Message From Madeline to Donald: “You are Bullying the People”

See also at Common Dreams

This is an island surrounded by water, big water, ocean water — Donald Trump, INDEPENDENT, September 29, 2017.

This is a three-part photo essay accompanying an article by Stan and Paul Cox, titled ‘Vulnerable Americans Are Still Trapped in the Ruins Left by Hurricane Maria.’

Superpower Neglect: There’s Something About a Neighbor (part 3)

The United States government would rather have us remain silent about who we might meet with and talk to in Puerto Rico about Hurricane Maria, the destruction it caused, and how the mainland responded…

 

IMG_5171…such as always-smiling Fela Suren who says she’s “80-something.” She wasn’t in her house when Maria made landfall, but was staying with a friend. She said she started screaming “Ahhhhhhh!” when the hurricane struck, and she doesn’t wish to see anything like another Maria ever again. She laughs and adds that she wants to go to the United States…

 

IMG_5188…or remain silent about Fela’s undrinkable green tap water that she says she only bathes with…

 

 

 

…or the papaya and gandules trees that she planted in her yard…

 

Untitled 3…or this montage of her roofless, destroyed home that includes a makeshift bedroom in her kitchen with the boarded window…

 

IMG_5175…or the pods from her gandules trees that lie strewn about on the dirt and that she sweeps off with her pink broom and breaks into a broken white cup to cook with and eat…

 

IMG_5202…or, maybe while she sits, waiting for people from the church that “adopted” her to come and put new windows into her unfinished home…

 

IMG_5158…or this inside-out-home with a sign that says ‘No Toque’ (Do Not Touch), because of the mistaken belief that “FEMA is coming…”

 

IMG_5248…or this Maria-brush-picket-fence…

 

IMG_5060 (1)…or this photo of then-young, now-96-year-old Juana San Miguel with her mother Evarista Diaz and stepdad Alfonzo Cruz…

 

IMG_5057…or about our guide and translator Madeline Flores Tenazoa (left), Juana San Miguel (center), or Victoria Febás…

 

IMG_5061.jpg…and the fact that Juana, who will turn 97 this May and worked in a garment factory for 30 years, never missed a day’s work in her life; or that Victoria worked for the government as a nurse, and they both live on social security and are two of the elderly people who are the majority in Sierra Brava. “We have good neighbors here” says Juana. Both of them live by themselves, and neither of them drive or have a car. “Almost all old people here,” says Madeline. “Every time they [the neighbors] check if they need something” from the supermarket, or any other help…

 

IMG_5074…or that Victoria, who, framed by portraits of her family on the wall behind her, can be seen here, smiling, wearing her beloved chihuahua Lindita on her right wrist like an oversize bracelet, and with her left hand holding a photo of her son, Ramon, who, like Wilma’s son, Juan Carlos (see part 1), serves in the United States Army…

 

IMG_5070…or the sticker next to the rippling wall-paint showing signs of water seepage, that says ‘There’s something about a soldier.’ Madeline tells us that Victoria’s neighbor, who was living across the street, had to leave because he, like many, couldn’t find a job in Sierra Brava. She said that he did a lot for Victoria. If she needed anything from the supermarket, for instance, she only had to cross the street and ask him and he would bring whatever she needed. But now she has to wait for her daughter to come from San Juan to go to the supermarket. “There’s something about a soldier” works great in the U.S. mainland where cowards make the rules and young citizens like Ramon who fought in Afghanistan serve and die for them. But in the island territory of Puerto Rico, “There’s something about a neighbor” rings more true…

 

IMG_5229…or this piece of land where Madeline’s grandmother’s old house stood. “My grandmother [was] born here…When I came [to live here] I was only 11 days old, and my grandmother was living here with her mom. We had [two] big trees here,” says Madeline, and the day that Maria struck, they fell and “broke the house in two pieces.” Her cousin — who had bought the old house — was here during Maria. When the house was destroyed, Madeline says “my grandmother went crazy… she told everybody she needed to come to see [for herself] what happened, and she started crying! crying!… the house is not the same, now it’s a new house… she say I passed all my life there, and my dad died there, I saw mama die there…” (La Plena, Puerto Rico)

