funds for the island, including $12 billion in Medicaid appropriations for the next four years and other hurricane-recovery aid.

Puerto Rico is still recovering from the category 4 hurricane that destroyed the island’s long-neglected infrastructure and power grid and resulted in the deaths of at least 2,975 people, making it the deadliest U.S.-based natural disaster in 100 years and has come to define a sad turning point in the island’s history.

For many Puerto Ricans still recovering from Hurricane Maria and on the back of the island’s biggest public financial collapse, the scandal analysts and ordinary people are calling “Chatgate” or “Rickyleaks” has resulted in unprecedented protests against the U.S. commonwealth’s chief executive.

Growing protests

As thousands marched in the capital Monday calling for Rosselló’s resignation, police tried to disperse them with pepper spray in front of the Fortaleza governor’s residence, which was protected by barricades.

Puerto Rico police spokesperson Axel Valencia told Telemundoduring live coverage of the demonstrations that such protests are one of the biggest, most intense he’d seen in the island in recent history — leaving about 40 properties in Old San Juan, where protests took place, damaged.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Drug Enforcement Administration are investigating the violent acts and vandalism that took place Monday.

Protesters have been calling for Rosselló’s resignation for over three consecutive days. Demonstrations first started with hundreds of people, then growing to the thousands. The growth was reflected on Twitter as the hashtag #RickyRenuncia (Resign Ricky, a shortened version of his name, Ricardo) was trending worldwide Monday.

Some leaders of the U.S. territory’s Legislature said they weren’t planning impeachment proceedings. Others introduced a resolution to initiate a process of impeachment for Rosselló. In it, House Rep. Dennis Márquez outlined 18 possible crimes that stem from the leaked chats.

At the same time, an influential association of mayors from Rosselló’s pro-statehood party said he had lost their support.

The president of the commonwealth’s House of Representatives, Carlos Méndez Núñez, said Sunday night that legislators from Rosselló’s pro-statehood New Progressive Party, which has a majority in both houses, did not support starting impeachment proceedings against the governor. He said they gave Rosselló a one-week deadline to reflect, show contrition and prove he could continue to govern.

“Impeachment isn’t on the table yet,” he said. “But we reserve the right to evaluate if that’s merited.”

Puerto Rican artists Benito A. Martínez Ocasio, known as Bad Bunny, and René Pérez, known as Residente, both said on social media they planned to return to Puerto Rico to protest Rosselló’s administration on Wednesday.

Playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose production of “Hamilton” on the island is mentioned in the chats, called them “a very disturbing portrait of how this Administration operates.

Even if Rosselló survives until next year’s election, it’s clear to many observers that he has been profoundly weakened and less able to deal with crises.

Despite widespread cynicism in Puerto Rico about politicians’ corruption and self-dealing, the chat shocked residents in a way that other scandals haven’t, particularly given Rosselló’s image as a gentle, even meek family man, said Mario Negrón Portillo, a professor at the University of Puerto Rico’s school of public administration.

“Everyone woke up one day and the governor was spouting vulgarities,” Negrón said. “There’s nothing worse for a politician than losing legitimacy. I think Ricardo Rosselló has lost legitimacy.”

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Associated Press contributed.

Puerto Rico: The Truth Knowledge And The History Of The Nation And People

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Puerto Rico

Introduction Populated for centuries by aboriginal people, the island was claimed by the Spanish Crown in 1493 following COLUMBUS’ second voyage to the Americas. In 1898, after 400 years of colonial rule that saw the indigenous population nearly exterminated and African slave labor introduced, Puerto Rico was ceded to the US as a result of the Spanish-American War. Puerto Rican’s were granted US citizenship in 1917. Popularly-elected governors have served since 1948. In 1952, a constitution was enacted providing for internal self government. In plebiscites held in 1967, 1993, and 1998, voters chose not to alter the existing political status.
History Pre-Columbian era

The history of the archipelago of Puerto Rico (Spanish for “Rich Port”) before the arrival of Christopher Columbus is not well known. What is known today comes from archaeological findings and early Spanish accounts. The first comprehensive book on the history of Puerto Rico was written by Fray Iñigo Abbad y Lasierra in 1786, 293 years after the first Spaniards arrived on the island.

The first settlers were the Ortoiroid people, an Archaic Period culture of Amerindian hunters and fishermen. An archaeological dig in the island of Vieques in 1990 found the remains of what is believed to be an Arcaico (Archaic) man (named Puerto Ferro man) dated to around 2000 BC. Between AD 120 and 400, the Igneri, a tribe from the South American Orinoco region, arrived. Between the 4th and 10th centuries, the Arcaicos and Igneri co-existed (and perhaps clashed) on the island. Between the 7th and 11th centuries the Taíno culture developed on the island, and by approximately 1000 AD had become dominant. This lasted until Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492.

Spanish colony

When Christopher Columbus arrived in Puerto Rico during his second voyage on November 19, 1493, the island was inhabited by a group of Arawak Indians known as Taínos. They called the island “Borikén” or, in Spanish, “Borinquen”.[8] Columbus named the island San Juan Bautista, in honor of Saint John the Baptist. Later the island took the name of Puerto Rico while the capital was named San Juan. In 1508, Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León became the island’s first governor to take office.

The Spanish soon colonized the island. Taínos were forced into slavery and were decimated by the harsh conditions of work and by diseases brought by the Spaniards. In 1511, the Taínos revolted against the Spanish; cacique Urayoán, as planned by Agüeybaná II, ordered his warriors to drown the Spanish soldier Diego Salcedo to determine whether the Spaniards were immortal. After drowning Salcedo, they kept watch over his body for three days to confirm his death.[10] The revolt was easily crushed by Ponce de León and within a few decades much of the native population had been decimated by disease, violence, and a high occurrence of suicide. African slaves were introduced to replace the Taíno. Puerto Rico soon became an important stronghold and port for the Spanish Empire. Various forts and walls, such as La Fortaleza, El Castillo San Felipe del Morro and El Castillo de San Cristóbal, were built to protect the port of San Juan from European enemies. France, The Netherlands and England made several attempts to capture Puerto Rico but failed to wrest long-term occupancy. During the late 17th and early 18th centuries colonial emphasis was on the more prosperous mainland territories, leaving the island impoverished of settlers.

In 1809, in the midst of the Peninsular War, the Supreme Central Junta based in Cádiz recognized Puerto Rico as an overseas province of Spain with the right to send representatives to the recently convened Spanish parliament. The representative, Ramon Power y Giralt, died after serving a three-year term in the Cortes. These parliamentary and constitutional reforms, which were in force from 1810 to 1814 and again from 1820 to 1823, were reversed twice afterwards when the traditional monarchy was restored by Ferdinand VII. Nineteenth century reforms augmented the population and economy, and expanded the local character of the island. After the rapid gaining of independence by the South and Central American states in the first part of the century, Puerto Rico and Cuba became the only Spanish colonies found in the Americas.

Toward the end of the 19th century, poverty and political estrangement with Spain led to a small but significant uprising in 1868 known as “Grito de Lares”. It began in the rural town of Lares but was subdued when rebels moved to the neighboring town of San Sebastián. Leaders of this independence movement included Ramón Emeterio Betances, considered the “father” of the Puerto Rican independence movement, and other political figures such as Segundo Ruiz Belvis. In 1897, Luis Muñoz Rivera and others persuaded the liberal Spanish government to agree to Charters of Autonomy for Cuba and Puerto Rico. In 1898, Puerto Rico’s first, but short-lived, autonomous government was organized as an ‘overseas province’ of Spain. The charter maintained a governor appointed by Spain, which held the power to annul any legislative decision, and a partially elected parliamentary structure. In February, Governor-General Manuel Macías inaugurated the new government under the Autonomous Charter. General elections were held in March and the autonomous government began to function on July 17, 1898.

