Up until just before Hurricane Irma hit Florida, Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh maintained that the media and others have taken advantage of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma to create a hoax designed to convince the public that climate-change is real. However, as soon as Hurricane Irma was a couple of hundred miles away, he vacated his home in Florida and left for parts unknown.
I have never thought much about relating hurricanes to climate-change as I have seen them more as dangerous monsters that one would want to avoid. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma however, have me thinking more and more about the symbolic meaning of a hurricane that affected the history of our family.
Symbols abound in our family including the fact that my father was born in 1910, the same year of the reappearance of Haley’s Comet and the same year that ushered in the Revolution that established the foundations of modern Mexico. As a symbol, the 1933 hurricane in South Texas served as one of those moments that changed the trajectory of family history and eventually sent so many of our members to meander around the country as migrant workers and settle somewhere else.
Numerous times, I heard my father describe in detail the family efforts to survive what he called “El chubasco del 33,” the event known officially as the category 5 Cuba-Brownsville Hurricane that destroyed South Texas on Labor-Day weekend in 1933. One of his vivid memories was of the adults using heavy ropes to tie the children to heavy farm implements so that the wind would not blow them away.
Newspaper reports on the 1933 hurricane listed 40 dead, 500 injured and the loss of 90 percent of the Rio Grande Valley’s citrus crop. The devastation came on top of the on-going Great Depression and insured that the poor in South Texas would go hungry that winter.
Ironically, 1933 was also the year that President Roosevelt took office promising a “New Deal” that never really materialized in the Valley. My father talked about looking around the cluster of rural homes outside La Feria, Texas that winter to see the houses that had smoke coming out of their chimneys, a sign that there was still food to eat.
After the tragedy of 1933, the reality sank in dictating the departure of the family from home perhaps never to return. World War II provided a respite as work in Rio Grande Valley farms to support the war effort was plentiful for its duration. But that only delayed the inevitable as after the war the family spread out across the country to live somewhere else.
The appearance of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma comes during a period of an intense national debate on climate-change. Much of the world is on-board around the notion that the environment is being seriously affected by man’s ways of creating energy.
In this country, the differing visions have turned political as for many, the extraction industry is revered because it is a symbol of a time when the dwindling majority was in solid charge of the country and its institutions. Many in the growing minority communities do participate in the conversation, but their voice is muted because it would change the narrative about who is in control.
In any case, mother nature is intervening in a catastrophic effort to show us the cost of the progress we have made. It appears that climate-change is real and before us is the evidence to prove it.