Since my last goodbye, I was absent from this blog for a month. I should explain how difficult things were in that time.
One important thing of note is that Puerto Rico’s infrastructure is extraordinarily old. The most important and relevant aspect of this is that the newest parts of Puerto Rico’s electrical grid dates to the 1990’s. From this, Puerto Rico has rightfully been compared to “poor” countries. In fact, Puerto Rico only appears rich because of all of the aid and exports the United States of America gives Puerto Rico. With its “poorness” comes all of those problems that hit “poor” countries: infestations, diseases from poor sanitation, bad roads, and so on.
When Hurricane María hit Puerto Rico, that infrastructure collapsed horribly. Even now, there are still so many places that still do not have at-home access to water or electricity, much less access to the Internet, and would have to actually go to rivers and maybe the beach if they wanted to get water. Hotels ended up being makeshift shelters. People managed to prepare beforehand; Hurricane María just happened to be incredibly strong. The odd thing is that the hurricane hit Puerto Rico unevenly: cement houses in Orocovis had their roofs torn and flown off, whereas wood houses in Mayagüez survived. There are many people in San Juan who had not yet to begin recovery even when I am writing this, even though San Juan is the first municipality that got help. I can blame some of that on the Mayor of San Juan, though, who seems to be blocking access to supplies that are meant to the rest of Puerto Rico. However, even if she was completely willing to help others, the poor condition of the roads there plus all of the debris that had gotten in the way on those roads made that task very difficult anyway. Puerto Rico is a country that is full of vegetation, which means that that vegetation would pile on the roads. Puerto Rico’s electrical posts are above ground, which means that, if the electrical cables do not catch them, they fall on the road, too. I even saw an electrical post that blocked part of a road!
At least there is a boat port in Mayagüez.
A result of that mess is that the Puerto Rico government imposed a curfew from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm. Though the curfew made sense in keeping overtly curious people from hurting themselves, and the end date was pushed forward to 7:00 pm, then 8:00 pm, then 10:00 pm, then midnight before the curfew got repealed, this curfew was terrifying in concept. Usually, curfews are the stuff of dictatorships! This had me worry on the fate of Puerto Rico! On the other hand, the United States President lifted the Jones Act which required that anyone who wants to ship to Puerto Rico has to go through the United States of America, first… even if that “anyone” is the Dominican Republic, which is so close to Puerto Rico that illegal immigrants managed to take the trip by themselves there! The Jones Act was, lifted, though, because of the emergency situation which required Puerto Rico to get all of the supplies Puerto Rico could get.
Only goods could come to Puerto Rico, though. Because of the fallen infrastructure, a lot of people, including those related to travel, could not do their jobs. Anyone who had the misfortune of being here when Hurricane María struck the island was stuck here for weeks. (Exchange students here from Perú had to had taken a special aeroplane that took them out of here.) The goods themselves took a lot of time to go here though; before FEMA made the situation much more bearable, there were about kilometer-long lines of people lining up to gasoline stations! Someone would have needed to come extremely early and wait literally all day, and that is not taking the curfew into account! Another instance was getting your own generator. Getting to a shop that actually had a generator or even parts in the first place was an obviously difficult task.
The passage of time was a little creepy. Of course, when our electronics already had charge, the first few days went fine, except for the television repeating the same clips all day. I knew that I had to economize my charge, though, despite my basing my experiences on the quick recovery Puerto Rico had after Hurricane George. The first spooky point, though, was the curfew announcement, which had me want to stay inside all the time. The second spooky point was seeing the houses that were once alight with generator electricity running suddenly be off. Another kicker was the uncertainty of how long hospitals could run only on generators. I mean, I saw news of a hospital whose chefs had to work essentially in the dark! I could not even help myself when I got distressed over how hard the aftereffects were and how much I consequently wanted to leave.
Recovery progressed, nevertheless. First, roads got cleared. I could get out of the house and see things myself, at least. People rushed to not only the gasoline stations but also the fast food places which happened to stay open with their own generators. Then, satellite service returned… slowly. First Claro came, then accessing international Claro through roaming was enabled, then AT&T came, then T-Mobile. First, we got merely a signal, then we could make calls and messages, then, after the signal grew to 4G LTE, we could get actual Internet data from cellular signal. Data from WiFi had to wait until someone got electricity, yet even that is not a guarantee; only Claro’s posts managed to survive because they had some of their cables under ground, a tactic Liberty plans to do when modernizing its service. In the meantime, ATM machines allowed withdrawals, the amount allowed increasing. Newspapers were printing again. Malls opened, though not all at once. Some other businesses followed suit, though some were quick to point out that they did not have ice, generators, or other stuff that they may need. Banks then opened. Streetlights replaced policemen when the electricity returned to mayor commercial municipalities. Stores were actually advertising their having electricity. MREs started coming. People managed to clean up their houses. Then, educational facilities were scheduled to open up, though most of them did not have any electricity at the time of their scheduled return date… only to get electricity later.
Puerto Rico has yet to recover fully, but things are a lot more comfortable now.