United States colony

On July 25, 1898, during the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico was invaded by the United States with a landing at Guánica. As an outcome of the war, Spain ceded Puerto Rico, along with Cuba, the Philippines, and Guam to the U.S. under the Treaty of Paris.

The United States and Puerto Rico thus began a long-standing relationship. Puerto Rico began the 20th century under the military rule of the U.S. with officials, including the governor, appointed by the President of the United States. The Foraker Act of 1900 gave Puerto Rico a certain amount of popular government, including a popularly-elected House of Representatives. In 1917, the Jones-Shafroth Act granted Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship and provided for a popularly-elected Senate to complete a bicameral Legislative Assembly. As a result of their new U.S. citizenship, many Puerto Ricans were drafted into World War I and all subsequent wars with U.S. participation.

Natural disasters, including a major earthquake, a tsunami and several hurricanes, and the Great Depression impoverished the island during the first few decades under American rule. Some political leaders, like Pedro Albizu Campos who led the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, demanded change. On October 30, 1950, Albizu-Campos and other nationalists led a 3-day revolt (known as The Jayuya Uprising) against the United States in the town of Jayuya. The United States declared martial law and attacked Jayuya with infantry, artillery and bombers. On November 1, 1950, Puerto Rican nationalists Griselio Torresola and Oscar Collazo attempted to assassinate President Harry S Truman. Torresola was killed during the attack, but Collazo was captured. Collazo served 29 years in a federal prison, being released in 1979. Don Pedro Albizu Campos also served many years in a federal prison in Atlanta, Georgia, for seditious conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government in Puerto Rico.

The internal governance changed during the latter years of the Roosevelt–Truman administrations, as a form of compromise led by Muñoz Marín and others. It culminated with the appointment by President Truman in 1946 of the first Puerto Rican-born governor, Jesus T. Piñero.

Commonwealth

In 1947, the U.S. granted Puerto Ricans the right to democratically elect their own governor. Luis Muñoz Marín was elected during the 1948 general elections, becoming the first popularly-elected governor of Puerto Rico. In 1950, the Truman Administration allowed for a democratic referendum in Puerto Rico to determine whether Puerto Ricans desired to draft their own local constitution.[16] A local constitution was approved by a Constitutional Convention on February 6, 1952, ratified by the U.S. Congress, approved by President Truman on July 3 of that year, and proclaimed by Gov. Muñoz Marín on July 25, 1952, the anniversary of the 1898 arrival of U.S. troops. Puerto Rico adopted the name of Estado Libre Asociado (literally translated as “Free Associated State”), officially translated into English as Commonwealth, for its body politic.

During the 1950s Puerto Rico experienced rapid industrialization, due in large part to Operación Manos a la Obra (“Operation Bootstrap”), an offshoot of FDR’s New Deal, which aimed to transform Puerto Rico’s economy from agriculture-based to manufacturing-based. Presently, Puerto Rico has become a major tourist destination and a leading pharmaceutical and manufacturing center.[citation needed] Yet it still struggles to define its political status. Three plebiscites have been held in recent decades to resolve the political status but no changes have been attained. Support for the pro-statehood party, Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP) and the pro-commonwealth party, Partido Popular Democrático (PPD) remains about equal. The only registered pro-independence party, the Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño (PIP), usually receives 3-5% of the electoral votes.

On October 25, 2006, the State Department of Puerto Rico conferred Puerto Rican citizenship to Juan Mari Brás. The Supreme Court of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican Secretary of Justice determined that Puerto Rican citizenship exists and was recognized in the Constitution of Puerto Rico. Since the summer of 2007, the Puerto Rico State Department has developed the protocol to grant Puerto Rican citizenship to Puerto Ricans.

Geography Puerto Rico has a republican form of government,[21] subject to U.S. jurisdiction and sovereignty.[2] Its current powers are all delegated by the United States Congress and lack full protection under the United States Constitution. Puerto Rico’s head of state is the President of the United States. The government of Puerto Rico, based on the formal republican system, is composed of three branches: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. The Executive branch is headed by the Governor, currently Mr. Anibal Acevedo Vila. The Legislative branch consists of a bicameral Legislative Assembly made up of a Senate upper chamber and a House of Representatives lower chamber. The Senate is headed by the President of the Senate, while the House of Representatives is headed by the Speaker of the House. The Judicial branch is headed by the Chief Justice of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court. The legal system is a mix of the civil law and the common law systems. The governor and legislators are elected by popular vote every four years. Members of the Judicial branch are appointed by the governor with the “advice and consent” of the Senate.

Puerto Rico has limited representation in the U.S. Congress in the form of a nonvoting delegate, formally called a Resident Commissioner (currently Luis Fortuño). The current Congress has returned the Commissioner’s power to vote in the Committee of the Whole, but not on matters where the vote would represent a decisive participation.[22] Puerto Rican elections are governed by the Federal Election Commission;[23][24] While residing in Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans cannot vote in U.S. presidential elections, but they can vote in primaries. Puerto Ricans who become residents of a U.S. state can vote in presidential elections.

As Puerto Rico is not an independent country, it hosts no embassies. It is host, however, to consulates from 42 countries, mainly from the Americas and Europe. Most consulates are located in San Juan. The Holy See has designated the Papal Nuncio in the Dominican Republic as the ecclesiastical liaison to the Roman Catholic Church in Puerto Rico; the Papal Nuncio in Washington, D.C. serves as the Vatican State’s ambassador to the U.S. and the ecclesiastical liaison to the American Roman Catholic Church.

As an unincorporated territory of the United States, Puerto Rico does not have any first-order administrative divisions as defined by the U.S. government, but has 78 municipalities at the second level. Mona Island is not a municipality, but part of the municipality of Mayagüez.[25] Municipalities are subdivided into wards or barrios, and those into sectors. Each municipality has a mayor and a municipal legislature elected for a four year term. The municipality of San Juan (previously called “town”), was founded first, in 1521, San Germán in 1570, Coamo in 1579, Arecibo in 1614, Aguada in 1692 and Ponce in 1692. An increase of settlement saw the founding of 30 municipalities in the 18th century and 34 in the 19th. Six were founded in the 20th century; the last was Florida in 1971.

From 1952 to present, Puerto Rico has had 3 political parties which stand for three distinct future political scenarios. The Popular Democratic Party (PPD) seeks to maintain the island’s “association” status as a commonwealth, improved commonwealth and/or seek a true free sovereign-association status or Free Associated Republic, and has won a plurality vote in referendums on the island’s status held over six decades after the island was invaded by the U.S. The New Progressive Party (PNP) seeks statehood. The Puerto Rican Independence Party seek independence. In 2007, a fourth party, Puerto Ricans for Puerto Rico Party (PPR), was ratified. The PPR’s claims that it seeks to address the islands’ problems from a status-neutral platform. Non-registered parties include the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, the Socialist Workers Movement, the Hostosian National Independence Movement, and others.

