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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) robs a home run from Florida infielder Cade Kurland (4) in the top of the ninth inning during Texas A&M’s game against Florida at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Sunday, June 15, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
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Under one flag

Puerto+Rico
Photo by Photo by Cassie Stricker
Puerto Rico

In the wake of the devastation of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rican students and staff at Texas A&M have struggled to contact their families, provide them with support and raise awareness and funds for the U.S. territory.
Maria hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, causing massive devastation and nearly destroying the power grid that supplied electricity to the island. Many areas lacked running water and gasoline, and diesel supplies were limited, according to The New York Times.
Armando Vendrell-Velez, international studies and Spanish senior, said he made contact with his family in Puerto Rico the Sunday after Maria hit.
“They’re doing good, everyone’s doing okay, but obviously just the effects are pretty bad,” Vendrell-Velez said about his family. “My uncle, for example, his house, the roof was blown off and then the rain was just ridiculous and so the rain got all into the house.”
As of Oct. 10, only 16 percent of the island has power and approximately 43 deaths recorded, according to The New York Times. The biggest problem the island currently faces is restoring power to the territory.
Unlike most, Zuleika Carrasco-Martinez, an international studies and sociology academic advisor, was able to stay in contact with her family during the storm. Several of her family members’ homes were also practically destroyed, their roofs torn off and insides flooded.
Carrasco-Martinez said she is concerned about the power outage, but at the same time is anxious for when her family and others have full access to the Internet and can see the damage Maria has done. The hurricane tore across the island, destroying countless homes and properties and stripping it of its vegetation.
“A lot of people don’t have access to Facebook, the access to the news, don’t know the extent of what the storm did,” Carrasco-Martinez said. “They don’t know that the rainforest, it’s not there … pretty much it’s like it burned.”
In response to the crisis, Carrasco-Martinez has been actively working to bring aid to the island. Aside from individually sending packages of batteries and other goods to her family, she and a friend organized a donation center in College Station on Sept. 30. The center collected goods that were then transported to a nonprofit in Houston and flown to the island.
“Literally, it was a last minute thing,” Carrasco-Martinez said. “It was more to kind of help our mental state, because we feel, ‘Okay, we’re doing something for our people.’”
Ricardo Mercado, political science junior and the president of the Puerto Rican Student Association (PRSA), which he re-established last spring, has also been active in his efforts to support the island.
PRSA will accept donations for the island at their screening of the Emmy-award winning documentary “The Last Colony,” a film that outlines the complex political relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico, on Oct. 24 in Rudder Theater. They will be accepting monetary donations along with items such as water filters, solar-powered lamps, canned goods and other necessities.
Mercado hopes to use the event not only to raise donations for Puerto Rico, but to also raise awareness about the complex political reality of the U.S. territory.
“I want to make the most out of the current tragedy, because two weeks ago nobody was talking about Puerto Rico, nobody knew anything about it, nobody cared,” Mercado said. “Now that we’re in the national spotlight, I think it’s imperative that the community get educated because Puerto Rico has been under the U.S. flag for 119 years, Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens for 100 years.”
Mercado said that he hopes that PRSA, which has grown from only six members in the spring to over 40 members, can act as an anchor for the Aggie Puerto Rican community in the face of the devastation.
“A lot of people are looking for family and friends and people that can relate to their experience since some of them haven’t been able to communicate with their family,” Mercado said. “These wounds are still very fresh, so I want [PRSA] to be the support group.”
The fact that the island can come together in this time of need is part of the culture, Vendrell-Velez said.
“It’s about loving the people around you,” Vendrell-Velez said discussing Puerto Rican culture. “Even if you don’t like someone, you know, even if y’all aren’t friends, you still come together in times of crisis, you know?”
Carrasco-Martinez said the strength of the people of Puerto Rico is evident, especially now.
“That’s one thing about Puerto Rican people, and it’s across the board. This won’t take us down,” Carrasco-Martinez said. “When things happen like this, we come together.”

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    Photo by Photo by Cassie Stricker
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    Photo by Photo by Cassie Stricker
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