Puerto Rico

Puerto Ricans who live in Florida need to register to vote here, in order to have a say in the island’s future. That’s the message from the chair of the Puerto Rico Democratic Party as he tours Florida this week. 

Updated at 5:30 p.m. ET

The Senate approved a $19.1 billion disaster aid package Thursday that includes money for states impacted by flooding, recent hurricanes and tornadoes, as well as money for communities rebuilding after wildfires.

The measure passed overwhelmingly — 85-8.

Mariano Torres Ramirez woke up early on Sunday. He got out of bed just after 5 a.m. and stepped into his garden to cut a little bunch of yellow marigolds — a gift for his mother.

"I'm going to tell her I'm sorry it's been so long since I've seen her," Torres said.

There are few things Democrats and Republicans in Congress usually agree on, but one of them is rushing federal money to victims of natural disasters.

That sentiment crumbled this week when the Senate failed to advance two separate disaster funding bills. Both included bipartisan funding to help relieve damage across the country from flooding, wildfires, tornadoes and hurricanes. But a fight over assistance for Puerto Rico has derailed getting a deal on the entire package.

Alejandra Martinez

It’s possible you’ve seen this particular Puerto Rican flag if you've traveled up Biscayne Boulevard into Miami’s Upper East Side or scrolled through your Instagram feed lately. The restaurant "La Placita," which opened its doors in January, has been faced with controversy for the massive mural with the  Puerto flag that decorates the exterior of the building.  

"We wanted to make a statement," said Joey Cancel, CEO and President of La Placita on Sundial.

César Díaz felt lucky that only a couple of leaks had sprung in his ceiling, even though Hurricane Maria tore the zinc panels off much of his roof. His real troubles began about a year after the storm, when a crew hired by Puerto Rico's housing department showed up to make the repairs.

"They weren't very professional," Díaz said. "They didn't wear gloves, and they asked if I had an extra piece of wood."

Within days, there were new leaks. Not only in the living room but in the bedroom, over his daughter's crib.

In the lush green mountain town of Lares, Puerto Rico, even the dead and buried were scarred by Hurricane Maria.

The September 2017 storm dumped so much rain onto the town's only cemetery that it triggered a landslide. The flow of mud and water was so powerful that it damaged nearly 1,800 tombs — expelling caskets from their graves and sending some of them tumbling down a hillside.

Mabel Román Padró wishes she hadn't had to sue Puerto Rico's government.

But because she did, it translated an important report about Hurricane Maria into Spanish so she and most of the island's residents could read it.

"Access to information has always been hard here," Román said.

Hurricane Maria Victims Are Not Going To Decide Florida’s Statewide Elections

Oct 30, 2018
Miami Herald

A hurricane that made landfall 1,000 miles from Miami jolted Florida’s political ecosystem a year ago.

Democrats and Republicans spent months making trips to Puerto Rico, jostling for endorsements from island politicians and cutting Spanish-language TV ads that reached as far as San Juan.

Nelson Gets Key Endorsement In Fight For Puerto Rican Votes

Oct 1, 2018
John Raoux AP Photo

A little more than a month out from the November election, the courtship of Puerto Ricans in Florida intensified Monday, with the island’s governor throwing his support behind U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in what could be seen as a blow to Nelson’s opponent, Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s endorsement of Nelson unleashed pushback from Scott, who’s made nine trips to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on the U.S. territory a year ago.

Abandoned Animals Strain System In Puerto Rico

Sep 24, 2018

As the sun rises above San Juan’s Peninsula de Cantera neighborhood, stray pigs roam the streets looking for scraps of food.

Kaitlin Hall / WUFT

On Sept. 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria pounded Puerto Rico, destroying nearly everything in its path and cutting off the island from the rest of the world.

A year later, the storm is long gone but the memories of near-death experiences and horrific suffering remain fresh for Puerto Ricans.

“We’re going to die here,” Pablo Soto Soto recalls his wife telling him as the storm knocked out their windows and ripped off their roof in Yabucoa.

Read the whole series: Life After Maria, a WUFT Special

Sam Turken / WLRN

Standing alongside Puerto Rican community leaders in Miami on Thursday, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said he didn't want to talk politics on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria's landfall in Puerto Rico. 

But that wish gradually gave way as the Democrat from Florida condemned President Donald Trump for disputing the death toll from the hurricane and called on the federal government to do more to rebuild the island. 

Carmen Lugo has lived in Puerto Rico her whole life, and her whole life she has feared the water that comes out of her tap.

"When I was a child, we used filters," she says, leaning on the doorjamb with her 11-year-old in front of her and two teenage sons sleepy-eyed behind her on a morning in July.

"The water here," she says, pausing as she purses her lips in a tight smile. She chooses her words carefully. "We want to be in good health," she finally says. "My husband, he buys water from the Supermax," referring to a local grocery store.

UCF Establishes Research Hub For Puerto Rico

Sep 19, 2018

As Puerto Rico recovers from Hurricane Maria and evacuees from the island settle in Central Florida, the University of Central Florida has created a Puerto Rico Research Hub designed to identify solutions to challenges and issues affecting the community.

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