PUERTO RICO — ‘Ricky Renuncia!’ ‘Wanda, aquí el pueblo manda!’ ‘HABLA!!!’
Those words painted themselves onto the cardboard on one building in San Juan, where the windows used to be. Smaller, yet just as important, words were written. And seeing them only proves the point even more: It’s a crisis. The cries of the past are no more. No one is crying. Everyone is yelling. The people are fighting. Puerto Rico is in the middle of a revolution.
First thing I saw as I stepped out of the airport and onto the van to the car rental, was destruction. Buildings were abandoned. It wasn’t the Puerto Rico I grew up visiting. It was a third world country. It was is a colony of the United States of America.
It’s been four years since I’ve returned to Puerto Rico. And to put it into perspective, it isn’t like the U.S. It never was and it never will be. It is el campo in some areas and vibrant in all.
Its beautiful waters stretched across the soft, warm sand. The sun touches the skin heavily. The trees… some haven’t recovered after Hurricane María.
After María, Puerto Rico has never been the same. It’s been almost two years since the hurricane hit and millions of Americans were affected. Homes were destroyed, gas stations over flowing, and hundreds dead.
Several parts of Puerto Rico look like a war zone hit. Exaggerating? Not at all. Upsetting? Extremely.
Puerto Rico saw 3 different people take the title of Governor of Puerto Rico. One of which, his position while in office for a whopping 5 days, remains questionable and deemed unconstitutional. Which led to the swearing in of Wanda Vázquez Garced, the former Secretary of Justice of Puerto Rico.
But, it happened. And San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, remains the location where hundreds of thousands of Puerto Rican’s continue to use their first amendment right and protest.
Before cutting the San Juan visit short because of an emergency, I witnessed police officers preparing themselves, and the streets, for protests. Few dozens of people gathered on parts of the streets, by a Catholic Church, in preparation of protests. Cars were diverted to certain areas as it was after 3 P.M. on a Friday, and the weekend had begun.
Puerto Rican flags hung on apartment windows. Police guarded the governor’s mansion heavily… though, there were areas that could’ve used more guards. Yet, the casual conversations of some in one area prevented the protection of other areas.
The food, though. The food hasn’t changed. It brought people together and it smelled… unbelievably delicious. But, the small businesses are suffering. How do you tell tourists to go support these small businesses when there’s so many? They’re everywhere. And they need us, especially in areas outside of San Juan.
We visited El Paseo de la Princesa before we docked our cruise and the site of small businesses, the sound of merengue, and the smell of the clear water was astounding.
If you ever get the chance to buy from local businesses, please do. Be a tourist. Being Puerto Rican is a gift, a blessing. We bought jewelry that symbolized our history. Our culture. A necklace with a coqui, a necklace with a machete and a coquí (PUERTO RICO LIBRE!), and brackets with coquí’s/the Puerto Rican flag/Taíno symbols.
Point is: Puerto Rico is strong and resilient. But, they need our support.
America, wake up.