The Battle For Paradise- Naomi Klein/ ¡Ay María!

I. The Battle For Paradise

In the rubble of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Ricans, the neoliberal local government and ultrarich corporations are locked in a pitched struggle over how to remake the island. In this investigation, Canadian author and activist, Naomi Klein, uncovers how the forces of shock politics and disaster capitalism seek to undermine the nation’s radical, resilient vision for a “just recovery.”

Klein and the Puerto Rican people she interviews argue that the local government along with U.S. corporations benefits from crises such as the hurricane. The government shut down already underfunded schools and the state university, privatized the state-owned energy company and promoted tax-exemption laws and policy that only advantages U.S. corporations and Wall Street over the people’s needs.

Although grassroots organizations on the island are promoting sustainability and environmentally conscious practices as a recovery, both the local and federal government ignore or rejects these projects.

Keywords

Disaster capitalism is the practice (by a government, regime, etc) of taking advantage of a major disaster to adopt liberal economic policies that the population would be less likely to accept under normal circumstances.

According to Klein, “shock” politics refers to “the quite brutal tactic of systematically using the public’s disorientation following a collective shock – wars, coups, terrorist attacks, market crashes, or natural disasters – to push through radical pro-corporate measures.”

This strategy has been a silent partner to the imposition of neoliberalism for more than 40 years. Shock tactics follow a clear pattern: wait for a crisis or foment one, declare a state of emergency, suspend some or all democratic norms – and then ram the corporate wishlist through as quickly as possible.

 

II. ¡Ay María!

The play ¡Ay María! was performed around the island in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane. It was produced by Mariana Carbonell, directed by the street-theater activist, Maritza Pérez and co-created by a group of independent actors as a way of coping with their own personal experiences that characterized everyday life during the storm, from the poignant to the absurd.

Ay–Maria_searchable

Some of the topics that the play represents are the devastation of the hurricane, the lack of cell phone signals, the long lines for food, gasoline, and ATM services, the disrespectful visit of the U.S. president, the official hiding of facts over the deaths during and after María, the slow, and for the most part, ineffectual FEMA response, the militarization of the island during the aftermath, the physical and mental health crisis, and the displacement of a big part of the population.

*One year since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017, nearly 160,000 residents of the island have relocated to the United States. This exodus represents one of the most significant movements of Puerto Ricans to the U.S. mainland in the island’s history in terms of both volume and duration.

Recommended Audiovisual Works

She’s Gotta Have It  Episode 7 “#OhJudoKnow?” (Nexflix Series, Spike Lee, 2019)

After María (Nexflix Documentary, Nadia Hallgreen, 2019)

 

ONLINE ENGAGEMENT (Deadline 3/29 until 11:59 PM)

Instructions:

In the comment section below, write a 250-words response based on the following question:

Identifying the ideas and issues presented by the documentary The Battle for Puerto Rico and the play ¡Ay María! (pages 56-59) discuss why many Puerto Ricans decided to move from the island to the United States after Hurricane María? Give specific examples from both sources.

 

8 thoughts on “The Battle For Paradise- Naomi Klein/ ¡Ay María!

  1. Many Puerto Ricans decided to move from the island to the United States after Hurricane Maria because of the crisis issues and lack of Government involvement/help. In the documentary The Battle for Puerto Rico” it shows how the government takes advantage of the aftermath of the natural disasters that took place. Many Puerto Ricans didn’t agree with how the government was going to deal with the shattered infrastructure and reconstruction of Puerto Rico. The problem also had to do with if Puerto Rico was going to be built for the people who lived there or tourists who came for vacation. This was one of the examples of how the land in Puerto Rico was being used to benefit more powerful people other than Puerto Ricans themselves. Another reason why Puerto Ricans decided to move to the United States was because schools were shutting down and Puerto Ricans tried to think about other alternatives of rebuilding them but the government wouldn’t provide them with the help they needed.
    In the play ¡Ay María! Gives his reason for thinking about leaving the island. The thing is many people have the same thoughts about leaving their island which stems from having a corrupt government and officials. Mickey thinks about how his family struggles have become serious because of his lack of resources such as light, water and the telephone, which he can be charged for even though they were cut off two months ago. His need to try to help and save his family from these struggling times makes him desperate to move out of his pais.

