Nine months after Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean island faces another potentially devastating hurricane season, while much of its infrastructure and land still remain in tatters.
The Category 5 hurricane that ripped through the Caribbean last fall not only caused nearly 5,000 deaths, but also exposed the fragility of the island’s social, political, and economic underpinnings. The truth behind Maria’s devastation and the United States’ laggard response to the hurricane lies in centuries of colonial exploitation—first by Spain and then by the United States—and in its perpetual subjugation to the whims of American elites.
There is little that distinguishes Puerto Rico from an American colony. Since its acquisition of the island in 1898, the United States has gradually stripped Puerto Rico of any political agency through a web of legal cases, laws, and arbitrary categorizations intended to keep the island politically weak, and economically dependent on mainland products—and its poor, brown, “foreign” population distanced from their mainland compatriots.