I live in Puerto Rico, and sometimes I think of myself as an “expat” despite that Puerto Rico is a United States territory and I do not need a VISA to live here. However the culture is completely opposite of the USA in so many wonderful ways.
When I say “wonderful ways” there are also down sides to living in Puerto Rico, and I am not implying that the USA does not have many good qualities as there are pros and cons in both places.
However after living in Puerto Rico for the last year, I have had time to consider the pros and cons and I feel more at home in Puerto Rico than in any place that I have lived in my life, and that is to say a lot as I have lived all over the USA, from Hawaii to the USVI and I have visited every state except for Alaska and I have spent a lot of time over seas.
Now after surviving in Puerto Rico post-Hurricane Maria, it is even more obvious to me what the qualities that I enjoy in Puerto Rico are. Some of these things I began to take for granted, and now I am more and more thankful for this unique culture than ever before.
For example, when we first moved to our latest home in Puerto Rico, without even knowing anyone in the neighborhood, many of our neighbors came to our home with food for our family. This was a huge relief to us as well, because we had not yet bought a stove to cook on. Having hot meals were such a huge blessing to us for the first week that we were there. Then even after that we exchanged meals with our neighbors. Post-Hurricane we are still sharing the hospitality of the Puerto Rican culture. Our neighborhood after the storm is alive with kindness and hospitality, people with no food in their storage were well fed, people that had food had those with other necessities sharing and exchanging items. There was so much of this neighborly love and everyone treats everyone like family, even the new gringo family.
There has been a lot of political back and forth between Puerto Rico and the US. The mayor of the capitol city of Puerto Rico Carmen Yulín Cruz criticized the US response to the tragedy and in turn Trump took to twitter to insult her and all Puerto Ricans so it seemed, as to imply that Puerto Ricans want the US government to do everything for them. I was taken aback with this statement and I became angry for my first time ever with Trump. Previous to this statement I was supporting Trump in hopes that he would be better than other career politicians, but it seems like it is the same ol’ same ol’ political lip service, with a dash of insults.
What I can say about Puerto Rico is that this culture takes care of it’s own. Despite that we are a US territory with such trade tariffs as the Jones Act imposed on us and despite that this was the worst storm in the history in the Atlantic ocean, still Puerto Ricans are pulling together. We are currently staying in a refugee shelter that was setup by local jurisdictions at a community sports and recreation center. After trying and trying to get information from FEMA and the Red Cross and even visiting them in person, I could not get any help from either group. However when I found a representative from the tourist agency in Puerto Rico and she was able to give me guidance to one of the 139 shelters that have been setup in the area.
Beyond the help at the shelters that have been setup by the community, we simply receive a lot of love from the people here. Lots of loves and hugs from people who just want to care for their fellow neighbor.
The destruction in Puerto Rico is absolutely breath taking. I have never saw anything so tragic in my life. I watched other hurricane aftermath on the news, such as Katrina and other major hurricanes. But what I have saw on the ground was so unbelievable that I had to capture what I have saw with my drone, and nothing compares to this devestation.
It has also been misreported, lately by Trump and in the past by the main stream media that our death toll here if very low. However we know for a fact that in the town of Lajas alone that at least 100 people have died as a direct result of the storm and this is a town of only 25,000 people. There have been a lot of deaths in hospitals where supplies are running low and where power was not available.
Our communications are almost completely offline as of October 8th 2017, according to www.status.pr less than 15% of our cellular communications are online in the territory. This has caused a disconnect in the reporting of the death toll as well. We know that the death toll for the entire territory is in the hundreds if not more, but there are a lot of places inaccessible in the area at this point and it may not be fully known how many people died for weeks or months.
As our house was blown to pieces and we lost everything, we are trying to regroup. However we know what God takes away, He typically gives back in abundance. There will be good and bad things that come of this storm. Lots of tragedy that has taken place here, but in the long run it has really brought this community together and made us stronger in Puerto Rico.
“its about family and not politics”
UPDATE; After writing this article, about one hour later we had the first lady of Puerto Rico visit the shelter that we are in with pizza from Dominos, as can be viewed in the photos above. The culture here is so warm and amazing, it just gets better. I LOVE PUERTO RICO!