Hurricanes in the Caribbean and the US Response

Devastation in Cuba from the Hurricanes. Courtesy of Yamil Lage/ AP

Devastation in Cuba from the Hurricanes. Courtesy of Yamil Lage/ AP

The World Affairs Breakfast Club met this past Wednesday (10/12) to speak of the effects of Hurricanes Irma and Maria on the Caribbean and our responsibility as Americans and humans to those affected.


A background of the countries’ histories and present damage was given by several sophomores from Mr. Stein’s  Cultures of the Carribean class. Mary, Damaris, and Brianna spoke of how Cuba was devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The hurricanes affected over 11 million people, caused flooding in low lying areas, and the National Civil Defense Council said the damage to the agricultural was incalculable, (eg 1200 miles of sugar cane fields were destroyed alone). Despite this damage, the US is refusing to send help to Cuba because of the historical (the US has had an adversarial relationship ever since the Spanish American War of 1898) and present political tensions. In fact, the Bush administration refused Cuba’s offer to send 4,000 to help during Hurricane Katrina which shows how far countries will go for their national pride.


Puerto Rico, officially deemed “a US territory, but perhaps more accurately dubbed a colony, was also deeply affected by the hurricane with incredible devastation and destruction throughout the island. Mr. Correa, who has family Puerto Rico, gave the Breakfast Club attendees a background on Puerto Rico. In 1917 the Jones Act made Puerto Ricans US citizens (and therefore made them eligible to be drafted), but did not give them representation in the US government by denying them voting rights. Ever since then, there has been a very tense and controversial relationship between the US and Puerto Rico. There have been several referendums for independence, but the US has ostensibly made it near impossible for Puerto Ricans to self-govern and have a functioning economy without the US.  Mr. Correa also explained how  “There were   lot of problems before the hurricanes leading up to before the natural disaster.” This includes Puerto Rico’s massive debt. A large, monumental Puerto Rican flag in San Juan has been painted black to represent the crushing consequences of this debt.


Due to the fact that (in the opinion of many) President Trump has not adequately responded to the tragedies that occurred in Puerto Rico,  the Breakfast Club spoke of what we as citizens can do to both help the people of Puerto Rico and respect their dignity; Berkeley Carroll lower schoolers have recently painted ceramic hearts to raise money, Seniors held a blood drive, and a clothing drive is happening soon. However, there is much more we can and should do to respect and protect our fellow humans.


Join us next week at 7:30 on Wednesday for a Skype conversation on Radical Islam with Ms. Nguyen who is currently in Indonesia. As always, there will be cake.

Mr. Correa’s black flag.
Mr. Correa speaking about Puerto Rico.


Photo Credits to Ms. Heldring