A Year After Maria Passed, "¿Puerto Rico se levantó?"

We are finally in the month of September, peak of hurricane season. This month means that a year has passed since Hurricane Maria. A year that has been full of changes, of sad moments and moments of despair. What has happened throughout this year?  Puerto Rico se ha levantado? This hurricane undeniably marked the lives of an entire country. It changed the perspective of a future for many and stole it from others without consent. Hurricane María took away the cloak that covered us, leaving our vulnerable corners in the sunlight.

The estimated number of deaths after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico is 4,645, according to research at Harvard University. More recently, another study released the figure of 3,000 dead after the phenomenon. Three thousand people who gave their last breath at the lowest point of the island. The figure covers different types of causes of death due to the passage of the hurricane, and also due to the bad administration after it. Although these numbers took months to come to light, it created insecurity and distrust of the government. The president of the United States made his comments known on the tweeter platform, letting everyone know that he does not recognize the number of deaths as the official death toll. He clarifies that, for him, nothing really happened on the island and the emergency was handled with total success.

This mistrust is fueled by news such as the discovery of wagons. These wagons mysteriously appeared after many months, full of supplies that were highly requested by people with terrible needs on the island. Puerto Rico spent several months struggling with the scarce resources of basic and necessary items, including food and water. Families and people queued unimaginably long lines to enter the supermarkets 20 to 20 only to finally enter the store and realize that the aisles were empty. It is really a frustration for all the citizens who lived experiences like these and outrageous for the people who did not have access to even the few open shops, to know that the aid had arrived on the island but not to their homes.

If we continue to list loose ends after Hurricane Maria, we can mention the 13,314 subscribers of AAE who still do not have electricity services. All those houses and families have been in the dark for a year, living day after day one day at a time with the hope that electric power will soon reach their homes, feeling forgotten. The amount of suffering that these people must be going through after so much time is inhumane. Those that depend on power plants have had to make economic sacrifices to be able to do basic and necessary things. There are also all those who still live under a blue roof. The island still has a worrying number of people who depend on one of FEMA's blue awnings to keep the rain out, and their worst nightmare is to lose their roof again. This is the result of the little financial help that was seen from FEMA because the money they offered to these citizens was not enough.

Among all the things that Maria did to us, it also affected us all emotionally. Our mental health was put to the test during such difficult months. The number of suicides in 2017 culminated in a number of 253 of which it is estimated that almost 70 of the cases may have been due to the post-hurricane crisis. The reality is that we all know that something has changed in us since then. Our thoughts go straight to Hurricane Maria every time it rains or every time a road floods. We are all more aware of life and our mortality after these past events.

It has been a year of many things happening at the same time. Dragging truths, that the government tried to hide to light, surviving in need, starting from scratch for many and gradually returning to "normality." The island is still vulnerable and it’s clear that it is not ready to go through everything again. Every day that passes, we continue to hear about cases of people and families who still need immediate help. The thing is, if Puerto Rico realmente se levantó, I think it's not ready to fall again. So hold on tight, get ready, and let's see how the near future will treat us.


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