The Caribbean is no stranger to hurricane season. The islands and U.S. southern/eastern coasts alike have braved each storm, but this season has been extremely grim. As we recover from Hurricane Harvey, a potentially detrimental storm has rolled through.
Hurricane Irma is the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean and is currently the size of Michigan. At a Category 5 storm, it has already torn through Barbuda, St. Martin, and St. Barts. Power outages have already been reported in Puerto Rico but forecasters are fairly certain the storm will pass over Jamaica, Cuba, the Cayman Islands, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic, as well, with the potential of also hitting Turks and Caicos, and the Bahamas.
The storm is expected to lose steam before it hits the states. But what’s frustrating is that much of the fundraising will be geared towards helping Florida, once again trivializing the United States territories.
The territories that will be effected by Hurricane Irma include Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, including Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas. As a Commonwealth, Puerto Rico has been historically disadvantaged. By depleting the land of its natural resources, plunging the island into debt with insurmountable loans and incredibly high sales taxes, the United States has made it possible for the island to be sucked dry and completely dependent on the U.S.
Because of its economic decline, Puerto Rico has been losing hospitals and clinics at an alarming rate. Residents of the island are also already expecting to be left without power for four to six months. While many believe attaining statehood would be the answer to fix its problems, others strongly insist that becoming an independent nation is the only way to rebuild wealth.
In addition, we have to consider the amount of Black and brown people that this hurricane is putting in danger. The population of the U.S. Virgin Islands is 76 percent Afro-Caribbean (Black) and 17.4 percent identify as Latinx. According to The Atlantic, 45 has reassured the U.S. that the federal government is “fully committed to providing the resources that the people need,” but considering the lack of support for those affected by Hurricane Harvey, these statements are arguably empty.