 

IMG_5098…or about Madeline’s grandmother, 78-year-old Milagros Colón, whose home in Sierra Brava was also destroyed by the hurricane. Madeline tells us that “the tree fell [through the roof] and the water came inside from the river and she lost everything. They [FEMA] came, but my grandmother she doesn’t speak English. How’s she gonna talk with him. How?” Later, “they send the letter [saying] you qualify only for $400, but what’re you going to pay [for all that was destroyed] with $400? Madeline says that the tree was on Milagros’ bedroom side of the house and when it fell, the bedroom window came crashing down on her grandmother’s bed. “Thank God she wasn’t here! [when it happened.] I was in the United States, but I called my grandmother [and told her] you please don’t stay in the house. My uncle lives in an apartment on the second floor.” She says Milagros wanted to stay but Madeline insisted “you can go [there], you need to go!… She says she feels the consequences [of the disaster] now,” a year and a half later…

 

Untitled 4…or about what many Puerto Rican’s felt about Donald Trump’s hurricane-response behavior. “If you see what happened when Trump came, and, he laugh, everybody laugh, with the paper towel. Ah, you can get this [paper towels], like… this?! You can clean your nose with this, but how I’m gonna to repair my house?… A lot of people were like ‘ha! ha! ha! oh, this is funny!’ It’s not funny. You are bullying the people.” Madeline alludes to Donald putting bully words in peoples’ mouths. Especially the children. “We need to repair everybody’s [houses]…he’s the first man [she laughs] and you do this with the people?…when the hurricane passed, a lot of kids’ parents [couldn’t] buy clothes again. They can’t buy backpacks, notebooks… and a lot of kids go like, ‘oh, your mom can’t buy you this? I have this!’…We need to stop. But it’s the same when you see in the news the government behaved the same with us! You try to tell the kids, ‘you need to stop [bullying]’, but they see the news, they see stuff in Facebook and they want to repeat…”

 

IMG_5250…or of this tough little tree in Central Aguirre that’s hanging on to precious life through the few roots that Maria spared it…

Madeline ends with, “A lot of people come from the United States and other places, want to see the water and they want to go to eat next to the water and they say oh! this is so beautiful, but when the hurricane passed? it wasn’t so good for the people.” And how — now that the 2017 Hurricane Maria doesn’t make the news anymore — she, and others, believe that people “over there” (in the mainland) “say ah! maybe the people they got everything again. No. No. No. They need… five years more to come up. If everything continue like this? maybe 10!”

Please click on links below for part 1 & 2:

Superpower Neglect: Casting Shadows, Still (part 1)

Superpower Neglect: A Theater of Injustice (part 2)

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“Maria! Maria! Nos Destruyó Maria!”

See also on CounterPunch

Maria! Maria! nos destruyó Maria! (Maria! Maria! it was Maria that destroyed us!) — Socoro Rolon, Sierra Brava, Salinas, Puerto Rico, February 5.

This is a three-part photo essay accompanying an article by Stan and Paul Cox, titled ‘Vulnerable Americans Are Still Trapped in the Ruins Left by Hurricane Maria.’

Superpower Neglect: A Theater of Injustice (part 2)

Socorro is right. Maria did devastate Puerto Rico. But it was the U.S. government that spent more than a century rendering Puerto Rico vulnerable to such a disaster and then failed to mount an adequate recovery effort.

The detritus of superpower neglect is something to behold. But no matter how much we residents of the mainland are trying to ignore it, the stillness of that detritus is screaming at us…

 

IMG_5046…through the once-driven cars and lived-in houses that line Sierra Brava’s empty streets…

 

IMG_5051…and the brightly colored, destroyed hopes, and the half constructed grey hopes that lie side by side, waiting, waiting for FEMA…

 

IMG_4970…the teachers who lost jobs when nine area schools closed down, and the overwhelming desire of some of their students not to stay in Puerto Rico… (mural detail, Parque AA De Salinas, Puerto Rico)

 

