Puerto Rico is third in a chain of large islands off the U.S. mainland whose history goes back to the Christopher Columbus’ expedition that brought Europe to America. The first island off the coast of Florida is Cuba followed by Hispaniola that includes the Dominican Republic, Haiti and then Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico was acquired after the 1898 Spanish American War that represents this country’s most prominent attempt to become a colonial empire following the lead of the European states. The territories ceded by Spain to the United States included Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam.
It is ironic that both Puerto Rico and Guam are in the news for different reasons. Guam is not liked by Kim Jong-Un of North Korea because it has the American military bases that most threaten his regime and Puerto Rico is not liked by President Trump because it is Latino.
On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti and created a disaster of epic proportions. The United States immediately responded with 8,000 airborne troops to set up a major rescue attempt. Within two weeks, some 22,000 soldiers, 300 helicopters and 33 U.S. ships arrived to help.
“By contrast, eight days after Hurricane Maria ripped across neighboring Puerto Rico, just 4,400 service members were participating in federal operations to assist the devastated island...In addition, about 1,000 Coast Guard members were aiding the efforts” along with 50 helicopters.
The significant differences in those responses are rather obvious. What is perplexing is that help to ten million Haitians who are just our neighbors was immediate and overwhelming while, for whatever reasons, help to 3.4 million American citizens close by was really not forthcoming.
Once Hurricane Harvey came ashore and headed to Houston, the response from the public and private sectors was immediate. These same two sectors responded to Hurricane Irma in Florida even before the storm arrived.
Puerto Rico was hit by both Irma and Maria and the people had no where to go. With everything down including the ability to communicate, the island has the most needs and yet gets so little attention, except from the governor of Florida where these citizens will most likely go to swell the voting rolls when they are able to leave home.
When Donald Trump opened his campaign for President, he made sure to let everyone know that he did not like Mexicans so that those that shared his views could join the cause. During his campaign he took time to mix his private business with politics by accusing a Latino federal judge that was to rule on Trump University fraud case of being a Mexican as if the term was a bad and disqualifying word.
Recently instead of dealing with the emergency in Puerto Rico, he first chose to take on the mostly Black NFL players accusing them of being unpatriotic for taking a knee during the national anthem. In this, Trump is much like Nero who played the fiddle while Rome burned.
When the President’s attention did turn to Puerto Rico it was first to take the island to task for their economic ills and then for wanting help from others rather than helping themselves. It is much like blaming the victim.
Don Juan in the works of Carlos Castaneda talks about needing your enemies because their attacks polishes your spirit to shine brighter. Although the President does not qualify as an enemy, his words and actions show he just does not like Puerto Rico.