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Puerto Rico needs our help

| Friday, September 29, 2017

Dear Notre Dame family,

By now all of you have heard about the devastation that Hurricane María recently inflicted upon Puerto Rico. A week after María hit with a destructive force never before experienced on this small Caribbean island, most of its 3.5 million inhabitants — all of whom are U.S. citizens — are facing dire circumstances that include very limited access to drinking water, electricity, food, landline and cellular telephone communication, internet, medical supplies and many other basic necessities which are so crucial to survival in the aftermath of such a catastrophe. Before our very eyes, the island is quickly becoming the scene of a large-scale humanitarian crisis. Many experts predict that electricity will not be fully restored and that access to fresh running water will continue to be severely limited for many months. Everyone on the island has been affected; no one was spared the wrath of this terrible storm. If the people of Puerto Rico don’t get the urgent help they need, thousands of our fellow U.S. citizens face the very real risk of losing their lives. While the U.S. government has sent some help, in our opinion it simply has not been sufficient, and basic necessities are not arriving quickly enough to those who are most in need. As members of Notre Dame for the last 20 years we have encouraged our students to live out the University’s mission by helping to “create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice.”  In the wake of the horrible human tragedy that is currently unfolding in Puerto Rico, we urge you — in solidarity with our fellow citizens on the island, and with the many Puerto Rican students and faculty currently at Notre Dame, and the hundreds of Puerto Rican alumni on the island, on the U.S. mainland and around the globe — to consider sending monetary donations to charities and organizations on the ground in Puerto Rico (Charity Navigator is a good resource to find highly ranked, reputable charities). Unfortunately, collections of water, food and basic necessities are not getting to those who need them, but largely remain stored in U.S. and Puerto Rican facilities due, in large part, to the extreme destruction of infrastructure and storage and transportation facilities throughout the island. We understand that there are so many serious complications that have made it very difficult for officials to distribute aid to Puerto Rico’s desperate citizens, not the least of which is the fact that Puerto Rico is an island located 1,000 miles from the U.S. mainland.  And though we applaud the government’s decision Thursday morning to waive temporarily (10 days exactly) the outdated Jones Act (also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920) — therefore loosening federal restrictions on foreign ships delivering cargo to Puerto Rico — we believe that this decision was made too late and only after significant public outrage. Please consider calling your representatives to put pressure on Congress to abolish permanently the Jones Act, a move that would free foreign ships to deliver much-needed aid to Puerto Rico for months and years to come as the island recovers from the devastating impacts of Hurricane María. Even if Puerto Rico is far away, there’s a lot we can do to help the people there and to create awareness about the tragedy that is unfolding on the island. We count on you, Notre Dame, to do your part to help bring relief to our fellow citizens.

Marisel Moreno

associate professor of Puerto Rican and U.S. Latino/a literature

department of romance languages and literatures

Tom Anderson

professor of Hispanic Caribbean literature and chair

department of romance languages and literatures

Sept. 28

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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