Politics Population: 3,958,128 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 20.5% (male 415,141/female 396,782)
15-64 years: 66% (male 1,254,416/female 1,358,229)
65 years and over: 13.5% (male 229,727/female 303,833) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 35.6 years
male: 33.8 years
female: 37.3 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.369% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 12.61 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 7.88 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -1.03 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.92 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.76 male(s)/female
total population: 0.92 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 8.65 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 9.15 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 8.13 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 78.58 years
male: 74.64 years
female: 82.73 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.76 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: NA
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 7,397 (1997)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Puerto Rican(s) (US citizens)
adjective: Puerto Rican
Ethnic groups: white (mostly Spanish origin) 80.5%, black 8%, Amerindian 0.4%, Asian 0.2%, mixed 4.2%, other 6.7% (2000 census)
Religions: Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant and other 15%
Languages: Spanish, English
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 94.1%
male: 93.9%
female: 94.4% (2002 est.)
Education expenditures: NA
People Population: 3,958,128 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 20.5% (male 415,141/female 396,782)
15-64 years: 66% (male 1,254,416/female 1,358,229)
65 years and over: 13.5% (male 229,727/female 303,833) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 35.6 years
male: 33.8 years
female: 37.3 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.369% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 12.61 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 7.88 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -1.03 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.92 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.76 male(s)/female
total population: 0.92 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 8.65 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 9.15 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 8.13 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 78.58 years
male: 74.64 years
female: 82.73 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.76 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: NA
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 7,397 (1997)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Puerto Rican(s) (US citizens)
adjective: Puerto Rican
Ethnic groups: white (mostly Spanish origin) 80.5%, black 8%, Amerindian 0.4%, Asian 0.2%, mixed 4.2%, other 6.7% (2000 census)
Religions: Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant and other 15%
Languages: Spanish, English
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 94.1%
male: 93.9%
female: 94.4% (2002 est.)
Education expenditures: NA

THE SLOW RECOVERY IN PUERTO RICO

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SMITHSONIAN)

 

THE SLOW RECOVERY IN PUERTO RICO

As the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria approaches, Puerto Ricans feel not only devastated but abandoned

A home on the storm-battered southeastern coast. The words on the sign, “Yo voy a ti PR,” translate roughly to “I’m rooting for you, Puerto Rico!” (Erika P. Rodríguez)

45SHARES

I didn’t leave Puerto Rico until I was 20. I was traveling to Europe with my college theater group when an immigration official in Spain said, “Oh, you’re American.” I tried to tell them, “Yes—but no.” I tried to explain that I am an American citizen in a place that “belongs to…but is not a part of” the United States, according to the Supreme Court’s definition of an unincorporated territory.

Later that year, I had the opposite experience when I transferred to a photography school in Ventura, California. I was the only Puerto Rican in my class and I felt very much like a foreigner. Our culture is a mixture of European, African and Taíno Indian. We’re very warm and outgoing. I had to adapt to a very different chemistry with the other students in California. Some of my closer friends there were Mexican, but I had to use a more neutral Spanish when I spoke to them, without all my Caribbean slang. When I’d call home, my cousin would ask, “Why are you speaking so strangely?” I’d say, “I can’t speak Puerto Rican here!”

Once we graduated, my Latin American friends had to leave the country. That was strange for me—that they couldn’t stay and I could. Yet I knew the history of Puerto Rico and what that advantage had cost us.

In 1898, Puerto Rico was acquired by the United States as a “spoil” of the Spanish-American War along with Guam and the Philippines. Until 1948, all our governors were appointed by the U.S. government. Until 1957, our patriotic songs and other expressions of nationalism were outlawed. Even today, our government exists under the discretion of Congress—though we do not have a voting representative in that body. Since 1967, there have been five referendums in Puerto Rico on statehood, independence or maintaining the commonwealth, but all have been nonbinding.

So we exist in a confusing, kind of gray realm. We use U.S. dollars and U.S. postage stamps. We serve in the U.S. military and our borders are monitored by U.S. Customs. In my California student days, I’d give my phone number to friends and they would ask if it was an international call. I had to check with my telephone company to find out (it isn’t). That’s Puerto Rico.

image: https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/91/66/91665e4d-b004-4e3c-ae99-76a17a008824/kulaug2018_m12_photorodriguez.jpg

A statue of the Virgin Mary

A statue of the Virgin Mary in Toa Baja, on Puerto Rico’s northern coast. The area flooded hours after Hurricane Maria made landfall, when the government opened a nearby dam. (Erika P. Rodríguez)
image: https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/13/b8/13b804da-6bdf-4ec7-840e-c760a4a6f905/kulaug2018_m03_photorodriguez.jpg

cultural center in Cayey

A flag hangs from the balcony at a cultural center in Cayey, during a performance of troubadour music. The sky blue in this flag is associated with the movement for an independent Puerto Rico. (Erika P. Rodríguez)
image: https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/9b/91/9b91f5b7-af8f-4e6c-ad22-69c8287f34e0/kulaug2018_m11_photorodriguez.jpg

Workers clean a business that flooded in Toa Baja, on Puerto Rico’s northern coast.

Workers clean a business that flooded in Toa Baja, on Puerto Rico’s northern coast. (Erika P. Rodríguez)
image: https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/ff/52/ff526ed7-d2f2-4960-b7d7-cacd47dd7085/kulaug2018_m06_photorodriguez.jpg

Bags of supplies

Bags of supplies wait to be distributed to families in Utuado. The Coca-Cola Puerto Rico Bottlers used their own trucks to deliver the supplies. (Erika P. Rodríguez)
image: https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/b2/39/b2397683-a654-4c5d-b9d1-3030f8ff21ee/kulaug2018_m07_photorodriguez.jpg

A Puerto Rican flag

A Puerto Rican flag is painted on the living room wall of a home without power. The bedrooms are uninhabitable so the entire family has been sleeping in this room. (Erika P. Rodríguez)
image: https://thumbs-prod.si-cdn.com/yJkdeXkMXs61m6ALD94DYGd7fHM=/fit-in/1072×0/https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/96/aa/96aa840d-0798-4848-b1cf-153ea4d65977/1_20171013_0117.jpg

A view of the Panoramic Route in San Lorenzo weeks after the storm. The route crosses the island east to west through the mountainous region, offering beautiful views. (Erika P. Rodríguez)

I’ve been documenting this ambiguity for the past six years, starting with an internship at a Puerto Rican newspaper. I began photographing everyday moments: a salsa class at a bar, Mother’s Day with my family, festivals and political events. I could be at a rally, where everyone was shouting. But the best photo would be the one where a woman holding a sign was looking down and being introspective. You could feel her withdrawing into her own thoughts.

After Hurricane Maria ravaged everything in its path last year, there was a sense of unity among people of the archipelago. Under complete darkness, without sufficient fuel, water or food, and largely without communications, our sense of community changed. It was visible in the young neighbor who collected and distributed water for months after the storm, and in the person with a power generator who would provide electricity to other families through extension cords crossing from one home to another. It was visible in the neighbors who cooked together on the only working gas stove on their street. Tension and despair were real, but a new solidarity emerged.

image: https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/82/35/823557a5-24ae-4c00-bed9-6ead0060b496/kulaug2018_m09_photorodriguez.jpg

a girl in the mountainous central city of Utuado

A few weeks after Maria, a girl in the mountainous central city of Utuado walked toward what used to be her home. A small creek nearby overflowed during the storm, eroding the road and pushing debris through the walls. (Erika P. Rodríguez)
image: https://thumbs-prod.si-cdn.com/yp58zinbKh_239dPEM2_GoX8E4I=/fit-in/600×0/https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/da/3c/da3c95d8-b08b-434e-8d97-ae468fb6ca88/kulaug2018_m01_photorodriguez.jpg

A touristy area of San Juan, the day after Maria snapped a palm trunk in two in Condado.

A touristy area of San Juan, the day after Maria snapped a palm trunk in two in Condado. (Erika P. Rodríguez)
In Aibonito, a mountain town, a picture of Jesus sat in a pile of debris, still partially buried by dirt, a few weeks after the storm.(Erika P. Rodríguez)
image: https://thumbs-prod.si-cdn.com/jyp_YptzjVbaGB7_-eIHWuSg_6s=/fit-in/600×0/https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/08/f0/08f0c70a-6313-4b72-a0d6-63824c6d8db5/kulaug2018_m10_photorodriguez.jpg

picture of Jesus

image: https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/9c/9e/9c9e4214-6976-4b4f-a055-7f442d0bb115/_opener_20150722_0049.jpg

A little girl named Brenda flies a kite at El Morro fort by San Juan Harbor.