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  2. Puerto Ricans relocated from their homeland to the US after Hurricane Maria because of the raised question “who is Puerto Rico for?” In the documentary, this question was followed by “was Puerto Rico for the people or outside investors?” Puerto Ricans believed that their government does not care about rebuilding their land that was damaged, instead, they try to benefit from Maria by engaging in disaster capitalism. The storm is possibly used to build more profitable businesses. Although Puerto Ricans are connected to their land and can power and feed their community, the government will not comply with them. People do not agree with using their land to make more hotels, mansions etc. because that means taking away land for farms and projects for the people. Moving to the US was their way of escaping the disaster capitalism.
    In the play Ay Maria, Mickey discusses his feelings about leaving Puerto Rico and moving to the US. On page 56, he states, “It’s not that I want to leave, it’s that I have to.” This means that the government is leaving Puerto Ricans with no choice. Given the circumstances on the island, some Puerto Ricans must live with no light or job. Also, schools have been shut down for months which makes people who have children want to relocate even more. On page 58, Mickey says, “…the one who has to stand up is the government.” Puerto Ricans migrate to the US because their government is not listening to its people.

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  3. The ideas and issues presented in the documentary that caused Puerto Ricans to move from the island to the United States because Puerto Ricans are so often being exploited and the government, corporations, and investors are taking advantage of these peoples desperation from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. This major historic storm occurs on top of an already existing historic economic crisis. As Naomi says in the documentary, “who has the right to make these fateful decisions?” Many Puerto Ricans have their own ideas about how to replace their destroyed foundations and this is not for profit but to see the island’s beautiful energy and how it feeds itself. In the play Ay Maria, also focuses on how the government takes advantage of these people because in the play Marissa says “While people are going hungry, the government is signing multi million-dollar contracts with American companies.” Mickey talks about leaving the island to go to the United States because the government is not listening to its people and the one who has to stand up is the government. In the play, Mickey says “Try and tell me that this country isn’t fucked. Neighbors, this country is strangling me. This country with its corrupt officials is messing with my family and yours.” Mickey is worried about the struggles, him and his family will face and that is what causes him to want to go to the United States. From this you can see that the people have lost hope and due to schools having been shut down for months, this just adds more pain to the people.

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  4. After Hurricane María, a record number of Puerto Ricans left the island and moved to the United States. The reasons for this mass migration are plenty, but all revolve on one thing- the government taking advantage of its people and exploiting them during their time of crisis, when they are most vulnerable.
    The documentary we watched by Noami Klein mentioned food and education as some of the main points of contention. Most of the farmland in Puerto Rico is being used to mass produce goods like sugar and tobacco, and not food for consumption due to U.S. interference in Puerto Rican affairs. And as we heard from 2 locals in the documentary (8:30), food is imported from the port of San Juan, and if anything were to happen to that port, there would be no food for the locals. This is exactly what happened during Hurricane María, where people starved because the port shut down and farmers only had tobacco and sugar on hand. Also as a result of Hurricane María, schools were destroyed and shut down. The government was moving forward with their plan to privatize the schools, and thus kept the schools shut. The schools that did open did so without electricity. These two issues, lack of food and a decent education, were two issues mentioned in the documentary that caused Puerto Ricans to leave their homeland and come to the United States.
    Mickey, a character in the play ¡Ay María!, also mentions the issue of education. On page 56 he mentions that his daughter’s school hasn’t opened, and that his daughter is supposed to be receiving therapy from her school. He also mentions unemployment, and utility bills that are piling up that he cannot pay. All these reasons- education, food, unemployment, and so on- are reasons that Puerto Ricans are leaving and are things that their government is taking advantage of.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Many Puerto Ricans chose to leave the island for the US because of the complete devastation the island was facing. In “The Battle for Puerto Rico” Yarimar Bonilla states that Puerto Rico was already going through an economic crisis before the hurricane hit, so the hurricane only made things worse. Many people were struggling financially to support their families due to this hurricane making an already bad situation worse. In “Ay Maria” Mickey expresses the same issues when he discusses losing his job and not being able to get the support his daughter needs for her chronic condition. Puerto Rico was practically at a stand still and leaving the island to go to the states was the only option many people had in order to survive.
    Going to the states promised more stability than remaining in Puerto Rico while the island was trying to recover. For people like Mickey with no family to stay with, going to the camps was the only option to try and get his family back on their feet. For many others with family in the states it was easier and safer to leave Puerto Rico. For them leaving Puerto Rico was a promise of safety and the opportunity to create a life in the states if they needed to. Leaving the island, although it was a hard decision for many, was the best decision they could make to ensure that they didn’t endure anymore hardship

