‘My people are in the dark, thirsty, hungry and alone’

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I am in Hartford, where I live, but now my mind is somewhere else. I believe that I share the same feelings held by people from Louisiana, Texas and Florida when they were flooded and beaten by a string of powerful and mean hurricanes. It is a feeling of abandonment and sorrow. My people are in the dark, thirsty, hungry and alone.

When looking at the mainstream media, one of the things that I do by training is to analyze. I see a dearth of in-depth, articulate and reasonable coverage of the ills that have befallen into the place I still call my home: Puerto Rico. That is why I again visit this forum, a responsive one.

I shared with my students today the emotional malaise that I felt when I saw a video that a friend made of the road where my mother and relatives live: it is total devastation. Years of tending to an Alzheimer’s husband led my mother to transform her house into a bunker. Thankfully, she is safe together with a bunch of people we call “family.” That is not a case for most people in the island. They are destitute. They have no electricity, gas, water and all of those things that we take for granted are gone; most important of all water and food. The image of the walls of perfectly habitable wooden houses collapsed into the floor make me cringe and cry.

My feelings of helplessness get exacerbated by the mainstream media. They are just providing coverage in the third person: “they.” Even Connecticut, who has almost a quarter millions of Puerto Ricans, has been deprived of a media presence to inform us. I am blessed that I have media friends in the island who have done their best to keep me informed. Kuddos to the Felipe’s, Blanca´s and the Quique’s of the world. That said, however, I am saddened, of the vacuum of care. Editorial criteria understood, we do deserve a voice and media who would advocate for us. We watch, listen and read you. We also buy the goods from your advertisers.

The media is recognized as a power. I am beginning to question that assumption. The power, in cases like these, are the myriad of community based organization, leaders and common folks who got into a mobilizing mode yesterday and collected the very needed goods that Puerto Rico and its people need to survive. I am proud of the efforts of State Rep. Angel Arce and New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart who busted their chops to collect water and help. Individuals must be reminded that the priority now is to collect the money that will be used to send any future goods that are needed. I hope that governor
Dannel Malloy will lend the National Guard for a couple of weeks.

I have always been proactive. I ask others to emulate us. As such, the Puerto Rican community must take a step into the forefront and hold federal and organizations accountable for the values they claim to stand for. We need significant changes in the Coastal Shipping laws, a labor union driven aberration that asphyxiates us and forces that any good that comes into Puerto Rico comes in a vessel registered in the US. I have advocated for contributions to be made to Americares, an organization I respect. I have volunteered for missions organized by them more than once. Sadly, they are overwhelmed as many organizations are. An alternative has emerged: “Voices for Puerto Rico” They seem to be doing a great job with perfect coordination between the United States and Puerto Rico.

While Puerto Rico suffers, there is plenty of pain going around. I hope that we can all come together and move to become the best we all can be. That includes President Trump who should back-up legislation to enact immediate change and forget his silly tweets.

Serafin Mendez-Mendez, Ph.D., is a professor of communication at Central Connecticut State University.

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