A little girl named Brenda flies a kite at El Morro fort by San Juan Harbor. (Erika P. Rodríguez)

Over a week after the storm, I spotted a Puerto Rican flag flapping on the side of a fuel truck. More soon appeared on car antennas, storefronts, home balconies, highway bridges and street corners. Our flag, once illegal, could now be seen all over the island. It was a message: “We are here and we are standing.”

But we’re still dealing with the aftermath. In San Juan, where I live, I regularly still see broken electrical posts, missing traffic lights and blue plastic tarps covering damaged rooftops. The power still goes out short term. Things are much worse in the mountain town of Utuado. Communities there have been without power since the hurricane, unable to store food in their refrigerators, and many roads remain exactly as they were back in September. Electrical cables hang overhead and vegetation now grows in the mudslides that cover entire lanes.

The phrase “Se fue pa’ afuera”—literally, “he went outside”—is an expression for a Puerto Rican who has left the island on a one-way flight. It has become far too common. I’ve been to many tearful goodbye parties. My sister left for Chicago and has no desire to ever return; I was introduced to my newborn godson over Skype. I continue to see friends find better possibilities outside.

image: https://thumbs-prod.si-cdn.com/r0oMcerT7lU4uvRsVIbMruU9odI=/fit-in/1072×0/https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/4f/1d/4f1d455b-f73f-4820-a1e0-59e62f3cf71e/01_epr_01_recent_paid_1_osf.jpg

The Puerto Rican flag at a memorial for two independence activists killed in a police ambush in 1978 at Cerro Maravilla. (Erika P. Rodríguez)
image: https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/44/ad/44ad0e28-868c-4250-bd21-9649178dd65a/kulaug2018_m13_photorodriguez.jpg

residents and public workers

The day after the hurricane, residents and public workers navigated flooded streets to rescue people.(Erika P. Rodríguez)
image: https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/c4/b4/c4b4113e-92fd-4e8f-aec0-89216a1c8f9c/kulaug2018_m04_photorodriguez.jpg

Police walk in formation

Police walk in formation as demonstrators protest planned austerity measures. (Erika P. Rodríguez)
image: https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/99/98/9998e9d4-fba7-484a-b50c-29967da75b2f/kulaug2018_m05_photorodriguez.jpg

A woman holds a sign

A woman holds a sign that says “A crime called education.” The University of Puerto Rico had announced plans to increase its tuition and possibly close six of its 11 campuses. (Erika P. Rodríguez)
image: https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/32/af/32afb6eb-5b45-4acb-8922-87f278a3cda9/kulaug2018_m02_photorodriguez.jpg

A woman hangs a solar lamp

A woman hangs a solar lamp in her living room. Eight months after the storm, her home was still without power. Her husband, who suffers from sleep apnea, couldn’t use his air pump at night. (Erika P. Rodríguez)

We won’t know until the 2020 census how many people have already left. Since the beginning of the recession in 2006, Puerto Rico has lost around 635,000 residents, and another half million are expected to leave by next year.

As a young Puerto Rican, I’m unsure what lies ahead. That’s why I want to stay and continue documenting our complex dual identity. I want to photograph Puerto Rico as we rebuild, or fall apart. I just can’t look away. There’s no room in my mind or heart for anything else.

About The Author: Erika P. Rodriguez is a photographer based in Puerto Rico. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post and The New York TimesRead More articles from Erika P. Rodriguez

Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/puertorico_photo-essay-slow-recoery-180969346/#0ucBmooO5VMSslE1.99
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Air Force Plane Belonging To 156th Air Wing Of Puerto Rico Has Crashed Killing 5

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF YAHOO NEWS)

 

Military cargo plane crashes in Georgia, killing 5

RUSS BYNUM

,

Associated Press
Military cargo plane crashes in Savannah, Georgia
FOX News Videos

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PORT WENTWORTH, Ga. (AP) — An Air National Guard C-130 cargo plane crashed Wednesday onto a busy highway after taking off from a Georgia airport, killing at least five National Guard members from Puerto Rico, authorities said.

Black smoke rose into the sky from a section of the plane that appeared to have crashed into a median on the road outside Savannah, Georgia. Firefighters later put out the blaze.

Capt. Jeff Bezore, a spokesman for the Georgia Air National Guard’s 165th Air Wing, said the crash killed at least five people. He said he couldn’t say how many people in total were on the plane when it crashed around 11:30 a.m.

Senior Master Sgt. Roger Parsons of the Georgia Air National Guard told reporters the cause of the crash was unknown and authorities were still working to make the crash site safe for investigators.

“Any information about what caused this or any facts about the aircraft will come out in the investigation,” he said.

The plane had just taken off from the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport when it crashed, Parsons said.

The Air Force said the plane belonged to the 156th Air Wing out of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico National Guard Spokesman Maj. Paul Dahlen told The Associated Press that all those aboard were Puerto Ricans who had recently left the U.S. territory for a mission on the U.S. mainland. He said initial information indicated there were five to nine people aboard the plane, which was heading to Arizona. He did not have details on the mission.

“We are saddened by the plane accident that occurred today in Georgia,” Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said in a tweet. “Our prayers are with the families of the Puerto Rican crew.”

The plane crashed onto state highway Georgia 21, about a mile from the airport, said Gena Bilbo, a spokeswoman for the Effingham County Sherriff’s Office.

“It miraculously did not hit any cars, any homes,” Bilbo said. “This is a very busy roadway.”

The crash caused a big fireball and scattered debris over a large area, Bilbo said.

A photo tweeted by the Savannah Professional Firefighters Association shows the tail end of a plane and a field of flames and black smoke as an ambulance stood nearby.

The only part of the plane that remained intact was the tail section, said Chris Hanks, the assistant public information officer with the Savannah Professional Firefighters Association. The tail section was sitting on the highway and the ground in front of it was black and littered with debris, he said.

Savannah’s Air National Guard base has been heavily involved in hurricane recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. In September 2017, it was designated by the Air National Guard as the hub of operations to the island in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria, the base announced at the time.

Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport said on social media that some flights were being affected though the crash happened off its property. The airport advised passengers to check with their airline for updated flight information.

___

Associated Press writers Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Jeff Martin in Atlanta have contributed to this report.

Hurricane Maria: The Forgotten Dying People Of Puerto Rico

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

‘We are the forgotten people’: It’s been almost six months since Hurricane Maria, and Puerto Ricans are still dying

Updated 10:32 PM ET, Thu March 15, 2018

Maunabo, Puerto Rico (CNN)Lourdes Rodriguez heard the scream early on the morning of January 6, before the sun rose and before the frogs began their chorus.

“Lourdes! Lourdes!”
She instantly recognized the voice of her father, Natalio Rodriguez Lebron, 77, a former nurse who cared for the mentally ill, people he believed society had forgotten.
She darted up the stairs.
Her father’s health had long been troubled. He had diabetes, lung disease, sleep apnea and congestive heart failure. And in the months since Hurricane Maria battered this coastal town, Lourdes watched his condition worsen. The sleep apnea machine he needed to help him breathe was useless for months because their hilltop neighborhood in Maunabo was entirely without electric power. In December, a business had donated a generator to power the machine at night, but the family struggled to afford the gasoline needed to keep it running.
As Lourdes reached the top of the stairs, she felt an uneasy stillness in the air. The sky was thick and black. No moon was visible. And the electric generator, a machine that sometimes rumbled like a car engine, had fallen eerily silent.
She swung open the living room door to find her father clutching his chest.
The machine was off. Her father appeared unable to breathe.
Natalio Rodriguez Lebron, center, is shown with his family.