IMG_5161…through an open door of one of these schools where a homeless person or family and their belongings appear to be taking shelter…

 

IMG_4971…the kids who saw all that rain start falling on September 20 and wanted to go out and play in it, not knowing what horrors would follow. One day… two days… one week… two weeks… one month… four months with no power, no water, and the sinking realization in their little hearts that something terrible has happened. And today, every time the power goes out they get hurricane flashbacks, and no school psychologists to talk with… (mural detail, Parque AA De Salinas, Puerto Rico)

 

IMG_5221…through a small used-to-be clinic in La Plena, where one doctor used to show up once a week, and which now looks like a clinic out of a Dr. Seuss book with cactuses growing on the roof, and comején (termites) on the outside wall eating up whatever is left of the little structure. Not a Seuss any child would like to read…

 

IMG_4972…through the words of 30-year-old Madeline, a mother of 2, and our short-term neighbor, guide & translator, who grew up in the neighborhood of Sierra Brava and knows everybody there: “The men go to work in the United States, but the women stay here with the kids. You see? The family suffered and we don’t know how [all] this is going to come up again. We’re trying but… Mommy stays with the kids, but where’s Dad? Oh, Daddy needs to go out, to the United States to work. And we got a lot of family here like that. It’s only Mom in the house. Daddy needs to work, Mama don’t find nothing here and… the parents separate… (mural detail, Parque AA De Salinas, Puerto Rico)

 

IMG_4939…and a mural chronicling Puerto Rico’s salseros, on the wall of the abandoned Teatro Coqui that includes an inscription in which a deity of the Santeria religion declares, “I, Elegua, order it: take out the drums!!… (mural painted by Salinas artist Osvaldo Dowell Colón)

 

IMG_5039 copy…on the blue plastic tarps draping roofless houses in incomprehensible capacities…

 

IMG_5089…through the larger-than-life figure of Orlando Guzman Vasqez who turned 74 last month, and the knee that he broke when he fell from his roof while trying to fix it (when he got tired of waiting for help with restoration): “I born over here. This is my grandfather’s house. I have the papers for the house. My father is still alive. He’s 98 years old. He lives in Connecticut… I worked in the United States for 40 years, in New York City, in construction… I lost everything in the house. The furniture, television, everything. They don’t pay me nothing for nothing inside.” But, he says, having a roof over his head is better than nothing. “I gonna try to finish this with the money I collect, It’s not enough money.” Asked if he might get fed up and go back to New York, he said no, because it’s too expensive to live there. He pointed to his mango tree. “It’s cold over there. Over here when I’m hungry I eat the mango and drink some water, and that’s it…”

 

IMG_5053…through Socorro’s house that she can’t live in. Socorro tells us that “everything was destroyed by the hurricane and just stayed the same way…”

 

IMG_5138…She told us, “You can’t live here, look at how it is, we are living up there. Total destruction… Look at the house, it is destroyed… everything got wet and that’s why it was destroyed, we used to sleep there in those old mattresses over there, and everything was wet… nothing could be saved…What can I do? Just keep going until God knows when, what else can I do?… We were helped by FEMA for the rent, but FEMA didn’t help with the interior and the other things. So, we signed up for a plan called Renace (Rebirth.) Renace came four times to check the house, and they said afterwards the house couldn’t be fixed. I have a letter they sent, and it said the house was in bad condition. The house is still like that… We have been paying what we’ve been able to, because FEMA doesn’t help anymore… My husband is sick…

 

IMG_5143and I have a sickness in my ears, and he had a stroke. I can’t do more than I’m currently doing. What am I supposed to do?… The hurricane, it destroyed, destroyed half the world over here. It took the street, and didn’t spare anyone… My husband and I went to the refuge. We were astonished because we couldn’t take anything with us. When we returned we found total destruction. We went back to the refuge, but since my husband had a stroke, I returned to the house, and we stayed though it was destroyed, we did what we could… I had to sleep on a table. It was a small bed, and everything was wet… So we have that house with a check that FEMA gave us, but they didn’t help anymore afterwards, and what we get from Social Security isn’t much…”

At this point, her neighbor Raul Garay stopped by. Seeing us, he told her, “It’s about time they showed up!” Maybe he thought we were FEMA. He told us in English, “Socorro means ‘Help me!’ That’s the translation… Socorro… HELP!”

