I’ve been meaning to finish this post for the longest time—2 months to be exact—but I've found myself struggling to verbalize my thoughts and emotions. The original idea behind it was for Kevin and I to write a piece which would demystify certain misconceptions and negative generalizations made towards Puerto Ricans. I remember telling him how tired I was of hearing people talk about how lazy, loud, and unreliable our people were, "I've had it and I want to write a different narrative about Puerto Ricans and who we really are." But after Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017, I had to take a few steps back from blogging and from a lot of other things. My life and the lives of my friends and family would never be the same.
It’s been 52 days since my mom and thousands of other Puerto Ricans have been without power, making it impossible to cook, charge their communication devices, and turn the AC on during unpleasantly hot nights. For those lucky enough to own a generator, the persistent smell of gasoline fumes has become unbearable; to some, it’s even taken a toll on their health.
Because you can’t cook at home, you’re forced to eat out. Between food and gasoline expenses, you end up running your bank account dry. Phone reception is horrendous and driving at night is extremely dangerous because again, no power.
Up until yesterday, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority had managed to restore 40% of power on the island. But yesterday, due to a mechanical failure on one of the main north-south power transmission lines, power generation across the island plummeted to 18%. I could keep going... But it hurts.
It's also frustrating to see how the post-hurricane aftermath seems to have been dismissed and forgotten by many. Some days it feels as if the world kept revolving, life kept happening, and things back home stayed the same. Help has come in waves but the vast majority of infrastructural damages will not get fixed overnight. As I said, I could keep going... But I'm done.
What I will say is, we are NOT lazy. We are NOT conformists. We fight, we persevere, and we push through against all odds. I've seen many of my friends back home volunteering, neighbors in my community have been helping each other and my mom out, the Puerto Rican diaspora around the world has been arduously working to raise funds, gather and donate goods, and with the help of social media I was able to collect money and send 15 boxes filled with canned food, non-perishable goods, and drinking water back home.
In life, we have two choices: either we sink or we keep going. I've chosen to keep going because my family needs me and because I need me too. I explained this to a good friend the other day and I wanted to add, it hasn't been easy. At all. But being Puerto Rican has taught me differently; my people's strength and resilience have taught me differently and I'll continue to do the best I can to help them recover from this natural disaster.
Below I'm sharing a number of links where you can donate and contribute in order to help with the ongoing Puerto Rican disaster relief efforts. Feel free to comment below with additional suggestions! Right now, it's all about building back up and moving forward. Every bit of help counts.