Preliminary Paper Title
Ponce & San Juan: Injustices brought onto the national spotlight due to a “natural disaster”
John Wesley Crespo
I am an undergraduate senior student majoring in history at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. I was drawn to this topic because one of my close family members, my grandfather, who was living in Ponce at the time when Hurricane Maria made landfall, was severely affected by Maria. The hardship he endured during the storm in terms of the lack of aid, medication, water, and food as well as simply surviving the months that followed made me look into this topic with great interest. His story of survival, determination, and sheer will was one I could not ignore but rather investigate wholeheartedly for this senior research project on environmental inequality in postwar America.
My research is focused on two locations: the capital city of San Juan as well as the southern city of Ponce in Puerto Rico. Specifically, I am examining the various injustices that the people of San Juan and Ponce have been dealing with. The time period of my study is from pre-Maria (2010-2016) to post-Maria (October 3, 2017-present). The historical actors involved in this examination will include government officials in Puerto Rico as well as those in the mainland United States to finally the people living in these communities. Similarly, the commonwealth’s origins in regards to United States and Puerto Rican relations will be examined in providing of historical context for the environmental injustices that are evaluated.
How did Hurricane Maria and its destruction affect San Juan’s and Ponce’s infrastructure, electoral power grid, and individual perspective of one’s identity as a true citizen of the United States differently?
What are the responsibilities of a sovereign nation that have unknowingly committed environmental injustices to citizens living in its commonwealth?
How did corruption at both the local and state level further bring on environmental injustices to those in San Juan and Ponce?
How was the United States’ deployment of resources in aid to those living in San Juan as well as to those living in Ponce truly a “success”? How was this deployment of recourses and the emergency response effort overall unequal to those living in San Juan and Ponce?
I will argue that Hurricane Maria, indicative of a “natural disaster”, further galvanized and brought onto to the national spotlight in mainland United States the existing environmental injustices Puerto Ricans were facing, dating back to even pre-Maria. This study then will be focused on the inequalities centered on the comparison between San Juan and Ponce respectively. Notably, these injustices include the unequal funding and aid from the United States during pre/post Maria to San Juan and Ponce, unequal damage inflicted to that of the more prosperous capital, having better infrastructure, wealth and technology to that of the poorer one of Ponce to finally the role of corruption between local and state leaders in not appropriating funds to the people who desperately needed it to survive. In other words, this examination of injustices will help us understand the role of accountably regarding government officials whose sole goal is to the well-being of those they represent, “effective” emergency response to finally how one’s environment injustice influence the value of “worth” as a citizen in a commonwealth.
Keyword Tags: citizen, class, energy, corruption, infrastructure, racism