Her mother, Julia “Miriam” Rodriguez, stayed with Natalio while Lourdes rushed to restart the generator, which had run out of gas, and repower the breathing machine. Her mother felt Natalio’s body go limp in her arms and then collapse to the floor, face down.
Frantic, they called 911 and tried to comfort him.
Waiting there on the floor, Julia Rodriguez told me, she felt a wind — a physical gust — leave her husband’s body and pass into her own. She said it was as if the decades they’d spent together — the moves from Puerto Rico to the mainland and back; the hours they both worked as nurses; the three children they raised — hovered in the room, a tangible, living thing, and then became part of her.
Julia Rodriguez knew then that her husband might not survive.
All these months later, it seemed the storm may have won.

* * * * *

It’s been nearly six months since Hurricane Maria.
Its howling winds, which topped 150 mph, long have dissipated. The storm that battered Puerto Rico on September 20 before hooking northward into the Atlantic is a memory.
Yet, in this US commonwealth, people are still dying in Maria’s wake.
That’s especially true of those who lack basic services like electricity.
Rodriguez died on January 6. In addition to his death, CNN identified five people who died in 2018 from causes that friends, family, doctors or funeral home directors consider to be related to Hurricane Maria and its aftermath.
It’s not possible to say with 100% certainty that a death this long after a storm was “caused” by Hurricane Maria, experts told me. But that’s beside the point. These deaths show dangerous conditions persist in Puerto Rico.
I spent several days in Maunabo, Rodriguez’s town on the southeast coast, and other areas without power, to try to understand how communities are faring all these months later.
Maunabo, Puerto Rico, is still off the grid almost six months after Maria, the mayor tells CNN.

I had been to Puerto Rico several times since the storm, reporting for CNN on topics from uncounted deaths to water outages and an “exodus” to the US mainland. In December, I drove the entire path the eye of the storm took across the island. On that route, I met a woman whose clock was stopped at 3:27 — the moment the hurricane swept through. Puerto Rico, it seemed, was an island frozen in time, doomed to relive that day again and again.
Would that still be the case after six months?
Metrics on the response to Hurricane Maria told me that might be the case, at least for some residents. So, too, did academics and others who study how we respond to hurricanes.
Puerto Rico, some of these experts said, appears to be stuck between the “emergency” and “recovery” phases of disaster response. Typically, in the United States, the emergency phase — in which people lack necessities like food, water, shelter and power — lasts for days or, at most, a few weeks, said Lori Peek, director of the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado Boulder. Then comes recovery, when residents, government agencies and others start to rebuild.
“Here we are months after this storm and we are debating if we should still be sending these emergency — really emergency, and life sustaining — supports, or (should we) transition into this recovery process,” Peek said. “That is just truly breathtaking.”
It’s true that progress has been made. Tourists are coming back to San Juan, and parts of the city are humming. Casinos are open in ritzy Condado and the bomba dancers are back in Río Piedras. A month after Maria, roughly 1 million of the 3.3 million American citizens here remained without running water service. Now, nearly everyone has it.
In late December, only about a third of temporary roof requests had been met by the US Army Corps of Engineers, leaving some people sleeping in homes where it rained inside at night. Months later, nearly all those requests for professionally installed tarps have been fulfilled. Formal shelters for hurricane victims are now empty, according to federal officials.
Yet inequities remain, especially when it comes to electricity.
As of March 7, more than 10% of electric customers in Puerto Rico were still without power, according to figures reported to the US Department of Energy by the local utility. Maybe that sounds small — but it represents nearly 156,000 customers, and likely more than that number of people, since the average Puerto Rican household is about three individuals.
Also consider that figure in the context of other recent storms.
Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast of Texas on August 25. The next day, an estimated 304,000 customers were without power — yet all but about 2,600 had electricity restored in 19 days, according to data provided to CNN by the Public Utility Commission of Texas. Florida after Hurricane Irma? That storm left an estimated 6.2 million customers in Florida without electricity on September 11, according to the Florida Public Service Commission, which, like the commission in Texas, collects data from electric utilities. In a little more than two weeks, virtually all power was back.
These comparisons are, of course, imprecise. No two storms are the same in terms of intensity, needs or geography. Puerto Rico is an island and, as federal officials have said repeatedly since the storm, you can’t just drive in supplies from another state. Communications systems were down and many roads were impassible in the first weeks after the storm. The island’s power grid also was in lousy shape, by many accounts, before Hurricane Maria. Comparing that grid to Florida’s, which is the gold standard for preparedness, is somewhat unfair, said Seth Guikema, an associate professor of engineering at the University of Michigan, who studies grids and disaster response. After Hurricane Andrew in 1992, he said, some Florida utilities built concrete posts and took other measures to ensure power could be restored faster after storms.
The US Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, which oversees disaster recovery, says it is doing everything possible to ensure basic services are restored to Puerto Rico.
Michael Byrne, FEMA’s federal coordinating officer for Puerto Rico, told me in an interview that Puerto Rico’s unique logistical challenges fully explain the delays. No other US disaster has presented these unique and difficult circumstances, he said, which meant FEMA had to invent a strategy for how to respond to the crisis. The unique situation here also makes comparisons between the response to Maria and responses to other storms problematic, he said.
If storm-related deaths are continuing, he said, his heart goes out to affected families. “The initial reaction is the reaction anyone would have: I’m sorry to hear that. Truly. One of the things that you don’t stop being, no matter your job, is a human being.” There are programs, he added, to help bring generators and financial assistance to storm victims, especially those who are in vital need of medical services.
The US Army Corps and FEMA say logistical issues -- including Puerto Rico's remote location -- explain power-restoration delays.

In a statement emailed to CNN this week, the US Army Corps of Engineers, which is helping with power restoration, said back-to-back 2017 disasters, the remoteness of the island and the fact that some supplies had to be manufactured for installation in Puerto Rico, slowed down work on the electric system. “Helicopters have been used to airlift poles, materials and people into remote locations to perform repair work,” the Corps said.
Yet these explanations matter little to many of those who have been living without electricity for nearly six months, and have gone without running water for much of that time.
They know another truth: The longer the wait, the more a person is at risk.

* * * * *

The family legend goes like this: The first of Natalio Rodriguez’s ancestors to arrive in Maunabo was hidden in a barrel aboard a ship from Africa. He may have arrived as a free man, they said. This much is sure: Rodriguez roots travel deep into this fertile soil. The family has been here as long as anyone can remember.
By the time Natalio Rodriguez was born in December 1940, the 11th of 12 children, much had changed in Puerto Rico — and yet little had, as well. Rodriguez grew up helping his father, Juan Ines Rodriguez Monclova, work the verdant sugar cane fields behind their home on the side of a shark-tooth mountain. This was the work of his ancestors, too. The Spanish enslaved Africans and, before that, indigenous Taino people — who gave Maunabo its name — to work in that industry.
Natalio Rodriguez and his neighbors had all those stories coursing through their veins. His original ancestor in Maunabo is said to have married a Spanish woman, which is how relatives explain the fact that some of their cousins and aunts have bright blue or green eyes, while Natalio’s and Lourdes’ eyes and skin carry the deep hues of espresso and midnight.
Lourdes Rodriguez, right, with her two children and mother, Julia "Miriam" Rodriguez.

