The Toxicity of the U.S Aid Relief


Historically the U.S government and the island of Puerto Rico have been at odds. Since the U.S army invasion in 1898, Puerto Ricans have been denied the power of self-determination. As an unincorporated U.S territory Puerto Rico's political rights are limited, e.g. the Puerto Rico's constitution is bound to follow U.S constitutions arguments. This lack of power (including, economical ones) forces the island to remain in a welfare state.

On September 20, 2017 Hurricane Maria hit the island of Puerto Rico. The hurricane left the island in bad shape, with no power, no water and virtually no communication. This disaster that left more than 4,645 deaths, revealed the uneven relationship and power dynamics between the island and the U.S. For example, The Jones Act had to be waived for aid (water, food, batteries, etc.) to come in. Puerto Ricans waited for eight days while the port where full of supplies.

While in the media the U.S aid appeared to be sufficient and fast delivered,  the reality for some Puerto Ricans where very different. In some areas people never receive this aid, and when it was delivered it was given in a violent manner. These stories inspired me to build this college to juxtapose how media portray the U.S aid relief vs how people receive it.

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Dropping toxicity

Title: Dropping toxicity

The original piece on the right is from AP Photo/Evan Vucci (2017) and the one in the left if from Erika P. Rodriguez (2017). Using a collage from Hurricane Maria I wanted to juxtapose how the U.S saw themselves while providing aid vs. how Puerto Ricans saw the aid they where receiving. Furthermore, I am trying to bring to light the narrative that U.S aid was toxic.

Deepening Toxicity

Title: Deepening Toxicity

The original photo on the left taken was taken by Alexis C. Schneider in 2017  and shows a Marine Corps (Lance Cpl) shopping down trees to open-up a road. However, not all army personnel aid Puerto Ricans, other develop their time to deepen the hurricane consequences (toxicity). The landscape photo was taken by: Glenn Vaagen on December 26, 2017 and it was highlighted in the Weather website.

Ignoring Toxicity

Title: Ignoring Toxicity

During the U.S president first visit after Hurricane Maria, he expressed that the government had done a good job because at that time the death toll was 64. However, media and citizen reports had a very different number counts. It was not until de Harvard Report that revealed that the actual number was 4,645 that the government started to admit that they numbers where probably wrong. George Washington University report, which it came a couple of months after the Harvard report expose e death toll of more than 3,000. U.S President reaction to it was totally ignoring the death toll and even saying that people did not die. The original picture was taken by Mario Tama/Getty Images (2017).


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Created date

November 27, 2018


Cite as

Omar Perez Figueroa. 27 November 2018, "The Toxicity of the U.S Aid Relief", Center for Ethnography, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 5 December 2018, accessed 1 August 2021.