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In mourning Papi, I am also mourning the possible destruction of the Puerto Rico familiar to Papi and me.

By Michelle Carroll On Wednesday, September 20th, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. The following afternoon, we lost Papi. My 101-year-old grandfather passed away in an antiseptic hospital bed in Central New Jersey, hundreds of miles away from Puerto Rico. I believe it was the distance as well as his old age that shielded him from the knowledge that once again the island had been failed by its colonial overseers. In Papi’s last days, he returned to the memories of an island and people untouched by the current devastation. He spoke often of the family returning to Puerto Rico, buying a small home and growing mangoes, plantanos maduros, and aguacate. His death and the aftermath of the hurricane makes his dream impossible. [caption id="attachment_48013" align="alignnone" width="300"] My Papi & Abuela[/caption] Papi was born in 1916 in Santurce, Puerto Rico. He was born less than twenty years after the United States acquired the island as its newest colony and only one year before Puerto Ricans were afforded (second-class) citizenship by Congress. According to family history, his mother was a maid in a hacienda owned by a wealthy Spanish man, a holdover from the previous three hundred years of colonization by the Spanish. Papi’s father, the owner of the farm, was never in the picture. In the 20 years before Papi was born, the United States media began a racist campaign against the Puerto Ricans. In newspapers across the mainland, brown and black Boricuas were described as lazy, simple-minded alcoholics. Racist stereotypes normalized the idea that Puerto Ricans were subhuman, and thus worth less than one white American. These stereotypes allowed for corporations to profit off of the island’s farmland and its people—in the 1920’s, a Puerto Rican farmhand was paid $4 a week compared to the mainland average of $35. After the island was forcibly colonized, the United States’ government and corporations spent the next two decades stripping the island of its resources, agency, and culture.
Related: THE LASTING, RACIST LEGACY OF COLONIALISM ON THE ENVIRONMENT

Puerto Rico is without resources. Meanwhile its colonial government plays golf.

By Holly  Peoples with enduring colonial histories are time and again marginalized and disadvantaged. Meanwhile colonizers continue to profit off of our lives and our land. And in the age of widespread pollution, ecological devastation, and climate change, it is we the colonized who always pay the price. At the intersection of colonialism, corporatocratic economy, and climate, these systems manifest with real and significant consequences on the lived experiences of colonized peoples. In the last few months alone, natural disasters hit, particularly in places with colonial histories. Efforts have rallied behind some of those affected, such as for Hurricane Harvey for example which had not one, but two benefit performances were held. On the other hand, other aid efforts are noticeably slower or more silent. Because of this, many attempt to amplify awareness of less-spotlighted natural disasters. However in the race to focus disasters in non-Western nations, a perilous trend emerges. There is a striking pattern in the media of calling help for disasters by framing affected Indigenous and colonized peoples as Western nationalities. Seemingly every online post for donations asks aid for the people of Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands because they are “American”. And while intentions behind this may be benign, the impact is anything but. This narrative is dangerous in predicating the value of human life on the fact that life is Western — as though we could not care to help Virgin Islanders as Afro-Caribbean people or Puerto Ricans as Boricuas. This framing also erases the colonial history of these lands and peoples, stripping context and culpability of the very imperialist expansion that plays a direct and serious role in climate and environment.
Related: HOW ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM AFFECTS INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES IN THE USA

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