Things That Matter

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

Nelson Feliciano fills 16 empty soda bottles and milk jugs with brownish-yellow-colored water from the Ojo de Agua, a swollen stream in Aguadilla, a municipality located on the northwestern tip of Puerto Rico. “We’ll use this to bathe,” he tells mitú in Spanish, alluding to his five daughters, ages 5, 12, 13, 15 and 18. They’re the reason Feliciano makes the mountainous trek under the searing sun once a day, and why he is considering leaving his island for the U.S. mainland.

From 2006 to 2015, more than 700,000 people fled debt-ridden Puerto Rico, a colony of the United States, to cities like Orlando, New York, Philadelphia and Miami. Many more are expected to leave in the wake of catastrophic storms. One month after Hurricane Maria’s 155 MPH winds shook the entire archipelago, 80 percent of Puerto Ricans still lack electricity and more than a third of the people don’t have potable water. All over the once lush land lies rubble of homes and businesses, battered, just like the fallen and leafless trees that sit beside them. Countless homes, restaurants, gas stations, shops and jobs were also lost.

According to experts, the massive humanitarian, climate and debt crises will prompt hundreds of thousands more to leave — many are expected to never return. In the three weeks that planes have been taking off from San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital, already 10,000 residents have left. Puerto Ricans, who have an imposed second-class kind of citizenship, where they are able to serve in the U.S. military but not allowed to vote for the president or elect voting senators or representatives in the U.S. Congress, can legally migrate to any of the U.S. states. But the decision to do so remains complicated and difficult for most on the island.

“If I were alone, I’d stay. But I have young children, who don’t understand the situation, and us, who know that the hospitals aren’t functioning, if I have the opportunity to leave, I will,” Feliciano says.

We spoke with several Puerto Ricans on the island about their future. Here’s what they had to say.

Shakira, Río Piedras

(Photo Credit: Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi / PR on The Map)

“I’m staying. I think a lot of people are leaving the island because they can’t take the situation or to be with family. But I’m staying because I want to be part of bettering my island. If we all leave, there are few left to make change. I want to be a part of the new beginning here.”

Alba DeJesus, Hato Rey

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“I don’t want to sound like a privileged class that says ‘Puerto Rico Se Levanta,’ because there are classes that can say that and see that and others that can’t, right, so I don’t want to perpetuate that. It’s intense what happened, and it’s intense what other people are living. They’re at zero. But I don’t want to leave, and I don’t want my family to leave. It’s a hard job, and it’s a job that will require us to really see what solidarity looks like.”

Nelson Rodriguez, Aguadilla

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“I’m going to try to fix my home. It’s not going to be fixed in one day, but if I work on it a little bit every day, then eventually it will be. Things aren’t going to be good, and it’s going to take a long time to rebuild. It will take years and years. If I can’t rebuild it, then I’ll go to the U.S. I have family in Boston and the Bronx.”

Lydia Osorio, Loíza

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“Honestly, my perspective is clear on leaving Puerto Rico. And it’s not just because of what’s happening now with Maria. No. It’s because what we are going through with the government. It’s forcing us to immigrate even if we don’t want to. You look for a job, and there isn’t one, or you have to wait or it’s complicated. There’s a lot of factors that go into play for a Puerto Rican to immigrate. If I go, I’d go to Orlando, Florida. My dad and my oldest daughter, who is 16, are there. And that’s where I’m at.”

Rubén, Vega Baja

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“I’ll stay here till I die.”

Sophia Rivera, Guaynabo

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“I’m in college, and I’m going to stay studying here. I see myself at least helping as much as I can. If I’m outside, I will help as much as I can. This island, and everything in it, has helped me be the person that I am, and if I would be in another place, I wouldn’t be this good person. I know I’m a good person because I’m giving everything that I have to my community, and that’s the biggest opportunity that I could get here. It’s giving what I can to the people who need it.”

Joel Ortiz, Carolina (by way of the Dominican Republic)

(Photo Credit: Kat Lazo / PR on The Map)

“I would prefer to stay here and live here, but the situation is very bad. Even if you want to leave, it’s very hard to find tickets.”

Joselin, Old San Juan

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“It’s a compromise we have to make to stay, to stay to uplift, to construct. We don’t just want to reconstruct the country. The country that is behind us didn’t work. We need a new one.”

Vanessa Foy, Río Piedras

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“I won’t leave my country. I was born here, I grew up here and here I’ll wait to die.”

Genisis Quiñones, Loíza

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“I can understand why people are leaving. There’s no money. …We’ve been thinking about leaving even before Irma or Maria happened, but I think my mom wants to stay because she doesn’t want to leave her father. … We don’t want to leave just because this happened and there aren’t any jobs. No, just because things are bad and then when things get better we want to come, ‘cause that’s gonna look bad, you know? We’re Puerto Rican, and we’re supposed to stay with the people that we love, even though things get bad. I think we are going to stay.”

