The Fifth Column 

I survived Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

Editor’s Note: Jake Reyes runs La Quinta Columna, TFC’s Spanish Edition. He lives in Puerto Rico. The former Marine was on the Island when Maria hit. Here’s his story.

(TFC) – It was 2:30 am when the Beast started to attack… at first, it sounded like a giant serpent hiss, and then the roar began… it was like a huge beast destroying everything in its path.

The air-conditioner in my room was ripped out by the tremendous force of the winds, leaving a hole. I started screaming at my father while holding a piece of wood to try to cover the window. After half an hour, I begin to pile wood and furniture against the hole in the window.

Maria has left a path of destruction like we have never seen before, but we Puerto Ricans have a long history dealing with beasts like Maria. The governor of Puerto Rico says the official death toll from Hurricane Maria is around 34 people, very low compared to Katrina, and the reason for that is that we take hurricanes very seriously. Our ancestors have been doing this for centuries and passing their experiences to others.

Most homes in Puerto Rico are built with cinder blocks and concrete, but not all of them, some are built with roofs made out of wood and Zinc, which were no match for the powerful force that Maria had. The event left 100% of Puerto Rico without power, water, communications (cell phones), TV and radio. Only one AM radio was transmitting 36 hours after the event, and it was a very helpful in the aftermath, thousands of poles and trees were knocked down including the big ones made out of concrete, blocking streets and access to many towns.

Before Maria attacked us, hundreds of people from neighboring islands were being sheltered in Puerto Rico due to Hurricane Irma.

The problem we face today is the lack of energy that affects hospitals, elderly centers, and millions of homes in which are children, elderlies, and patients with different medical conditions.

Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares reported that the electric power service was increased to 15% after another plant of the San Juan substation was normalized, they are still working to connect the plant of the town of Mayagüez in the next few days.

As for gas stations, 860 were open for 78% of the total. Also, 724,853 barrels of diesel and 1,259,772 barrels of gasoline were distributed. This number increased as Gulf and Peerless Co. began reporting their number of barrels that are arriving ashore. In addition, 50 municipalities have been supplied with fuel so that they can operate their machinery. Routes will be created to bring fuel to the 78 municipalities.

Meanwhile, at the international airport Luis Muñoz Marín, the government reported yesterday that 75 flights left, and 66 landed, they expect that this will increase until normal operations resume.

On telecommunications, there are already 51% of customers with cellular service, there are also 459 raised antennas and although nine were dropped, additional ones were raised.

Hurricane Maria’s passage through the island caused losses of nearly $ 20 billion in infrastructure and lost revenue, according to a preliminary report prepared by the Technical Studies for the Association of Industrialists and, although preliminary, constitutes the first scientific analysis known about the devastation caused by the powerful cyclone along the length and breadth of the island.

The study counts only losses and destruction and not what it would cost to repair or rebuild what was lost. Adding what would cost the reconstruction of the damages in the electrical infrastructure, of water, of roads and of communications, as well as the houses, is that could arrive at the preliminary estimate of costs of between $ 50 and $ 90 Billion.

Jake Reyes, TFC

There has been talk of whether Puerto Rico deserves US aid, especially now that it has a debt of over 70 billion. Some are criticizing, some are saying that we deserve the help, but before you answer let me give you some facts about Puerto Rico:

  • The current $72 billion “debt” of Puerto Rico is a complete fraud.
  • US corporations get $35 billion in gains from Puerto Rico every year.
  • In addition, the Jones Act has cost the island billions of dollars a year, every year, since 1920.
  • The USA government does not allow US Citizens in Puerto Rico the equal ability to trade in a free market due to cabotage laws and The Jones Act.
  • Puerto Ricans have participated in almost all of the military conflicts in which the US has been involved.
  • They even participated in the American Revolution, when volunteers from Puerto Rico fought the British in 1779.
  • Thousands of Puerto Ricans have died for the US wars for more than one hundred years.

However, nobody in Puerto Rico can vote for the president, because we are a colony, although the US government denies it.  The Supreme Court of the United States announced in a decision that Puerto Rico is a colony, but seems like nobody care.

For more than one hundred years we have sent our best to die in US wars, we Puerto Ricans have chewed the same dirt in combat as many American soldiers. Although we do not forget the atrocities the US government had committed to Puerto Ricans, we still love this country and we deserve to be treated as equals and with the same respect.

Jake Reyes RN, BSN, OT


I survived Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

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