Top 5 Myths: Puerto Rico & Hurricane Maria
It has been seven months since hurricane Maria plowed through the Island of Puerto Rico with fierce anger. The Island has been been devastated by Maria. The will of the Puerto Rican people and their resolve to bounce back, is a bright spot in an otherwise bleak situation. The Island is slowly recovering. It is time to debunk some of the false stories about Puerto Rico.
Here are our top 5 myths about Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria.
- The locals stole all the relief items sent to help them. The myth that the Puerto Rican people were steeling massive amounts of disaster relief products (money, food, water), etc is blatantly false. The reason why the initial relief items were not distributed quickly has more to do with Fema than any other factor. While Fema did a great job in Houston, TX, they were much more disorganized in their approach to Hurricane Maria. It took FEMA three weeks to even name a chief strategist for Puerto Rico. Meanwhile, supplies were stranded on docks and warehouses. The armed soldiers that arrived after one week weren’t given any orders on what to do. Many resorted to going rouge and distributed food and water to the hungry and sick.
- Puerto Rico was treated the same as Houston Texas after Hurricane Harvey. This claim is false. Within 9 days after Hurricane Harvey, FEMA approved 141.8 million in aide. At the same time, they approved 6.2 million in aide for Puerto Rico. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Texas has 36 representatives in the US House of Representatives. They also have two US Senators in the Senate. Puerto Ricans are US citizens by law. However, they cannot vote in US elections. And, they only have one Representative in Washington, DC. The difference between the US government response to Harvey, versus Puerto Rico, is sobering. And, it was not just in funding. After the storm, Harvey victims received 4.5 million meals. Puerto Rico received 1.6 million in meals. Nine days after Harvey there were 30,000 rescue & support people in Houston. Nine days after Maria, there were 10,000 aide workers in Puerto Rico. FEMA planned to deliver 30 million meals to Puerto Rico! FEMA chose Tiffany Brown, an Atlanta entrepreneur with no experience in large-scale disaster relief and at least five canceled government contracts in her past. FEMA awarded her $156 million for the job. She delivered only 50,000 meals before she was canned.
- Contract Corruption was caused by Puerto Rico. From blaming the Puerto Rican’s for not delivering food and water, to accusing them of stealing aide money, the Puerto Rican people were criticized by conservatives and President Trump. Trump’s visit to Puerto Rico was an embarrassment to humanity. To say he rubbed people the wrong way is putting it kindly. Seven months after Maria there is widespread intense dislike of Donald Trump. The early contracts awards to some companies were not a result of corruption, but rather lack of options. Whitefish Energy got the initial contract to begin electrical repairs in Puerto Rico. Whitefish over charged for services. Whitefish did not get a sweetheart deal from Puerto Rico. At the time the bid was awarded, there were almost no other options. When other companies found out about the Whitefish contract they swam at them like Piranha’s. Everyone wanted a piece of the pie. And, these are American companies here.
- The Island is decimated. This is false. While their is major damage in the Central mountains of Puerto Rico, and the west coast of the island, there are many parts of Puerto Rico that are still accessible. San Juan, and the East Coast of Puerto Rico received less damage. However, there is only one hotel open on the West side of Puerto Rico. Visitors can still enjoy a great vacation experience. The beaches on the East side are mostly in tact. Puerto Rico’s tiny Islands of Vieques and Culebra were less damaged than the main Island.
- The El Yunque Rainforest, the only rainforest in Puerto Rico was heavily damaged. However, it too is bouncing back as crews have been working to open sections of it. Most island activities are also back to normal. Bottom line: the Island looks better than you might expect. You can still have a great time in Puerto Rico right now. Many volunteers are flocking to Puerto Rico to help. Voluntourism is popular.
Conclusion: Do not believe what you read and hear from afar. Travel to the beautiful Island of Puerto Rico and see for yourself. Things are slowly improving. And, the Puerto Rican’s who did not leave (Estimated around 500,00), are fighting hard for the Island they love so much. What do Puerto Ricans need? They need visitors. They need tourists. They need volunteers. They need our support and prayers.