Puerto Ricans don’t give up on Christmas

This is the tradition of my country. This year, there are many differences. Hurricanes Irma and Maria both hit Puerto Rico in September.

Some 600 people are still living in shelters. Six hundred are still in shelters.

Survival first

This question is being asked from my home in San Juan’s capital, where an amazing Christmas miracle occurred last week: electricity was restored for parts of the neighborhood.

About 65 percent of the island currently has electricity, and everyone else is always searching for it.

It’s hard for Puerto Ricans to decorate their homes this Christmas because more than 60% of them still lack power. Alvin Baez/Reuters

We’re also looking for another kind of strength, I believe – to help us get through this national catastrophe.

Thousands of rural residents still lack access to water, electricity, or medicine. Meanwhile, Gov. Ricardo Rosello manages Puerto Rico’s aftermath of Hurricane Maria while also dealing with the island’s bankruptcy. Everyone has worked so hard for such a long time.

Some signs indicate desperation. Here, suicides and post-traumatic stresses are commonplace. We know that it will take a long while before things here start to look like normal.

As a librarian for special collections at the University of Puerto Rico Humacao Campus, my team works from a tent while the library is being cleaned. The library building was flooded during Hurricane Maria and became infested with mold. Our reference collection was destroyed, as well as all of the furniture and computers.

Some buildings at the University of Puerto Rico, Humacao, remain closed after Hurricane Maria. Milagros Rodriguez, the Author, provided

After the celebrations

Puerto Ricans are, in fact, good at dealing with adversity. This is a legacy from the colonial past.

This Christmas, Puerto Rico’s resilience will be on display. We will still have our Christmas holiday despite the power outages that continue to affect places even after the power has been restored.

This year’s Christmas may not have been the longest in history. There may not be many decorated trees, wreaths, or parties. In homes all over the country, people are currently roasting suckling porks, making blood sausages, and simmering rice and peas.

Pasteles, meat-filled pastries wrapped in leaves, will have bananas.

Families sing along to the holiday classics “Navidad,” by Jose Nogueras, and “The reyes did not arrive,” by Victoria Sanabria, accompanied by generators.

The classic Puerto Rican Christmas song ‘Navidad,’ by Jose Nogueras, is one of the most popular songs in Puerto Rico.

We’re planning a party and putting up Christmas lights now that my house is powered. This can happen in homes that have no electricity. One caller said on the radio: “We will turn on Christmas lights, even if that means plugging them in a generator.”

The library team at work hung an image of the Three Wise Men on our temporary library tent.

In other places, the sadness is palpable. 100,000 Puerto Ricans fled the aftermath of Hurricane Maria by November. This number is growing daily. Many families will miss their loved ones at Christmas.

Tragic events are uniting us right now. Some towns, like Santa Isabel on Puerto Rico’s south coast and Moca near Aguadilla, have decorated their main squares with makeshift wooden nativity scenes and Christmas trees made from storm debris.

These scenes show the sentiment of the nation that neither destruction nor terrible crisis management or bankruptcy will be able to take Christmas away from Puerto Rico. This year, celebrating the holidays means, even if it’s for just a brief moment, feeling normal. It’s an indication of survival.

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