The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico recently suffered a tough break. On the eve of September 6, Hurricane Irma scraped past Puerto Rico, resulting in the loss of power for a million of the island’s residents. Category 4 Hurricane Maria brought on the next assault on September 22, bringing about the death of ten people, as well as an island-wide power outage and the fall of 95 percent of the cellphone system. Governor Ricardo Rossello has stated that the island is struggling with a hurricane crisis, also noting that they require a “bill that actually answers [their] needs right now.”
Prior to Maria, Puerto Rico suffered from faulty infrastructure (the basic structures and facilities of a country), power outages being a common occurrence for the island even. As of July, they declared bankruptcy. Post Maria, the island has faced critical damage. William Villafane, advisor and chief of staff for the governor of Puerto Rico has said that “private and public infrastructure is just down…We are without power, without water service. No hospital has power service.”
Cooper City, and the greater state of Florida, recently endured their own hurricane crisis as Hurricane Irma, a Category 4 storm, raked across the peninsula. Florida, though Irma was the first hurricane it had encountered in a little over a decade, is no stranger to this form of natural disaster.
“I think this impacts Cooper City because what happened over there [in Puerto Rico] could have happened here if Irma was to head east as originally planned,” junior Frank Insigna said. “In Puerto Rico, after this hurricane, they have endured a complete wipe out…they aren’t even able to leave yet…this is a bit of a reality check that hurricanes aren’t a joke.”
The incident in Puerto Rico has also caused students at Cooper City distress as members of the student body have family in Puerto Rico, or they came from the island as well.
“I know this is going to have an awful effect on the already lacking economy of Puerto Rico, especially since they donated to other countries after Irma, not expecting that this would occur,” junior Amanda Suris-Diaz said. “The U.S. should be helping…this is American land, protect your people. Make sure they’re safe.”
With Puerto Rico currently under the strain of lacking infrastructure and its debt, it has no means to support itself at this time.
In response to the crisis, President Donald Trump visited the island post-Irma on September 3. Trump also tweeted out “we are with you [Puerto Rico]” on several occasions. But Trump has also commentated about the island nation’s “crippling debt” and criticised the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, after she called attention to inefficient aid provided by the U.S.
The student body at Cooper has become accustomed to hearing about similar occurrences, such as Hurricane Harvey in Texas. Maria brings on a new layer to the issue, one some students want to expand upon.
“The incident has made me pay more attention to events happening around the world, especially as far as natural disasters go,” senior Joania Hernandez said. “We tend to disregard things that don’t happen here at home, but we can’t just forget about the rest of the world. We’re all people.”
Puerto Rico was shaken by this hurricane season’s series of storms, resulting in a complex disaster. As the island province cannot withstand the damage brought on by the storm, the U.S. has stepped in. The Trump administration has appointed Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan to oversee the Defense Department’s operations to help rehabilitate the territory.
As one of the nation’s few provinces, Puerto Rico’s fight to stay afloat has brought national attention to the matter. Despite the uncertainty involved, this has not dissuaded members of the Cooper City community from maintaining hope.
“Puerto Rico is a very very strong country,” Suris-Dai said. “I know that we’ll get through this.”
Photo courtesy of Carlos Garcia Rawlins, CC license