When Rodriguez was a boy, slavery had long been abolished, of course; and the Spanish had been kicked out of Puerto Rico by a new colonial power: the United States. The US, which occupied Puerto Rico in 1898 after the Spanish-American War, granted Puerto Ricans citizenship about two decades before Rodriguez’s birth. Still, his family members and neighbors couldn’t elect their own governor until 1948. Even today, Puerto Ricans, while subject to US laws and given US aid, can’t vote for president or elect full, voting members of Congress.
Despite all that, young Rodriguez remained enchanted by American culture.
He loved Western movies and books and grew up galloping the family’s horses down from the mountains and into the valley, which was home to the town square, not far from a lighthouse and the radiant turquoise coast. His childhood nickname was “Hormiguero,” Spanish for anthill, his longtime friend, Damian Lopez, 70, told me. I laughed and asked about the origin of that name. The kid was something of a living verb, Lopez said — always moving, never still.
That restlessness would take him places his father never saw.
Some of Rodriguez’s older brothers enlisted in the US military (one lost part of his hand in the Korean War, according to Julia Rodriguez) and, as a teenager, Natalio Rodriguez tried to do the same. Unable to join the service because of a heart arrhythmia, according to his wife, he found other ways to follow in their footsteps. After one brother moved to New York — bringing home exotic northeastern foods like cod, cherries and white grapes to a family that grew avocado, grapefruit and oranges — Rodriguez decided, after high school, to move there, too. He would become a big man like his dad — 5-foot-9 and 300 pounds — and not averse to physical labor. But he began to resent helping in the sugar fields. Maunabo was, and is, desperately poor. (Fifty-six percent live below the poverty line, according to the US Census Bureau). Some of his relatives still plowed up their fields with bulls tied to oxcarts. The brother who moved away seemed so much happier, and so much richer. In the United States, Rodriguez thought, he’d have a better life, too.
So, in his late teens, Rodriguez boarded a plane for New York.
“Right after getting out of the cab, he stepped on a pile of dog s—.”
Natalio loved to tell this story, his wife, Julia, said.
“He’d go, like, ‘Wow, so this is how you all live here, dodging piles of poop in the streets!?'”
Maunabo, located in southeast Puerto Rico, is home to 11,500 people.

Julia Rodriguez grew up in Maunabo, too, just up the hill from Natalio and his family. The couple raised three children together, primarily on the US mainland.
For him, the 50 states were a place of promise and of hope — a place of purpose and duty.
Still, strangely, that first New York impression — the muck on the street — stuck with him, too.
He never felt fully settled, his wife told me.
He yearned for home.
In 2009, he and Julia finally resettled in Maunabo.

* * * * *

“Look,” says Luis Lafuente, Maunabo’s vice-mayor.
He points at a perfectly circular hole extending from the roof of city hall.
“That’s where the clock used to be.”
It was busted by Hurricane Maria.
Crabbing and fishing are popular in Maunabo. The town hosts an annual crab festival.

Time hasn’t just stopped in this town, which is at the southeast corner of Puerto Rico, near where Maria delivered its first punches. After the storm, it’s almost irrelevant. On this day, March 9, Lafuente tells me exactly 0% of the area’s 11,500 residents have been reconnected to the electric grid — the same as the day Hurricane Maria struck. Between 35% and 50% of residents do have electricity, he said, from three emergency generators installed on December 23 by the US government. But those generators are prone to failure, he said, and don’t reach mountain communities. (The Army Corps said the alleged “failures” result from generator switch-overs, not from problems with the equipment. The Puerto Rican power authority — PREPA — told CNN 37% of customers in Maunabo had power as of March 13, but did not specify the source of that electricity.)
At dusk, those mountains turn to charcoal silhouettes. Few lights shine. Only the lucky and the wealthy can afford personal generators.
We drive Lafuente’s Jeep Renegade around the town where he’s spent his life. Parts of it are unrecognizable to him. Playgrounds are twisted. A truck barn turned to scrap metal. Power lines are draped over posts like wet noodles. Some electric posts are so off-kilter, they look like they’re doing pushups.
The hospital had to be relocated to another municipal building, which most recently had been home to emergency management workers and police. Those officers and workers, in turn, had to move into a public school that closed before the storm. The hospital still has a sign that says “Emergencia 24 Horas,” indicating the emergency room never closes. The reconfigured hospital, however, opens at 7 a.m. and closes at 11 p.m. Many of those who require emergency assistance earlier or later than that have to drive through an unlit mountain tunnel — it feels like something out of “The Walking Dead” — to seek medical help.
Maunabo’s five schools reopened in late November. But students leave class at 12:30 p.m. because there’s no power. A school principal I met told me she drives to other towns to make photocopies so students can take tests. Teachers assign very little homework, she says, because the students are so overwhelmed already.
We stop by the lighthouse, perhaps the most iconic site in Maunabo, to find that its searchlight and glass have been shattered by Maria. The Coast Guard hadn’t used it since the 1990s, anyway, according to Wanda Marín Rivera, board president of the town’s cultural center. But Lafuente and others had hoped tourism might revive the town, with the lighthouse as a destination, since sugar cane, plantains and crab fishing haven’t been providing stable work. (Maunabo became known as a hub for crab fishing. Crab images are stamped into the sidewalks and painted on walls; a crab statue sits in front of the baseball stadium, which was heavily damaged, and a smaller one perches on the mayor’s desk).
Despite the state of things, Lafuente says Maunabo will improve. Tourists will come. Industry will pick back up. Already, he says, crabbers are setting traps by flashlight at night.
“The people of Maunabo are very motivated and anxious to grow and make the town even better than it was before,” he tells me. “We will rise again. We are rising.”

* * * * *

At first, the mountain protected them.
The day Maria hit, Natalio Rodriguez huddled in a small bathroom with his wife, his daughter Lourdes, her two children, and, nearby, Natalio’s elderly sister. “We were crammed like tuna in a can,” Lourdes Rodriguez recalled. Water poured under the door. Natalio told everyone to stay calm, Lourdes told me. Meanwhile, she said, the house “shook like Jell-O.”
Still, they survived. Most of the house did, too. The hillside, which had raised so many of their ancestors and grown so many of their crops, sheltered them from the worst of it.
Julia Rodriguez has been without electric power service since Maria hit on September 20.

It was after Maria that the real danger began.
The power was out. Water, too. Food was scarce. For several days, the winding, steep-pitched road to their mountain home was blocked, Lourdes said. It was a week before she was able to wait in hourslong lines for gasoline and get her car to a hill in a neighboring city, Caguas, where she could call their many relatives on the mainland to say they had outlasted the hurricane. Communications systems in Maunabo remained essentially inoperable for months, she told me. Island-wide, according to Puerto Rico government data, only 25% of cell towers were functional by October 20.
It was in these isolated circumstances that Natalio Rodriguez’s medical conditions began to worsen. The labored breathing was especially troubling for his wife and daughter. The sleep apnea machine he used at night to get oxygen into his lungs wasn’t working without electricity. That meant he and his wife could not rest, much less sleep. He paced the house at night and walked the neighborhood by day. In desperation, the family made cardboard fans for him to use to try to move air around his face. No one thought it would help him breathe, really, but it was something.
“All of a sudden he became a quiet person. He was a talker. Pepito enjoyed long conversations,” Julia Rodriguez said, using Natalio’s family nickname. “He could spend hours and hours talking. But then (after the storm) he didn’t speak much.”
The family worried also about the insulin he used for diabetes. It required refrigeration. They had no working refrigerator without power. And ice was difficult to come by.
What they really needed, of course, was electricity.
On November 17, Maunabo plaza and city hall got power from a small generator — purchased for $35,000 by the municipality, according to the mayor, Jorge Márquez. From their home in the mountains, Lourdes Rodriguez said, the family could see a faint glow. It looked like the town downhill was on another planet.
About a month later, the family received a small power inverter, Lourdes Rodriguez said. It ran for only two or three hours before running out of fuel, she said.
A bigger generator was donated later, but the family had trouble affording the gasoline needed to run it, she told me. The fuel alone cost them $60 per week while her father was alive, Lourdes Rodriguez said. Plus, there were filters, oil and repairs.
When the machine was on, they said, Natalio calmed some.
But they could not keep it going.

* * * * *

Some of them died during the storm.
A mudslide in Utuado, Puerto Rico, killed two “bedridden” sisters. Another person drowned in Toa Baja. But the aftermath of Hurricane Maria appears to have been most deadly.
Hurricane debris is piled up at a temporary dump in March in Maunabo.