As we left, Socorro said, “Maria… Maria it was Maria that destroyed us… Thank you for coming.”

 

IMG_4928And for that day, the curtain fell on the theatre of superpower injustice. (Teatro Coqui, Guayama, Puerto Rico) 

Please click on links below for part 1 & 3:

Superpower Neglect: Casting Shadows, Still (part 1)

Superpower Neglect: There’s Something About a Soldier (part 3)

“Living Here and Not in the Street is Worth Gold”

See also at Countercurrents

Living here and not in the street is worth gold — Wilma Miranda Ramos, Sierra Brava, Salinas, Puerto Rico, February 8.

Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in September 2017. One and a half years later, many of the island’s more than 3 million U.S. citizens continue to be forgotten and ignored by the federal government.

Earlier this year, Stan Cox and I stayed in the Sierra Brava neighborhood of Salinas, Puerto Rico for three weeks. We spent part of that time documenting the post-Maria situation there.

This is a three-part photo essay accompanying an articleby Stan and Paul Cox, titled ‘Vulnerable Americans Are Still Trapped in the Ruins Left by Hurricane Maria’

Superpower Neglect: Casting Shadows, Still (part 1)

IMG_5023Salinas is like an upside-down ghost town with signs of the destruction of the 2017 Hurricane Maria still casting shadows on shuttered clinics…

 

IMG_4976…on the outfield wall of the local ballpark, Parque AA De Salinas, which is filled with beautiful potraits of Puerto Ricans. This weighlifter appears as if bearing the burden of superpower neglect while symbolizing the strength of community spirit…

 

IMG_5129…on the lives of the locals, like Wilma…

 

IMG_5115…their empty streets…

 

IMG_5146…their now drought-ridden river Río Nigua, which during the hurricane was overflowing the banks…

 

IMG_5180…a flowering mango tree, seemingly leaning to shelter a broken, abandoned home…

 

IMG_5183…a lifeless splash of brightly colored, abandoned toys…

 

IMG_5127…on the face of Wilma’s pensive 4-year-old grandson Xander Martinez, who regularly suffers from mold allergies…

 

IMG_5079…on Wilma’s broken blue & grey home, leaning to one side, and a pretty blue & silver wind chime hanging on the front door…

 

IMG_5124…on her broken ceiling and the patchwork of daylight shining through the blue plastic tarp that does not prevent rain from pouring in…

 

IMG_5132…on her kitchen with the defunct light fixture…

 

IMG_5120…on her wobbly floor with patched-up cracks and Xander’s yellow shoes…

 

IMG_5136…on Wilma, and the wall behind her with a photo of her son who lives in Hawaii and serves proudly in the United States Army…

 

IMG_5269…on this fading photo of Wilma’s daughter Jomarie and son Juan Carlos…

 

IMG_5068…on fading superpower justice… (Maria scribbled on the wall of Victoria Febás’ home, a resident of Sierra Brava) 

 

Untitled 3…and on Wilma’s beautiful handwritten testimony that reads, in part:

…On that early morning of September 20, 2018, Puerto Rico dawned completely destroyed, leaving people like me with nothing. I am still living in the same place. I have a stitched-together roof, but as I have nowhere to go I’m still here by the grace of God. The people and I standing in lines to get water, food, and ice—it was really incredible that I survived it, and also waiting for the arrival of the lights for months, enduring the mosquitoes, the heat, is unforgettable.

I am one of those who did not obtain help to fix the house. I am living in it because I am not the owner of the house I’ve been living in for six years, and without documents I could not obtain help to repair it. Staying here in these conditions is not easy . But since I have my daughter and grandson of four years here with me, living here and not in the street is worth gold. I hope my guardian angel arrives soon…

please click on links below for part 2 & 3:

Superpower Neglect: A Theatre of Injustice (part2)

Superpower Neglect: There’s Something About a Neighbor (part3)