September 20, 2017 is a date that no Puerto Rican, mainlander or islander will forget. That was the day Hurricane Maria changed everything and marked our history forever. Thanks to Hurricane Maria, I lost someone very important to me, my grandfather. However, I refuse to think of my grandfather as a statistic but rather as a hardworking, dark skin man who loved his family and his land. Unfortunately, his death led me to take the first plane out to Puerto Rico.
I’m not sure if I should begin my story with the plane ride or when I got back to the island? So, I will start with the plane ride because that was one I will never forget. I have been traveling through plane since before I can walk. There are only two plane rides that marked my life. One was the plane ride that forced me to abandon Puerto Rico when I was 13. The second was the plane ride full of Puerto Ricans, doctors and priests nervously waiting to land in the island of enchantment post-Maria. The woman next to me was explaining that she brought two XL boxes, one with food and the other with batteries. She told me that her mother had not been able to find water and so she was going to travel out to different towns in hopes of finding drinkable water. The man in front of us explained how his children lost their house and everything in it. He said he sobbed for days because he had no idea how to help or if they were even safe when all communication dropped. Then, I shared my story and appreciated them not giving their condolences but understanding my pain. All of our stories were different but we had very few things in common. The first thing was, we all were going to Puerto Rico without a plane ticket back to the United States. The second thing was, we all lost something, whether it was hope, patience or a loved one. We did not know if we were going to lose anything else while we were there. The plane ride was silent for the rest of the time until we arrived. We all felt as if the small plane seats were swallowing us whole. Eating what was left of us to spit us back out. Once we arrived we all parted different ways. If they ever find this blog post, I hope your families are okay, your faith restored, your happiness untouched and your loved ones with beating hearts.
Getting off the plane was somber experience as well. I will never forget how abnormally hot it was considering the time of the year. The atmosphere was suffocating or maybe it was my anxiety taking over me. When we got to the airport it was pitch black. You could not see your hand even if it was right in front of your face. The airport had no generators which meant no source of electricity. All of us gasped in shock, we knew that what we were going to encounter was going to be way worse than what we imagined. In the mean time, my anxiety converted into anger. I am not sure if it was anger towards God, if there is a God. Maybe anger towards the 500 years of colonization that has stripped my island naked. Maybe anger towards myself for not having superpowers to fix everything and not see our island or our people suffer. But I was sure about something, I was pissed off and I still am.
As we exited the airport we realized our phones had no service. No service anywhere, no way to contact our families to let them know we had arrived. We grabbed a van that took us to the car rental place. As we got there we were told that all federal agents have taken all rentals. They take all rentals, all hotel rooms, all the first airplanes to a land they do not know, to a land they might not even care about, to a land that is not theirs. While us who are lost in the diaspora are in agony and pain dying to simply see our loved ones. But all federal agents have everything booked as if they are doing something, as if they have cleaned the roads, as is they have helped reestablish the signal towers, as if they have have been doing something miraculous. Almost a month after Maria and the roads were still a mess, there was no electricity, no clean water, the signal towers were not fully reestablished and people were still dying. So many federal agents and the federal aid was so slow, you had families burying their loved ones in the backyard. There was no help.
Days after my grandfather’s burial, I stood with my family in line for food and water. We were being marked on our hands as if we were animals, then we were given a box of military food with a half case of water. My friends and family have been eating military food for weeks at that point. They were tired. We were all tired. Every person who has ever fought for human and civil rights was tired. Every person who has lost their life for liberation of all the oppressed was tired. Exhausted. I will not give anymore detail about my trip since it still is very draining and difficult for me to talk about.
Three months after Maria, the death toll is still being falsified, people are still dying, the American rich has created an Exodus, gentrification is the new style, and The US government is creating a slow genocide. I have 500 years of anger built up.
500 years of rape and genocide.
500 years of enslavement of the body and the mind.
500 years of a “white savior”.
500 years of mothers wiping the blood off the floors of their unborn children because of experimentation.
500 years worth of experimenting on the campesinos and campesinas.
500 years worth of trying to dilute our culture.
500 years worth of unsuccessful forced assimilation.
500 years worth of trying to live in a land that is not theirs.
500 years of trying to learn the tongues that are not ours but of our two oppressors.
500 years worth of the mistreatment of our bodies and minds.
500 years of slow genocide.
500 years of killings.
500 years of pain.
500 years of lucha.
500 years of resilience.
500 years worth of anger.
500 years later we are still alive.
500 years later we have a crippling debt.
500 years later we are known worldwide.
500 years later we are still the most impoverished Latinx group in the United States.
500 years later Maria hit.
500 years later the U.S. tries to diminish us again.
500 years later we are still alive.
500 years later we are still fighting.
500 years plus another 500 more we will be here.
500 years later my ancestors are still pissed off. I carry 500 years worth of anger on my shoulders.
All these pictures belong to me.