More than 1,000 “excess deaths” occurred after the storm, in September and October 2017, than during the same timeframe in 2016 and 2015, according to Alexis Santos, a professor at Penn State University who analyzed Puerto Rican government mortality statistics.
That doesn’t tell you 1,000 people certainly died directly because of Hurricane Maria. But it does indicate an unusual number of people were dying — and well into October.
The only difference, Santos said, was the hurricane.
In November, I put together a CNN team to survey the funeral homes in Puerto Rico. We were only able to reach about half, but those directors and other staff members told us they had seen at least 499 deaths they considered to be hurricane related, based primarily on their conversations with family members. We then documented the deaths of several uncounted people who died in the weeks after the hurricane, not only the day the storm hit. They included an older man in Cayey who died in a fire set by a lantern he wouldn’t have been using if he’d had electricity; a man in Canóvanas who committed suicide in the storm’s aftermath; and a woman in Corozal who lacked access to medical treatment. (Two deaths we highlighted were later added to the Puerto Rico government’s list of official hurricane-related deaths).
Still, I didn’t expect deaths would continue into 2018.
It’s impossible to use statistics to prove that they are, because the Puerto Rican Demographic Registry has not released data for this year. (CNN and Puerto Rico’s Centro de Periodismo Investigativo are suing that agency for access to death records). Trends suggest the aggregate loss of life in Puerto Rico is slowing and may have normalized, Santos told me.
Still, I was able to document several deaths that occurred this year and appear related to Maria’s frantic aftermath.
Several of the deaths I researched occurred in Maunabo.
Braulio Salinas Santiago, 71, died of an apparent heart attack in the parking lot of Maunabo’s makeshift hospital on January 18, according to his wife, Margarita Baerga Diaz. It was about 5 a.m., she said, before the hospital, which operated 24-7 before the hurricane, had opened.
Similarly, Fulgencio Velazquez Chevalier died on February 20 in the car of his wife, Litza Rodriguez Figueroa. The 50-year-old suffered depression and intense anxiety after the storm, according to Rodriguez Figueroa, who is a nurse. She believes that stress, along with a related increased smoking, contributed to her husband’s cardiac arrest. When she drove by the closed Maunabo hospital, she told me, Velazquez was still alive.
Carmen Rodriguez Martinez died on January 25 at age 71.
Her doctor, Arturo Torres Borges, wrote two words on the death certificate in a spot reserved for circumstances that may have contributed to the death: “Huracán Maria.”
The causes of death included respiratory failure and heart disease.
Héctor Pedraza, left, lost his mother -- Herminio Trinidad's wife -- when she died in February in the aftermath of Maria.

Rodriguez Martinez required an oxygen machine to breathe, according to her daughter, Iris Janette de Jesus Rodriguez, 54. They still didn’t have electricity from the grid when I visited in late February. A generator hadn’t been enough, she said.
In Corozal, farther into the mountains, Victor Manuel Belen Santiago wept as he told me that his mother, Zoraida Santiago Torres, 58, had saved his life by helping him kick drug addiction.
Their home was destroyed by the storm, and Belen Santiago rebuilt it by hand, puzzling scraps of the roof and walls together like a reassembled house of cards. But he couldn’t restore the power his mother needed to run an oxygen machine. She died on February 13, he said, after getting fluid in her lungs that could not be cleared. Her death certificate lists organ failure and a bacterial infection among the causes of death, along with chronic liver disease.
After the loss, Belen Santiago said he contemplated suicide.
His beloved mother was gone. He had no job — no prospect for a job after the debt crisis, which struck Puerto Rico before the hurricane. It was unclear if life ever would feel safe again.
“We are the forgotten people,” he said. “It’s like we don’t exist.”

* * * * *

The morning of January 5 started like so many others, with a tap-tap-tap of her father’s cane on the second-story patio — Natalio Rodriguez’s way of waking his daughter up for the day.
Lourdes Rodriguez rolled her eyes playfully and walked upstairs to see what he wanted this time. She and her two children, ages 13 and 8, had been sleeping on twin beds in a room downstairs since the storm. The roof of a new home they had been building was torn off by Maria.
She would awake to her father’s screams the following night, but this day now occupies a different territory in her memory. She considers it one of the best days of her life.
Her father seemed so healthy, so alive.
He wanted to go everywhere that day, see everything. He carried his cane with him while visiting his sister, a nun, in Ponce, a city on the south coast. But he kept it in his elbow crease — more ornament than crutch. At an ice cream shop, he pretended to be a clueless American tourist — using affected Spanish, asking to see tourist attractions on the other side of the island. The store’s workers laughed when he broke the gag, Lourdes Rodriguez said. He ordered his favorite flavor: passion fruit with pineapple. That night, they ate seafood at a restaurant near the beach.
In March, power lines were still twisted and broken in southeastern Puerto Rico.

Now, Lourdes Rodriguez wonders why that day was different.
Maybe it was the upcoming holiday? January 6 is Three Kings Day in Puerto Rico, or Epiphany, when Christians commemorate the arrival of wise men visiting the infant Jesus.
Her father had been talking about it for some time, telling her children to prepare their best clothes (the truth was that most of their clothing had been donated after the storm) so they could go to a pig roast in a neighboring community. In years past, they’d gathered up guitars, pots and sticks and gone caroling up and down the hillside — a Puerto Rican parranda — growing the party as they visited one house and then the next, offering food and drinks and collecting stories.
Maybe he was living in anticipation of that day?
Or maybe this day was his way of saying goodbye.

* * * * *

What’s taking so long?
That question nagged at me as I reported on Puerto Rico’s ongoing electrical outages. And it’s a question that clearly haunts many Puerto Ricans.
Experts offered some theories.
“They’re Americans but they’re not represented in Congress,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University in New York. That means there are few political repercussions for a botched disaster response, he said, and few advocates for funding. “It really gets down to money and poverty and politics.”
“It’s unconscionable and unreasonable that it has taken so long” to restore power, he said. “You have to ask yourself, ‘why is that?’ It’s money and politics, the common denominator for so many things. … Can you imagine no (electric) power in Beaumont or Port Arthur or Rockport, Texas, for this amount of time? I don’t care what kind of disaster it was. You would never see this.”
Byrne, the FEMA official, said this disaster has been adequately funded and the federal government is responding to the crisis in Puerto Rico in the same way it would in the 50 states. “We’re not leaving,” he said. “We’re here until we take care of all of the requirements that are needed.”
As of March 15, FEMA had spent $1.1 billion in Puerto Rico; $1.6 billion in Texas; and $993 million in Florida for individual assistance following the fall 2017 hurricanes. “That’s the initial, quickest payment to individual citizens for immediate needs, but the real cost is in long-term recovery dollars for infrastructure projects, like buildings, roads and other public facilities,” which is not included in those figures, said Chris Currie, director of emergency management issues at the US Government Accountability Office.
Congressional appropriations for disaster response and recovery in recent months are not always itemized by storm, he said, making it difficult to say which hurricanes ultimately will be given the most federal funding. An estimated $23.2 billion has been appropriated specifically for Puerto Rico, according to The Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates Maria caused $90 billion in damages; Harvey, $125 billion; and Irma, $50 billion.
Regardless of financing, the relative slowness of the recovery in Puerto Rico is seen by some people here as dehumanizing.
Life is returning to parts of San Juan, the capital, but hurricane damage remains.

