Please Help American Citizens Residing in Puerto Rico to Rebuild Our Enchanted Island
I consider San Juan Puerto Rico my home town.
In 1971 my father accepted an entry level job as an attorney for the Immigration and Naturalization Service and we moved from New York to make Puerto Rico our home. My father worked his way up the ladder to become lead trial counsel and ultimately an Immigration Law Judge. I attended elementary, middle and high school at an army base, Ft. Buchanan. We lived in an apartment on Isla Verde Beach. I drifted to sleep every night lulled by the song of the coquis, clinking rigging, and palms rustling in the wind. I ran on the beach with my German Shepherd Cleo, rewarding her by throwing coconuts for her to chase. Spent, we sat side by side mesmerized by the colors dancing between the clouds and the sea as we listened to the morphing sky canvas over the lapping waves. With her warm, cerulean sea, pristine beaches, lush forests, and loving people, Puerto Rico enchanted me. Italian American by birth, raised on this island, I developed the soul of a Boriqua (the Puerto Rican endearment for “native”).
The Facts Regarding Puerto Rico
Puerto Ricans are by law natural-born citizens of the United States and may move freely between the island and the mainland. Puerto Ricans have fought side by side with mainland citizens and our service has been recognized at the National World War II Memorial captioned above.
Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States. Located in the northeast Caribbean Sea, Puerto Rico is an archipelago among the Greater Antilles that includes the main island of Puerto Rico and a number of smaller ones, such as Mona, Culebra, and Vieques. In 1898, following the Spanish–American War, the United States acquired Puerto Rico along with other Spanish colonies under the terms of the Treaty of Paris
Although Puerto Rico is not now a state and its citizens do not have a vote in the United States Congress, nor a vote for the President, in a recent referendum held on June 11, 2017, Puerto Ricans voted overwhelmingly in support of statehood, with 97.18% voting in favor.
Hurricane Maria Devastates
America’s Gem of the Caribbean
Two weeks ago the world witnessed our island, a United States Territory and its residents, who are United States citizens, suffer the wrath of a Category 5 storm, ironically named Maria. Although our family’s ocean front apartment survived, many residents did not meet such great fortune.
As I watched this massive storm barrel through the Caribbean towards our island home, I reminisced of similar circumstances 28 years ago.
On September 20, 1989, I felt filled with fear for 2 reasons: Hugo was hitting my beloved home of San Juan and I was awaiting my Florida Bar Results. These were different times: no reliable cell phones, no way of knowing if my parents had survived, and no internet to ascertain if I had passed the Bar. I drove home, opened the mailbox and received wonderful news that I had passed, and was immediately sworn in by the judge who heard my first motion. I later was relieved to discover that my parents survived the storm.
Ordinarily September 20th is a day of celebration but this year it was devastatingly different.
As I type this blog 2 weeks following the wrath of Maria, only 5% of electricity has been restored and the majority of the island remains without running water. 50% of Puerto Ricans have no access to safe drinking water. Many of the small towns abutting the mountains remain flooded with standing water contaminated by sewage, dead animals – breeding ground for mosquitos and diseases such as Dengue and Zika. The majority of the cell towers remain down, especially outside the San Juan metropolitan area. Gasoline remains in short supply and food, water, and medicines remain trapped on shipping containers waiting to be moved. With communication compromised and fuel in short supply, the drivers have not been adequately mobilized to deliver much needed lifesaving supplies. With generators failing due to lack of diesel, many have died in hospitals. Diabetics cannot get their insulin, nor can they keep it refrigerated. People needing dialysis, oxygen, and chemotherapy remain equally adversely impacted. With limited access and limited police force, many small towns have fallen victim to lawlessness.
A flight over this once lush tropical mountainous island portrays a landscape ravished to a barren brown.
Our fellow American citizens, Puerto Ricans need help now and will continue to need our support and concern 6 months from now and beyond as they attempt to rebuild their homes, towns, cities and infrastructure. This is not a political crisis but a humanitarian one; let us join together as members of the human race to prevent further tragedies.
Please click on the links below to help. Que Dios Te Bendiga!