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Hurricane Fiona Hit Puerto Rico… Why Is No One Talking About It?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at VCU chapter.

Island-wide power outages, at least four Puerto Ricans dead, entire bridges uprooted, completely flooded roads, catastrophic landslides, and upwards of over 24 inches of rain, but we are still hung up on the death of Queen Elizabeth who had no jurisdiction over us Americans in her lifetime. Although I mildly understand the glamor and otherworldly appeal of the (constitutional) monarchy across the Atlantic, Hurricane Fiona had other plans as the period of mourning commenced miles away. 

Early Monday, Sept. 19 marked not only a day short of the five-year anniversary of the devastation left behind by Hurricane Maria in 2017 but also cemented the peak of hurricane season as Fiona left Puerto Rico in disarray. Many were left without power, transportation, food, gas, water and every other basic humanitarian right. With many Puerto Ricans questioning the leadership of their Governor Pedro Pierluisi, the already fragile infrastructure of the island was hit again as Maria’s effects years before were still prevalent as the island’s recovery was still in its infancy. Tuesday afternoon, however, was a glimmer of hope although extremely minimal as one in five households around the island regained power as Fiona continued her path of devastation deeper into the Caribbean. However, everyone else was either left in the dark or left to rely on generators for a level of comfortability. 

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Photo by Alejandro Granadillo/AP/Shutterstock

Keeping in mind this is a territory of one of the most powerful countries and nations in the history of modern human civilization, the United States, many Americans only know the island’s status in relation to their ability to travel there and soak up the culture without having to get a passport stamped upon arrival. Not only is Puerto Rico neglected and misrepresented at all levels of government, but it also should not be a surprise that hurricane season comes EVERY year and the island is constantly in danger of a complete shutdown. My first exposure to this anticipation and preparation for the predictable worse was through a TikTok by @sweethearthalia that she titled “Come Get Ready For a Tropical Storm In Puerto Rico” prior to Fiona’s status change to a severe hurricane. In the TikTok, she states the island’s leadership “cuts off the power for anything” highlighting the instability and unreliability of the island’s power sources during a storm season known to attack the area every year.

This issue of Puerto Rican neglect respectively comes down to a handful of issues, all of which however collectively come down to the island’s status of “United States Territory.” With this “territory versus state” issue through the lens of the United States government and constitution, it is important to define these statuses with a U.S. territory being “an organized division of a country that is not yet admitted to the full rights of a state” and a state being a “constituent political entity in the United States, of which there are currently 50.” On the other hand, the country has a total of five major territories that they have “collected” throughout its, for lack of better words, “interesting” expansionist history: American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This status affects these territories’ ability to maintain self-sufficient wealth, and most importantly advocate for equality at a national level! 

Although this status issue is complicated and divides the people of Puerto Rico politically, economically and socially (which I can see firsthand within my own family), it is worth it to discuss and realize there has to be a change.

Do Puerto Ricans not deserve equal natural disaster relief under the United States? 

Does the Queen’s death of natural causes and old age outweigh the at least four nearly UNAVOIDABLE deaths of Puerto Ricans at the hands of a natural disaster?

Taylor Carey is a passionate writer and global citizen majoring in History and minoring in Political Science here at Virginia Commonwealth University. Taylor enjoys traveling, is a huge foodie and focuses her writing on social issues and current events. When she is not writing you can catch her fulfilling her Vice Presidential role as a Sigma Sigma Sigma sister and officer, cooking her favorite foods or in the Cabell Library working ahead on her homework!