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.
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.
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)
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.