Culture

From the Past To Today, Puerto Rico’s Courageous Spirit Continues To Lift The Island Up

If there’s one word to describe Puerto Rico and the people that have cultivated the land for thousands of years it is resilient. They’ve endured colonization — like most Latin and Carribean lands — natural catastrophes, economic plight, but through it all, they have persevered. Let’s dive into the turbulent history and astonishing way that Puerto Rico continues to thrive no matter what.

The first people of Puerto Rico.

Wikipedia: Arawak Indians

The indigenous group, known as the Arawak Indians (part of the Taíno population), inhabited not only Puerto Rico but also Cuba, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and other islands. They are the first to have encountered Christopher Columbus.

Christopher Columbus colonizes Puerto Rico.

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In 1493, Columbus claimed Puerto Rico for Spain — as he also did with Cuba. The Roman Catholic Church also had a part in colonizing the island of Puerto Rico. In 1521, the island went from being referred to as Boricua (which the Natives called their land) to officially Puerto Rico.

Slavery in Puerto Rico.

Wikipedia

In the 16th century, the Spanish began importing slaves from Africa to Puerto Rico to cultivate their only economic resources including sugar, tobacco, and coffee. The Spanish also captured native Puerto Ricans as slaves as well.

On September 23, 1868, between 600 to 1,000 men attempted to revolt against the Spanish for their independence. This moment is remembered as the “Grito de Lares.” That call for freedom is still celebrated in Puerto Rico today.

The Spanish-American War

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During the Spanish-American war of 1898, the U.S. successfully occupied Puerto Rico at Guánica. The Spanish conceded and under the Treaty of Paris handed Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines, and Cuba to the United States.

The Foraker Act

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In 1900, the U.S. president and other lawmakers signed the Foraker Act, which gave the U.S. more control over the island but also allowed Puerto Rico to have its government.

The Jones Act

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On March 2, 1917, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones Act which automatically granted all people born in Puerto Rico U.S. citizens. The Act also allowed Puerto Ricans to live under the same Bill of Rights and constitution as those living in the U.S. The Jones Act also came with some tax regulations that made it more expensive to import goods from Puerto Rico to the U.S.

Puerto Rico and America, united but not.

After World War II, Puerto Rico experienced several economic and governmental changes. In 1952, Puerto Ricans voted to become a commonwealth of the U.S., which established its own governing constitution. Their new commonwealth status meant that they were still U.S. citizens but were not allowed to vote in U.S. elections.

People flee the island.

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It was also around this time (between 1950 and 1970) that half a million people left the island of Puerto Rico and migrated to the U.S. People have left the island once again, after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. CNN reports that more than 130,000 Puerto Ricans relocated to the U.S. after the hurricane.

Exploring the tourism in Puerto Rico.

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Puerto Rico has always been a popular destination for tourists. At the end of 2016, more than 10 million passengers arrived on the island. Typically, the island generates $4 billion from tourism to its economy. Despite having setbacks including the Zika outbreak and Hurricane Maria, the island has is back in business.

Catastrophes and Tragedies

Wikipedia: Mameyes

The island has been hit hard by natural catastrophes including in 1985 when a landslide in Ponce killed 129 people. While Puerto Rico has experienced multiple hurricanes— the island has had only one Category 5 hurricane and that was the San Felipe Segundo hurricane in 1928. Three hundred people died during that hurricane. In 1899, a smaller hurricane killed more than 3,000 people.

Dual Languages

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In 1993, Puerto Rico declared that the official language of the island would be Spanish and English.

The Economy

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Puerto Rico’s economy has been volatile since Columbus first colonized the island. The tax laws that the U.S. has instilled onto the island resources has made the economy there unstable, ultimately hurting lower class Puerto Ricans. It is because of these laws that Puerto Rico generated billions of dollars in debt. Currently, the island owes the U.S. $70 billion, most of which was caused by a recession and laws that the U.S. implemented.

“Nasty” Politics

Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan (the capital of Puerto Rico), is one of the island’s most prominent advocates. Ever since Hurricane Maria struck the island, she has been taking to social media to show the devastation, what people needed (and still need), and has not backed down even while being intimidated by President Trump.

Obama visits the island.

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You would think that because Puerto Rico is a territory of the U.S. more U.S. presidents would visit the island. They do go on tours worldwide, but not to Puerto Rico for one reason or another. However, in 2011, President Barack Obama made an official visit to the island, making it the first since John F. Kennedy.