Luis, Aguadilla

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“I’m not leaving. I was born here, I lived my whole life here and I will die here. Where would I even go? To the cemetery. That’s where I’ll go.”

Diana Cassanova, Aguadilla

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“A lot of people are leaving, and that’s a big mistake. If it’s hard to survive here that it’s cheaper, most of these people are going to end up in a shelter because the rents out there [in the U.S.] are ridiculous. I cannot survive no more in New York. I did it for 30 years. Once I retired, I cannot survive on my social security. So I came back here. And I won’t leave. I don’t want to be a burden to my kids. I’m here.”

Mariana, Río Piedras

(Photo Credit: Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi / PR on The Map)

“I am staying for now, but I lost my job, and so I need to leave to make money to return with more competitiveness and more money. We can’t judge the people who are leaving because of necessity because it’s a reality. We are going through a humanitarian crisis and an economic crisis, that already existed but now intensified with what just happened. If I have the opportunity to leave and work for a month, I’d do it. But ultimately it is necessary for us to stay, and, if we leave, for us to return so that we can continue to work for our community.”

Gabriel Díaz Rivera, Río Piedras

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“I’m planning on staying. That’s why we are doing what we are doing, to construct a Puerto Rico for ourselves. The rich and the millionaires will stay on the island. … And it’s important for us to stay to enjoy our terrain and to have a greater influence in the fixing of this country and getting out of this crisis, to create a country that’s for the people and not for the same small few that has benefited.”

Reporting for this article was made possible through PR on The Map, a Latinx independent media team put together by grassroots organizer and former Green Party Vice Presidential candidate Rosa Clemente to produce unfiltered, unapologetic and intergenerational coverage on Puerto Rico. Donate to PR on The Map here.

READ: Puerto Rico Is Completely Flooded And Could Go Months Without Electricity. Here’s How People In The U.S. Are Uniting Beautifully To Help

Let us know how you are helping out the people devastated by natural disasters in the Caribbean and Mexico in the comments.

Trump Allegedly Asked If He Could Sell Puerto Rico Instead Of Investing In The Island’s Future

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Trump Allegedly Asked If He Could Sell Puerto Rico Instead Of Investing In The Island’s Future

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

It’s no surprise that the Trump administration has been full of surprises. Over the last 3 1/2 years, headline after headline have left many of us wondering what the actual f*** is going on inside the White House?

Over the last few weeks, a steady stream of people closely connected to the president – from family members to former cabinet members – have released books, given interviews, and spoken out about the commander-in-chief and many of the revelations are outright terrifying.

Donald Trump considered the idea of selling Puerto Rico in 2017 after the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria.

Ever since Hurricane Maria pummeled Puerto Rico in 2017, President Trump has expressed displeasure with the U.S. territory. After trying to limit recovery funds provided to the island last year, he finally signed a long-overdue disaster aid bill before taking to Twitter to declare himself the “best thing that ever happened” to Puerto Rico.

However, according to a New York Times story, Trump floated the idea of selling Puerto Rico so he wouldn’t have to deal with the issue any further. Elaine Duke, a Republican who served as acting head of Homeland Security from July to December 2017, told the Times in an interview, “The president’s initial ideas were more of as a businessman, you know: Can we outsource the electricity? Can we sell the island? You know, or divest of that asset?”

The latest revelation is just the latest in a string of attacks and disdain for the island territory from the Trump administration.

Hurricane Maria devastated the island – three years later it’s still struggling to rebound.

The 2017 hurricane season was one for the record books. And Puerto Rico was front and center in a particularly destructive season. Hurricane Maria struck the island and caused $43 billion to $159 billion in damage to the island and left nearly 3,000 people dead. The island continues to rebuild and that’s in no small part to the incompetence of both local leaders and the Trump administration.

In the wake of Maria, Trump and Puerto Rican officials blamed each other amid the island’s recovery, with the president faulting local officials for their management of relief funds. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz criticized the administration for the delay in federal response to hurricane recovery, prompting the president to target Cruz in several tweets, and call her “incompetent.”

Things got so heated that White House officials told congressional leaders and appropriators not to give any more money to Puerto Rico in November 2018, CNN noted. However, the Washington Post reported a relief fund of $17 billion was released in January with tough restrictions. Administration officials attributed the delay to corruption concerns, but critics said the postponement was political.

Trump has consistently denied any fault for his administration in the aftermath of the storm. The President has instead sought praise for his handling of Hurricane Maria, calling it “an incredible, unsung success” last year.

As shocking as the suggestion is, it’s not the first time Trump has floated similar ideas.

The idea of selling Puerto Rico – just to avoid having to put in any work – is so Trumpian that the allegation sounds extremely likely true. And the incident is hardly the first in which Trump has worn his “businessman” hat in the Oval Office.

