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Connecticut Senators Reaffirm Solidarity With Puerto Rico

Ramon Espinosa
Efrain Diaz Figueroa spends the afternoon sitting on a chair next to the remains of the house of his sister destroyed by Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Monday.

Puerto Rican residents in Bridgeport have been meeting with Connecticut’s U.S. senators, sharing their uncertainty about relatives on the island and its future after Hurricane Maria.

Most of Puerto Rico is still without power or access to roads. Only about half the island has potable drinking water.

Alma Maya, Bridgeport’s town clerk and one of the organizers of the city’s Puerto Rican Day Parade, just got back from a trip to Puerto Rico this week. “My mother didn’t have water or electricity so I decided to go get her. But people of her age don’t want to come. They feel they’re abandoning their country.”

7.5 percent of Connecticut residents are Puerto Rican – a bigger share of the population than in any other state. After the hurricane, the state issued guidance to schools to help them integrate Puerto Rican students and make sure they have access to immediate school and services.

Senator Chris Murphy said the state’s Puerto Rican population is one of its biggest assets. “It’s the life and the breath of this state, and it’s right that we be on the forefront of the response, it’s right that we open our doors.”

Murphy criticized what he called years of financial neglect of Puerto Rico by the federal government that led the island to bankruptcy last year.

“And so nobody should be surprised that when this storm hit, it knocked out an electric grid that we would never accept in any of the 50 states in this country, that it put a health care system on its back that had been underfinanced for decades by the federal government.”

On Twitter, Donald Trump has blamed the territory itself for its fiscal crisis and suggested that federal relief efforts shouldn’t continue indefinitely. Vice President Mike Pence, who visited the island last week, said the federal government will support Puerto Rico until it recovers. 

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.