Hurricane Maria

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Just weeks after Hurricane Irma grazed Puerto Rico, leaving millions without power, Hurricane Maria landed on Sept. 20 as a Category 4. The island has been in recovery mode since, and while the island is open for business, many people are still trying to rebuild their lives. An estimated 3,057 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria.

Trump vs. Puerto Rico

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In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, U.S. President Donald Trump did not serve the people of Puerto Rico. He downplayed the deaths, threw paper towels at survivors during his brief visit to the island, and balked at the severity of the hurricane. Relations between Trump and the island remain strained.

Famous Puerto Ricans

Instagram/@jlo

There’s no way in hell that we could list all of the famous Puerto Ricans that have contributed to our society past and present. Since we have to list a few famous Puerto Ricans, we can start with Jennifer Lopez, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Roberto Clemente, José Ferrer, Ricky Martin, Esmeralda Santiago, and so many more.

The Best Puerto Rican Foods

Instagram/@puertoricogram

Mofongo, tostones (fried plantains) with garlic, olive oil, and chicharrones or bacon, has to be our top favorite Puerto Rican dish although we can take arroz con pollo, chicken asopao, or roasted pork any day of the week.

A Slow Recovery

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Puerto Rico has made great strides over the past year and a half, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Puerto Ricans in the U.S. — both famous and unknown — have contributed to the success and perseverance of the island. While there’s still lots of work to be done, Puerto Rico continues to rise above tragedy.

Puerto Rico Today

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One of the most amazing things in Puerto Rico that occurred recently, as the island is still in recovery mode, is that people —mainly Lin-Manuel Miranda — has brought arts and culture back to the island. Through his production of “Hamilton” in Puerto Rico, he will be generating millions of dollars toward arts education for children in Puerto Rico. It’s only another sign that the island will go on as it always has.


READ: Some Puerto Ricans Plan On Leaving The Island To Give Their Family A Better Life, While Others Tell Us They Feel Guilty Leaving

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Hacker Attempts To Steal $4 Million From Puerto Rican Government In Phishing Scam

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Hacker Attempts To Steal $4 Million From Puerto Rican Government In Phishing Scam

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Hackers attempted to steal $4 million from the Puerto Rican government using a common phishing scam. The scams referred to as business email compromises, target public and private entities every year on the U.S. mainland. Here’s what we know so far.

A hacker attempted to steal millions of dollars from the Puerto Rican government.

Credit: @DavidBegnaud / Twitter

According to reports, hackers were able to infiltrate various agencies in the Puerto Rican government through phishing emails. The hackers attempted to access $4 million dollars by targeting Puerto Rico’s Industrial Development Company and the Tourism Company.

The Industrial Development Company sent around $2.6 million while the Tourism Company wired over $1.5 million. According to the AP, the agencies received emails from a fraudulent employee claiming there was a change of bank accounts.

Federal officials say they were about to freeze the money to prevent loss to Puerto Rico.

David Begnaud of CBS News took to Twitter to update people on the latest developments. According to Begnaud’s conversation with federal authorities, the hackers had not received the money from Puerto Rico and they were able to freeze it. They are working to send the money back to Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico is not the only victim in a phishing crime. During the same time as the hacking of Puerto Rico, a school district in Manor, Texas lost $2.3 million and another $800,000 were stolen from officials in Griffin, Georgia. More than 23,000 of these scams stole $1.7 billion from businesses and agencies in the U.S. mainland last year. The FBI was able to recover around $300 million.

The news is surprising people on social media.

Credit: @MilagsCon / Twitter

Corruption in Puerto Rico’s government has been a topic of discussion since Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Puerto Rico was recently devastated by a series of earthquakes while still recovering from the 2017 hurricane that devastated the island. Missing relief funds and misplaced supplies have angered Puerto Ricans in recent months as it comes to light.

This latest financial and security shortcoming of Puerto Rico’s government is not helping its reputation.

Credit: @J_Fort47 / Twitter

Puerto Ricans have been showing their displeasure with the elected officials on the island for years. Recently, Puerto Ricans protested and marched until Ricardo Rosselló resigned from his office. The former governor was caught in a group chat scandal in which he made derogatory comments about the LGBTQ+ community and women. There were also allegations of corruption and misuse of funds within his admi9nistration that led to a series of investigations.

