28 Sep Statement in support of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria
In the wake of the devastation and destruction wrought by Hurricane Maria, the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault is concerned about the safety, health, and dignity of our familia on the island of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
In particular, it is impossible to understand Puerto Rico’s current devastation without historical context. For over 400 years, the island of Puerto Rico (Boriken) has been under colonial rule. First, under the Spanish and then in 1898, the United States. Within a few short decades of American colonized rule, the island had been systematically stripped of its culture, the means of economic self-determination, and the sovereignty of its people. The US Virgin Islands also has a painful history of colonization and dehumanization.
The current economic crisis that Puerto Rico is enduring is a direct result of early racist and colonial policies put in place by Congress. Paired with the overwhelming debt and one hundred and fifty years of American colonial rule, Hurricane Maria bulldozed the island destroying communities, homes, roads, and phone lines. The island is currently without electricity, water and food. Less than 16 hospitals are open and functioning with electricity and clean water. All schools and universities have been closed indefinitely. The roads cannot be travelled on and there is no public transportation across the island. Emergency shelters are either at capacity or completely destroyed. There is a shortage of diesel, which is used to fuel the too few generators. The same picture is painted for the US Virgin Islands, some who have been without food for days. The islands, and their people, are facing months of scarcity and instability.
And yet, the US Government has been slow to act. We saw how the government quickly rushed to the aid of Florida and Texas after the recent hurricanes. The difference in how Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands are treated in the wake of disaster is telling. We at NYSCASA want to assure the people of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands that we see them and their dignity matters. We implore the US Government to waive transportation costs for those who are trying to get to a safer place. We encourage Americans here on the mainland to consider all the needs of our Caribbean familia, including the increased risk of sexual violence and domestic violence after a nature disaster. We stand in solidarity with our sister coalition in Puerto Rico, Coalición Puertorriqueña Contra la Violencia Doméstica y Agresión Sexual, and with our sister coalition in the US Virgin Islands, the Women’s Coalition of St. Croix, who are working tirelessly to support the needs of the islands.
Please consider donating to Coalición Puertorriqueña Contra la Violencia Doméstica y Agresión Sexual here: https://www.paypal.com/donateCPM
Please consider donating to the Women’s Coalition of St. Croix here: https://wcstx.thankyou4caring.org/
Our friends and family on the islands have specifically asked to not give to the Red Cross. More places to give or donate can be found here.