Puerto Rico is an island in the Caribbean Sea. At 100 miles long and 35 miles wide, it is the smallest of the Greater Antilles.

Relationship with the United States

It is a United States territory with close to 3.5 million people who were born US citizens.

There are another 5.1 million Puerto Ricans in the 50 states.

Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans have fought in every major US military conflict since World War I. Thousands were wounded or lost their lives fighting for the United States.

2017 Hurricanes

In September 2017, Puerto Rico was hit by a Category 4 (Irma) and a Category 5 (Maria) hurricane within two weeks. That has never happened anywhere before.

Puerto Rico has not seen this type of devastation since it was hit by Hurricane San Felipe in 1928, back when hurricanes were called tropical cyclones and bore saints’ names.

Unprecedented damage was caused by Hurricane Maria, which made landfall on Puerto Rico Wednesday, September 20 with winds of 155 miles per hour.

Hurricane Damage & Destruction

A year after Hurricanes Irma and María, much of the storms ravaging effects are still visible in homes, businesses and infrastructures all over the island.

There is still great debate regarding the number of people who perished during and in the months after the storm, due to the storm. Early in August 2018, almost a year after the passage of María, and after having insisted on a 64 fatalities figure for months, the Puerto Rican government finally admitted in a report to Congress that 1,400 people more than usual died during the couple of months following the deadly hurricanes. At least one report, estimates that the death toll could be as high as 4,000 people.  In one neighborhood near San Juan 80% of homes were destroyed.

Many homes were destroyed, and its owners have not, and will not, receive FEMA assistance. As one approaches the island from the sky, it is impossible to miss the bright blue FEMA tarps functioning as roofs to all sorts of structures around the island. Also, because so many people cannot show titles to their homes or have homes not built to code, two fifths of homeowners's requests for FEMA assistance were denied. Many of these appealed these decisions made by FEMA, which in turn denied 80% of those appeals.

In July of 2018, FEMA also admitted to not having been prepared to appropriately assist Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans.

Most of the island was left without power and running water. Three weeks after Maria, only 6.7% of Puerto Ricans had power. The embattled Puerto Rico Power Authority announced in August of 2018, almost a year after the hurricanes, that it had restored power to all customers. This makes it the longest blackout in US history. Some customers, in the countryside, however, have not been reconnected to the system and may not be for years. Many of the island's traffic lights remain out of order.

At least 80% of the agricultural crop value was destroyed. Federal and local authorities estimate that Puerto Rico lost between 20 and 30 million trees due to the storm.

How to Help

Help is being sent, but much more is needed.

Check this live document (in Spanish) for updates on conditions on the island:

Three organizations will receive the funds raised in the first round of efforts by Teens4PR: Boys and Girls Club of Puerto Rico, Centros Sor Isolina Ferré, and Para la Naturaleza They each have a significant presence in communities all over the island. The first two provide services and education access to children and adolescents from disadvantaged communities. Para la Naturaleza partners with communities, volunteers, the government and experts to promote conservation, sustainability and reforestation. Teens4PR is also supporting the efforts of the García-Dávila Family to support the rebuilding of homes and the replacement of damaged furniture and appliances by families in municipalities on the island's northern coast.