Last August, the Wall Street Journal reported that the president, in conversation with top aides “with varying degrees of seriousness,” floated the idea of purchasing Greenland. The gigantic Arctic island, which is rapidly melting thanks to climate change, is a self-ruling part of Denmark and is definitely not for sale. Trump nevertheless apparently believed that Greenland could somehow be purchased. In fact, a 2019 New York Times article reported that a former official heard the president joke that he would be happy to trade Puerto Rico for Greenland.

For Dukes part, she believes that the whole point of Trump’s plan one to be mean. She tells the Times, that “There is a singular view that strength is mean, that any kind of ability to collaborate, or not be angry is a weakness.” She said Trump embraces “hate-filled, angry and divisive” language that distracts from the real issues. 

Duke is the latest former top White House security official to denounce Trump’s handling of the job, joining Kelly, former Secretary of Defense James Mattis and former national security adviser John Bolton. 

Political Chaos Returns To Puerto Rico As The Unelected Governor Faces Investigations And Calls For Her Resignation

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Political Chaos Returns To Puerto Rico As The Unelected Governor Faces Investigations And Calls For Her Resignation

Ricardo Arduengo / Getty Images

Puerto Rico’s government is once again in the headlines, as the governor faces accusations of obstruction of justice. In just the latest in a string of crises – both natural and man made – the governor is fighting back claims that she fired an official who was investigating her failed response to a series of earthquakes that recently struck the island.

Gov. Vasquez has denied any wrongdoing but protests are already forming across the island, asking for her resignation.

Puerto Rico once again faces political turmoil as the island’s unelected governor is under investigation.

Puerto Rico’s Governor Wanda Vasquez is facing allegations that she obstructed justice and calls from the main opposition party for a legislative probe and a possible impeachment process. All of this stems from a report from the newspaper El Nuevo Día, which said that hours before being fired by Vazquez, the now former Justice Secretary Dennise Longo had recommended the appointment of an independent special prosecutor to look into the governor and her close associates.

According to the paper, Longo made a recommendation to the island’s Office of the Special Independent Prosecutor’s Panel to look into alleged irregularities in how aid earmarked to January’s earthquake relief efforts were distributed.

According to the Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism, that recommendation was what caused the governor to ask for the justice minister’s resignation.

Since she appears to have fired someone who was looking into her administration, several members of the opposition party are leveling obstruction claims against Vasquez. It wasn’t immediately clear if Rep. Johnny Méndez, leader of Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives, who is a member of Ms. Vázquez’s party, would grant permission for such an investigation. He tweeted Tuesday that he would listen to the governor’s news conference before making any decisions.

“Our people demand total and absolute transparency in the public function. Puerto Rico doesn’t deserve less than that,” Mr. Méndez wrote.

The governor said she is ready to face justice if the case involving emergency supplies has merit. “I have nothing to fear,” Ms. Vázquez said during a lengthy news conference.

She’s accused of firing a justice official who was investigation her cabinet.

Credit: Ricardo Arduengo / Getty Images

The fired official, Dennise Longo, issued a statement saying the governor and other officials are targets of an investigation that began earlier this year involving the alleged mismanagement of supplies slated for Puerto Ricans affected by a series of strong earthquakes. Ms. Longo, who didn’t provide any details of the case, said she had referred that matter for investigation the day she was forced out.

Ms. Vázquez denied Ms. Longo was removed in retribution for the probe, saying that she didn’t know she was being investigated. She said that Ms. Longo was asked to quit because of purported interference in an unrelated federal probe into possible Medicaid fraud.

The new political crisis comes months after the island erupted into protests that forced the previous governor to resign.

Before Ms. Vasquez became governor, she served as the island’s justice secretary in the administration of Ricardo Rosselló. Rosselló faced several scandals of his own – the failed response to Hurricane Maria and a texting scandal that revealed sexist and homophobic messages from his administration.

Giant protests occurred around the island for weeks, demanding #RickyRenuncio. Following Rosselló’s resignation, few administration members wanted th role as governor – in fact, Vasquez herself said she didn’t want the job – but the island’s Supreme Court ruled that she should be sworn in as new governor.

This current political crisis is just the latest in a string of major crises that have rocked the territory.

Credit: Ricardo Arduengo / Getty Images

Puerto Rico has long faced political turmoil and natural disasters. However, much of the current crises can be traced back to the failed response to Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island. Then, earlier this year, the island was struck by a series of major earthquakes that left much of the island in rubble.

A week later, a 43,000 square foot warehouse in the southern city of Ponce was discovered filled with filled with supplies, including thousands of cases of water, believed to have been from when Hurricane Maria struck the island in 2017. Vazquez quickly fired the island’s director of emergency management and called for an investigation. Food, water, diapers, baby formula, cots and tarps were all stored at the warehouse.