Sylvia de Jesús Says Puerto Rico Still Needs Help

Sylvia de Jesús came to Boston University this January with a warm smile that makes those around her immediately feel welcome. She is a freshman in CGS from San Juan, Puerto Rico and speaks passionately and proudly about her Puerto Rican roots. Sylvia shares her thoughts on Hurricane Maria and why we can’t forget that Puerto Rico needs help.

 

What was your personal experience with Hurricane Maria?

The hurricane occurred less than a month after I had moved to Miami for my gap semester. I was not physically in Puerto Rico, and it hurt not to be able to be there. My mom told me that we would lose connection at some point, but we didn't know exactly when. My mom lives on the 12th floor of a condominium, so I thought it would be safer than being in a house. Even then, the hurricane was so strong there ended up being a hole in my room. My bathroom window fell and shattered, and the front door blew open. My apartment started to flood, and the building was swaying back and forth, so my mom went to the emergency staircase and stayed there until it was okay to come out. By the time she went to the staircase, she had lost signal. Luckily, we live next to many hotels, and my mom was able to contact people sooner than many others on the island. The area I live in completely flooded, trees had fallen down, many businesses were damaged, and the sand from the beach made its way very far inland. The school I had gone to for 14 years was closed for about a week, but that does not compare to the damage in other areas, which was far worse.

 

The image below is the view from Sylvia’s home.

 

 

How do you feel about the efforts that have been made to help Puerto Rico since the hurricane?

Initially, there was a very large amount of help and goods sent to the island, which was greatly due to the media coverage presented around the world. Ultimately, the problem on the island was the distribution of goods because many of the roads were not cleared or were destroyed. There was even a lack of gasoline. My grandma called me two weeks after the hurricane saying that she had waited in line at the gas station for about six hours and was not even able to fill her tank up completely because they had put limits on every person. Many people experienced medical problems, but hospitals didn’t have electricity, putting many people's lives in danger. People on the island rushed to the airport to grab the first ticket out, but it would take days to get any flights off of the island. It has been about six months since the hurricane, and the media no longer prominently features the problems in Puerto Rico. There are still efforts to help, but many people, like me, feel as if that help has declined even though the island still needs just as much aid.

 

Like you said, the hurricane isn’t prominently featured like it was before. Why is it important that people don’t forget about it and continue to help?

It is definitely important for people to not forget what happened. To this day, people still have power outages because electricity lines are not stabilized, and many traffic lights do not work. Puerto Rico is far from returning to normal, and the people who don’t live there forgot what occurred on September 20, 2017. Puerto Rico is a part of the United States and deserves better recognition so people outside the island become more aware of our situation. People are still suffering. Some people actually don’t know that Puerto Rico is part of the United States. I went to the post office in Boston renew my passport, and the woman working there told me she couldn’t help because I wasn’t a U.S. citizen even though I am.

 

Photo credit: nydailynews.com

 

What would you tell people to keep them from forgetting about the hurricane and to keep them involved in the relief efforts?

People should be involved in helping and be aware of the situation. I would tell people to not forget about the millions struggling every day to make ends meet. Puerto Rico has suffered enough in the past economically, but now with the hurricane, it is going to be even harder to lift ourselves back up. We are no longer in the top headlines, but actively searching about the situation and spreading the word on the current state of the island is very important. It is important to keep up to date on the efforts being made and to take action because it is going to take a long time before Puerto Rico recovers.

 

Sylvia hopes to move back to Puerto Rico after college. She loves living there for the weather and food, and “the social life is so vibrant and based on so many Puerto Rican traditions.” Her favorite reason of all though is “because of the people; they are so warm and welcoming like one big family.”

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