Rodríguez Díaz, Carlos. “Maria in Puerto Rico: Natural Disaster in a Colonial Archipelago.” Am J Public Health 108, no.1 (January 2018): 30-2. Accessed January 21, 2018. DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2017.304198

Activists calling for support for the island of Puerto Rico in Los Angeles, California, one year and three days after Hurricane Maria ravaged the United States territory.
(Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

In this journal entry, Carlos Rodríguez Díaz explores one of the most devastating natural disasters to hit Puerto Rican soil was Hurricane Maria. A category 4 hurricane, Huracán María struck the archipelago island of Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017. Rodríguez Díaz expands that while completely wiping the island to almost nothing, this hurricane helped shed light on the violations that the United States enacts on Puerto Rican human rights. Throughout his work, Rodríguez Díaz demonstrates that much of the human rights issues in Puerto Rico are interrelated. Rodríguez Díaz clarifies that although Puerto Rico has been a territory of the United States since the Spanish-American War in 1898, Puerto Ricans on the islands lack complete representation in Congress. No voice in Congress means that the US does what it wants with Puerto Rico.

Rodríguez Díaz demonstrates how this US control over the island leads to things like the Economic Stability Act or PROMESA, an act that in times of natural disaster, like that of Hurricane Maria, limits the island’s ability to catalyze the movement of necessities like food, water and medication. Not only does Rodríguez Díaz establish the lack of response on behalf of the US government, but he goes more in depth to trace the reasons why Puerto Rico must depend so much on the United States and to figure out the ways in which the US is inhibiting the island’s ability to prosper and prepare more efficiently for natural disasters like that of Hurricane Maria.

Since I had always wanted to learn more about Puerto Rico, I figured that doing some research on Huracán María would lead to a variety of teachings. Examining this natural disaster and its effects on the island has allowed me to learn about the unity of Puerto Ricans in and out of the island, since Rodríguez Díaz explains the critical role of Puerto Rican diaspora. Furthermore, this source also provides a concrete view of the ways that the United States violates the rights owed to Puerto Rico as a territory and to Puerto Ricans as humans. Rodríguez Díaz’s work does a great job correlating the distinct ways that Puerto Ricans are being stripped of their human rights–whether that be through the lack of representation in a government that they constitute, through their inability to declare bankruptcy despite being $100 billion dollars in debt because of policies that the United States implements, or through the thousands of deaths the island faces because the federal government refuses to increase resources or provide immediate aide to combat the health inequities that Hurricane Maria exponentiated. An investigation of this event demonstrates a direct violation of human rights—the United States inability to provide the people of Puerto Rico housing, health care services, food, sanitation, clean water, and a list of other basic needs.


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