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Crisis in Puerto Rico

Although destruction caused by Hurricane Maria may seem like old news, it is anything but for the people of Puerto Rico. The devastating hurricane made landfall on the island on Sept. 20, and citizens are still struggling to recover. Winds of the Category 4 storm reached up to 155 miles per hour. As of Oct. 29, the death toll is officially at 51 people, however this claim to disputed due to a lack of certainty surrounding causes of death post-natural disaster. Some outlets, such as Huffpost, estimate the death toll could be over 900 people. 30 percent of citizens are without access to clean drinking water and one in four people are still without power.

Many, such as San Juan Mayor Carmen Cruz, say that President Trump has not done enough to support Puerto Rico. As a territory of the United States, the island is is just as deserving of federal aid as Texas was following Hurricane Harvey. Critics say that Trump’s response to the still-rising death toll, lack of power, lack of  clean water and economic shutdown puts emphasis on what he means when he claims to put “America First.” He described the difficulty of aiding Puerto Rico following the crisis, saying that “this is an island surrounded by water, big water [sic], ocean water.”

The two most recent mortalities resulted from leptospirosis, a bacterial infection spread through animal urine which contaminated the drinking water. It is unclear at this time what actions are being taken to prevent further mortalities.

Latinos Unidos, a club on campus interested in providing a safe space on campus for students of all cultural and ethnic backgrounds, spoke to The Point News regarding the crisis. Club Coordinator Angel Reyes said on the issue, “Our national media hasn’t provided with (sic) enough coverage about the issue; Puerto Rico is not getting the same attention to their crisis,” and went on to add; “American media will only discuss superficial issues but are not mentioning the devastation in depth.”

Following Hurricane Harvey, St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) sent a truckload of supplies for the relief effort in Texas. Many students are interested in seeing the same effort extended by the school to the people of Puerto Rico, who are after all also American citizens.

Latinos Unidos hoped to see a similar effort made by the school. Reyes said, “We must start with our school. We have to apply the St. Mary’s way and help those in need. I think the best thing to do is do fundraisers, collect goods and help them financially.”

He says that the club has received emails from  students “of different backgrounds, some expressing that if we were able to help Texas, we could do the same for Puerto Rico,” and notes that he agrees.

Although the school has not yet made fundraiser efforts to benefit Puerto Rican citizens suffering through the devastating effects of the flood, the College announced on Oct. 21 that the Board of Trustees passed legislation granting in-state tuition rates to students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who were affected by the hurricane.

President Tuajanda C. Jordan stated that the College has “witnessed an outpouring of encouragement from our college community in support of initiating this relief for students affected by the hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands […] The College community — students, faculty, and staff — follows the St. Mary’s Way. The concept centers on respecting one another and the world around us. This initiative is the epitome of the St. Mary’s Way in action.”

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