READ: The Puerto Rico Department of Justice Is Seeking An Independent Investigation Into Ricardo Rosselló

A Warehouse Full Of Forgotten Supplies From 2017 Was Just Found In Puerto Rico After More Than 1000 Earthquakes Hit The Island

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A Warehouse Full Of Forgotten Supplies From 2017 Was Just Found In Puerto Rico After More Than 1000 Earthquakes Hit The Island

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Over the past two and a half weeks, Puerto Rico has experienced more than 1000 earthquakes. This number may seem unbelievable, but it’s true: after a 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit the island on January 7—the largest earthquake to hit Puerto Rico in more than a century—aftershocks have continued to jolt the island, leaving hundreds of people homeless, lacking supplies and electricity. Among the aftershocks was January 11’s 5.9 magnitude quake, which caused even further devastation, particularly to the southern part of the island. So far, the earthquakes have cost an estimated $200 million in damages, including the destruction of more than 800 homes.

But the damage hasn’t only been structural—several people are experiencing extreme anxiety as tremors continue to strike the island.

Credit: Facebook / ASSMCA Online

Officials from ASSMCA, Puerto Rico’s  Office of Mental Health Services and Addiction Prevention, have been making their rounds at outdoor shelters where displaced individuals and families have taken refuge, offering mental health support to those most affected by the quakes.

“These aftershocks are triggers for people,” Abdiel Dumeng, an ASSMCA employee, said in Spanish in an interview.”But I have to admit that we’ve seen a decrease in these kinds of crises, because we’ve been working together for a while, teaching people how to stay calm.”

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), aftershocks will continue to decrease in frequency over the next month and will be exponentially “lower in magnitude”. But in the meantime, Puerto Rico’s Office of Emergency Management estimates that more than 8,000 people are staying in these outdoor shelters—fewer than half are in government-run shelters, while the rest are taking refuge in either informal spaces or shelters run by non-government organizations.

What exactly constitutes an “informal” shelter? Well, some folks have simply taken their beds outside, staying close to home while avoiding the potential dangers of being indoors. Others are crashing with relatives in towns that have experienced less damage than other areas.

Credit: StarTribune

In response to the 5.9 earthquake on January 11, Governor Wanda Vázquez said that she had declared a major state emergency following an initial assessment of the damages incurred. Vázquez also announced the immediate disbursement of $2 million for the towns of Guánica, Utuado, Guayanilla, Peñuelas, Ponce and Yauco, which experienced the most damage due to their proximity to the earthquakes’ epicenter. This $2 million was defined as a way to meet the towns’ most urgent needs—but now, ten days later, la gente está harta, because these needs still haven’t been met.

Just a few days ago, Vázquez fired two high-ranking officials in her administration: Housing Secretary Fernando Gil and Department of Family Secretary Glorimar Andújar. She also fired former Emergency Management Director Carlos Acevedo. The Governor’s reason for the dismissals was an alleged lack of information regarding aid collection and distribution centers.

This lack of information had to do with the discovery of a warehouse in Ponce that was filled with seemingly forgotten disaster supplies. But these supplies were not sent in response to the current crisis—they date back to when Hurricane Maria (a Category 4 storm) hit the island in September 2017.

Credit: Carlos Giusti / Associated Press

And people are understandably angry. On January 20, scores of demonstrators gathered in front of the Governor’s mansion in San Juan to demand her resignation. While the Governor seems to have tried addressing the issue with the dismissals mentioned above, several people are accusing her of not taking accountability for this appalling error, urging her to step down. And with demonstrators vowing to stay in the streets until Vázquez steps down, the current situation looks a lot like last summer’s demonstrations, which ultimately caused Governor Ricardo Rosselló to resign.

When asked by NBC News what the “human impact” of this mistake is, Rafael Gonzalez—President of PROFESA, a Puerto Rican Professional Association that delivered aid during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria—said, “We saw it on [sic] Maria. We saw what happens when you don’t deliver the supplies that people need. People die.”

Indeed, more than 3,000 people died as a result of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria (not to mention highly insufficient disaster response on the part of the United States government). At this point, the recent series of earthquakes has resulted in one death and nine injuries. In an attempt to keep that number from rising, Jennifer Gonzales, Puerto Rico’s Commissioner to Congress, joined forces with five other members of Congress to send a letter to Donald Trump, asking him to sign a major disaster declaration that would bring federal funding to the recovery effort.

On January 16, Donald Trump responded by designating six hard-hit towns in the southern part of the island as major disaster areas. Hopefully this will result in an appropriate disaster response—one that will not negligently result in more forgotten aid.