In a way, Maria has revealed the ugly colonial relationship between the island and the United States, said Silvia Álvarez Curbelo, a historian and director of the research center at the University of Puerto Rico’s school of communications.
“This raw nerve of colonialism comes creeping in in every conversation” these days, she told me. “It’s this feeling of subordination. The people — common people — have no way (to respond) except to wait. Wait for this letter. Wait to see if FEMA comes to town. Wait to see if the federal government comes (though) with the money they told us they would give us for recovery.”
Such frustrations reached a boiling point in the past.
There were plenty of other factors at play, but Spain’s failure to address a humanitarian and economic crisis after an 1867 hurricane in Puerto Rico “provided the context for the first political movement for independence on the island,” Stuart Schwartz, a Yale history professor, writes in “Sea of Storms.”
The uprising, however, was “crushed immediately,” said Álvarez Curbelo, from the University of Puerto Rico. Nothing like that ever would be tried today, she said. While Puerto Ricans have worked hard to create a national cultural identity, and while the idea of independence was popular decades ago, few Puerto Ricans in recent years have supported political independence from the United States, according to Florida International University anthropologist Jorge Duany.
If anything, Álvarez Curbelo expects Puerto Rico to sink further into “political paralysis” and become more US-dependent after Maria.
She doesn’t see the United States granting Puerto Rico full rights as the 51st state, a move that likely would require the approval of Congress. Remember, she said, this storm follows a massive debt crisis in which the island’s government declared bankruptcy. What does Puerto Rico have to offer the United States now? A fiscal oversight board, appointed by the US President, is steering austerity measures. Meanwhile, Puerto Ricans have been taught, generation after generation, she said, to believe that they cannot survive without the help of a colonial power.
“I’m not a pessimistic person,” she told me. “I’m a historian. I tend to be sober. I watch the long trends. But I don’t see the light — in the total sense of the word ‘light.’ The thing about power is it’s a metaphor for the island. The fragility of the energy system — of the power system — is the perfect metaphor for our condition: The light comes and goes. There is no sense of future.”

* * * * *

The ambulance arrived at 2:18 a.m. on January 6, records show.
It was too late.
Natalio Rodriguez Lebron died at 1:23 a.m.
According to the death certificate, Rodriguez’s death was caused by chronic lung disease, hypertension and diabetes. In the notes on that document, a doctor from the Puerto Rico Bureau of Forensic Sciences also mentioned that he was a smoker and obese.
That bureau, in San Juan, is the only laboratory in Puerto Rico authorized to classify deaths as hurricane-related. In the months after Maria, the office has come under criticism, including from CNN, for possibly missing dozens if not hundreds of “indirect” hurricane deaths.
The US government installed three emergency generators in Maunabo to try to re-electrify the town.

The official death toll has stood at 64 since early December.
In February, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced Puerto Rico had enlisted the help of George Washington University to study the mortality that followed Hurricane Maria. That analysis, due out in coming months, will focus on deaths from September through February.
To date, Natalio Rodriguez’s death has not been classified as hurricane-related. Puerto Rico’s Department of Public Safety, which oversees the forensics bureau, did not respond to repeat requests for comment on his death and others in this story.
Rodriguez’s family believes his death was related to Hurricane Maria. His doctor, Pedro Lopez Lopez, shares that view. Rodriguez’s health deteriorated in the conditions Maria left behind, he told me. He saw Natalio about two weeks before his death; and he was “stable” then, he said.
The body was not delivered to the forensics office until 2:38 the following afternoon, a time that forensics documents confirm. By afternoon, the body had started to decompose. The family was told it would be impossible to have an open-casket service, as is the norm in Puerto Rico.
The closed casket was the hardest part of the funeral, a longtime friend told me.
“It was terrible,” Damian Lopez said. “If you love someone, you’d like to see him for one last time.”
There was also the matter of the expense.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency manages a program that can cover some funeral expenses for eligible families after hurricanes. But those deaths typically must be certified as hurricane-related in order to qualify.
The Rodriguez family already put $4,000 toward his funeral, a receipt shows.
They still owe $1,115.
In December, FEMA did grant the family $4,000 for home repairs and $3,000 to replace household items that were damaged in Maria, Lourdes Rodriguez said. Julia Rodriguez told me friends and relatives tried to offer the family money after the storm but that her husband turned away the help. He was a proud person, she said, and generous. He also knew that everyone in the community was suffering.

* * * * *

People will keep dying until power is restored.
That’s the stark assessment Arturo Torres Borges shared with my colleagues Leyla Santiago and Khushbu Shah, who tipped me off to the possibility of continued deaths in Maunabo. Torres is the medical doctor who wrote “Huracán Maria” on the death certificate of a local woman.
Natalio Rodriguez’s doctor puts it this way: “This is a public health crisis.” I met plenty of people at risk in Maunabo.
Some are so sick of the situation they try to laugh it off.
Zoraida Santiago Torres, 58, died February 13. Her family members believe a lack of electric power contributed to her death.

Across the street from Litza Rodriguez Figueroa, whose husband died in February, lives Ana Ramos Davila, a 74-year-old who will insist you drink her bottled water and then ask if you have any cute gringo friends who would drink Coors Light and play dominoes with her.
That’s the dream! she said — gringos, Coors and dominoes.
Post-Maria has included little of that.
“Christ! When is this going to be over?” she said of the storm. “I’ve spent $100 or more just on bags of ice” to try to keep food cool without power. “No one is helping me, my dear.”
“I already told my psychologist if you get a call that I took my life, don’t be amazed,” she said, serious. “I’m so tired of this — looking for supplies, finding water, lighting candles. I’m so tired.”
A few houses up the street, I met David Torres and Juanita Guzman, who were having their home repainted. Torres showed me a breathing machine he’s supposed to use at night but doesn’t, he said, because it requires a steady power source and could short circuit without one. He has a small generator — “I use it to turn on one light and one fan; if I turn on the light, I have to turn off the fan.” It doesn’t provide steady enough power to run the machine, he said.
“I need my oxygen mask. One of these days my wife is going to wake up and find me dead by her side,” he said. “She told me that in the night she hears me having trouble breathing.”
“If it’s my time to die, I’ll die,” he said, laughing. “There’s nothing I can do.”
Experts say post-storm stress and depression can be deadly.
Poverty exacerbates the risks, said Redlener, from Columbia University.
The way people interpret a disaster matters, too. If they believe the disaster is simply weather-related rather than manmade, they’re more likely to accept it, said Peek, from the University of Colorado. What she fears is that Puerto Ricans are struggling because of the human response to the hurricane.
“It’s like the despair effect,” she said. “People who feel forgotten and neglected — they may suffer negative mental health effects.”
Up the hill from the Rodriguez family live Miguel Amaro Leon, 79, and Maria Morales Ortiz, 76. They welcomed me onto their outdoor patio just as the sun was setting. A generator roared behind our conversation as they told me how hard it’s been to keep the thing running.
“It’s been really difficult because we have to pay for the gas,” Amaro Leon said. “We only use the generator three or four hours daily. If not, we would have to spend more money.”
Can they keep their insulin cold?
“More or less.”
“We try to eat food that doesn’t need to be in the refrigerator.”
As we talked, the generator ran out of gas.
Frogs chirped in the night.
“Things are getting better little by little,” Amaro Leon said. “We just need power.”

* * * * *

On my last evening in Maunabo, Lourdes Rodriguez took me to see her father’s grave. It’s in a cemetery in the valley, not far from the town plaza. Looking across the property, you can see the foggy mountains in the distance where so many of Lourdes’ relatives cut sugar cane and plowed the earth, first under the rule of the Spanish and now the United States commonwealth.
Natalio "Pepito" Rodriguez Lebron died on January 6.

Tears streamed down her cheeks.
Her father’s family nickname — “Pepito” — was written by hand in wet cement.
The family hasn’t been able to pay for a headstone.
“I can’t fix it,” she said, sobbing. “It’s hard for me to see it that way.”
Álvarez Curbelo, the professor at the University of Puerto Rico, told me earlier that she wished Hurricane Maria’s dead could speak. That way they would not be ignored.
I asked Lourdes what she thought her father would say if he could talk with us now.
“He would tell us to keep calm,” she said, somber. “That was always his saying: ‘Take it one day at a time.’ Don’t think about the next week or the next month.
“Take it one day at a time.”
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