By Comrade Gaby, Black Hammer-Puerto Rico
Since the end of December 2019, Boriken (also known by its colonized name Puerto Rico) has experienced a series of on-going earthquakes that has left nearly 5,000 people homeless.
Now, as COVID-19 cases go un-tested on the island, misinformation and a looming hurricane season leave our most vulnerable colonized people asking the same question: what will happen to us?
On May 4th 2020, Comrade Devon and I made the trip to Guanica, Boriken, to hand out PPE and other basic necessities for the colonized people who had lost their homes due to the on-going earthquakes.
Thanks to all the comrades who donated, we were able to get water, disinfectant, gloves, soap, and food to the people in the south who had lost everything.
Many mentioned they hadn’t seen anyone stop into the camps since the pandemic started.
On our first visit, we focused on hearing the people. Keeping all the proper social distancing precautions, we made sure to make a list of things that would tangibly help them both in the short and long term.
Water was the main request, seconded by a plea for help bettering their living situation. In one of the camps we visited, people are still sleeping in tents, and have been since January 2020.
The people we spoke to were mostly elderly and people with disabilities.
One man, Roberto*, told us how he’d spent the last few months living in the camp: “I had heart surgery 7 months ago, gastrointestinal surgery 2 months ago … and I’ve had to recover for both right here on the ground,” he pointed to his tent a few feet away with his car parked next to it.
He told us that all the belongings he was able to salvage from the remains of his house were packed in the backseat.
When the pandemic started, all government-led camps were immediately shut down, people were given three “options”:
- Either camp outside of their destroyed homes.
- Get placed in a hotel with partial but not all charges covered.
- Become displaced to an entirely different town, away from friends, family and (most importantly for the affected population) their doctors and caretakers.
So classic of the colonial government to claim to offer resources when those so-called “resources” further inconvenience the very people they’re meant to be servicing.
Creating a solution goes beyond offering crumbs. Solutions demand action. Organization. Dedication. Competence. All qualities this joke of a government has never possessed.
Yet again it falls on the people to do the work. I am grateful to the comrades of Black Hammer who focus their energy on the working class colonized people across the world.
Being a part of Black Hammer is a chance to help my people with tangible actions. Any resources I possess are for the betterment of my community.
Getting this information out, divulging the truth behind how the government has failed to fulfill its due diligence, is also part of the work.
As hurricane season makes its way around the corner, many of the people currently living in the camps are still hoping for answers.
“I can’t imagine what it’ll be like to go through a major hurricane in these conditions,” said one resident, a resident of one of the camps, “I don’t even want to think about it.
“After experiencing Hurricane Maria in 2017, many people are frightful of anything similar happening again.
The collective mental health of our people on the island is suffering daily when living under colonial rule where nothing seems to get better.
In the months to follow we will work alongside these communities to provide any and all help possible. We will continue to fight for our people —those who are forgotten and marginalized — because if we don’t, no one else will.
We must all stand up against the colonized mindset and do the work that needs to be done. If this pandemic won’t stop us from helping our people, nothing will.
I urge all comrades in Boriken to join the fight against colonization and join Black Hammer to further build and empower their community. Once again, I am grateful for all the donations we have received so far. Together we are stronger!