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  6. Because the recession has contributed to the decision of many Puerto Ricans to move to the United States after the storm. Hurricane Maria has devastated homes, schools, and infrastructure in Puerto Rico. The state is not much concerned about it but only care about the benefits they gain from the storm from the US government. As in the documentary “The Battle For Paradise” mentioned: “The storm become the excuse of to rapidly shut down the public school, public housing and replace them with more profitable alternatives.” While thousands were still without lighting or reliable water and having their insurance claims rejected, a hedge fund manager hosted the Puerto Crypto conference to promote the island as the center of the blockchain and cryptocurrency industries and as a tax and corporate haven.
    And in the play ¡Ay María! also shows us the indifference of Puerto Rico governor and the US government. When Donald Trump visited Puerto Rico. He said that only 17 deaths were not enough to call it a horrible tragedy. He compared the damage from Hurricane Maria to that of Hurricane Katrina. His remarks were criticized for implying that Hurricane Maria was not a “real catastrophe.” On page 58, Maria said: “Now we can see how badly administered this country is, from the Department of Consumer Affairs to the Department of Housing, Health, and Education. While people were going hungry, the government was signing multimillion-dollar contracts with American companies, and you get on thinking, what has the government ever done for us?” When people still struggle because they lose everything, because of hunger, the state only pays attention to the benefits they get, but does not listen, sponsor, and help people to overcome difficulties. As a result, the Puerto Ricans were indignant at the regime and began the migration to the United States.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. After Hurricane Maria, the Puerto Rican government manipulated the already underlying economic crisis and people of Puerto Rico by privatizing public services, limiting necessary resources and services for the native peoples. US corporations are benefitting from this crisis, as well as the Puerto Rican government, by shutting down institutions like underfunded schools and universities, privatizing them and promoting tax-exemption laws and policies, which are in favor of the US and not in the people of Puerto Rico. Lands owned by US corporations are extorted from locals, depriving Puerto Ricans of their natural resources so that US corporations can build hotels, golf courts, essentially tourist sites. The documentary explains how lands extorted from locals, strip Puerto Rican communities of their means of farming foods and renewable energy projects.
    In the play, “Ay Maria”, Puerto Rican actors performed at “schools, shelters, town squares, nursing homes, basketball courts, bakeries and bars”, raising awareness of the corruption occurring in the Puerto Rican government, as well as the role the US government had in this crisis. These actors portrayed the struggle and response of Puerto Ricans post Hurricane Maria. The characters communicate the lack of necessities available in PR, for example, “ There’s no water in the supermarket. Or the pharmacy” and “I’m in the battery aisle. There aren’t any AAs, AAAs, or AEE left”. Another major issue presented in the play was focused on ‘The Centro de Operaciones de Emergencia’ (COE), which was the convention center that was supposed to be responsible for aiding Puerto Ricans with services like obtaining electricity or receiving an electronic deposit. However, in the play, the struggle to be able to actually obtain help from the COE portrayed the lack of response from the US government, telling people to “Breathe! Look next to the convention center in the Sheraton hotel. That’s where the government is with all his friends enjoying the air conditioning…go complain there. Next”, essentially ignoring the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria and necessities of those affected. Unfortunately, the only response Puerto Rico got out of the US was from the US’s 45th president, who didn’t even acknowledge the amount of deaths that came out of Hurricane Maria, claiming it was only 16 deaths and that “That’s not a disaster. The real disaster is the way you’re messing with my budget”, and throwing toilet paper at Puerto Ricans.
    Many Puerto Ricans decided to move to the US, away from their homeland, because of the difficulty of receiving help from both the US and Puerto Rican government. In the play, one of the characters, Mickey, decides to leave, not because he wants to, but because he has to. He expresses how “The house doesn’t pay for itself; the light, the water and the telephone have been cut off for two months and they’re still charging me” and how his daughter’s chronic condition is another reason he has to leave, since all the schools are closed and that’s where she went to therapy. Mickey goes on to say “ Try and tell me this country isn’t fucked. Neighbors, this country is strangling me.”, representing the anger of Puerto Ricans towards the corruption of the US and Puerto Rico.

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  8. In the documentary, “The Battle for Puerto Rico” presented many issues such as how the government takes advantage of the natural disasters that took place. Many Puerto Ricans didn’t agree with how the government was going to deal with the reconstruction of Puerto Rico. Later, Arturo Massol (Casa Pueblo, community-based organization) mentioned that they started with solar power, this organization helped by giving 10,000 solar lamps to people. This improved people’s quality of life because it provided light in one’s household. I believe this was a brilliant idea because the organization helped the pueblo and did not have to wait for the government to take action.
    In the play ¡Ay María! mentions why many Puerto Ricans decided to move from the island to the United States after Hurricane María because the government did not assist them with any help. While people were hungry, the government was signing contracts with American companies. This is why many people left to the U.S. to get a job.

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