Putting Puerto Rico Back On The Map
Puerto Rico is experiencing a devastating humanitarian crisis. However, the mainstream news media has all but neglected the story, with data from Media Cloud, a database that collects news published on the Internet every day, showing that the devastation in Puerto Rico is getting relatively little attention from digital and cable news outlets compared to its coverage on Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.
We, a group of mostly Puerto Rican journalists, videographers and media professionals aim to fill this void. We are ready and capable of providing independent reporting on the ground. Together, we’ll be heading to Puerto Rico for one week to interact with the people, investigate slow and questionable federal relief efforts and document the devastation, producing a short film, several written articles and a feature-length documentary from our trip and research.
As people with family and friends living on the island, we have direct access to those who have been impacted. As advocacy media-makers, we also have established relationships with the movers and shakers in Puerto Rico, many of whom have already agreed to work with us. Most importantly, however, as Puerto Rican people, who are personally and academically schooled in the politics, history and colonization of Puerto Rico, we will bring an important, and currently unseen, lens to our reporting.
Despite the alarming data, there continues to be limited news coverage, especially out of the San Juan area.
The Current Narrative
In Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory of 3.4 million, the people are hungry, homeless and dying. The situation is dire, and, per San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, with many towns without potable water, communication or transportation to major cities, it is only getting worse. Despite this reality, the federal government and mainstream news media alike have alleged that the situation is getting better, that it is a “good news story,” as Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke described it just last week.
There is nothing “good” about the disaster plundering Puerto Rico. This is a crisis of many facets: humanitarian, environmental, economic and political. And Donald Trump’s inaction and belittlement of the situation is only heightening tensions. On October 3, 2017, Trump visited the island in what can only be categorized as a public relations trip that became a nightmare for Puerto Ricans. He compared Hurricane Maria with the devastation after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, suggesting that the circumstances in Puerto Rico was not a “real catastrophe” and stating that the people should be grateful that “not a lot died.” He also “joked” that Puerto Rico recovery efforts were straining the federal government budget and then preceded to throw out toilet paper to a group of Puerto Ricans as if they were “animals," as New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito described it in an interview.
The people of Puerto Rico, who have been suffering under U.S. colonial control for 119 years, deserve their plight to be told and documented accurately, untainted by imperialists and vulture capitalists ready to snatch up the land and build a Puerto Rico without Puerto Ricans.
There is a public health crisis due to the precarious conditions in hospitals and the threat of epidemics stemming from contaminated water. Cities, towns and neighborhoods outside the metropolitan area have been abandoned. What is missing from many of those reports is coverage from the western part of the island and concrete information of plans and immediate, achievable initiatives to move the country ahead, as well as an ongoing plan. Explanations are necessary for why relief has been so slow and insufficient.
We have put together a team of Puerto Rican and Latinx journalists and media professionals to tell these unreported stories from an independent lens, to investigate why efforts to reach, house, feed and clothe Puerto Ricans are unsuccessful, to highlight the conditions in the western part of the island, to hear the people’s response to the slow and inadequate aid from the U.S. and to obtain information on plans for relief and rebuilding.
The team is led by community organizer, political commentator, independent journalist and 2008 Vice Presidential candidate Rosa Clemente and includes videographer Daniel Hernandez, video producer Kat Lazo, print reporter Raquel Reichard, videographer and photographer Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi and communications and social media strategist Yanira Castro. We have also partnered with the Caribbean Cultural Center African Disapora Institute based in New York who will serve as our intuitional host.
What Will We Deliver
Together, the team will travel the small island and speak with the people devastated and the local organizations offering relief to guarantee several deliverables:
• We will work with various outlets, including The Intercept, Truthout, mitú, The Root, GRIT Tv, Rising Up and more, to push news items about unreported municipalities
• Make an educational and social media toolkit
• Produce a 15-minute short film on the crises, which will also act as a fundraising tool for a feature-length project
• Produce a full-length documentary, to be produced under Clemente’s Know Thy Self Productions, looking at the island’s progress, or lack thereof, over time and how the people’s politics about its colonial status may shift as a result.
What We Need
To do this, we are seeking to obtain a short term budget for the first trip of $35,000. Subsequently once we return from the first trip we will expand the project with the end goal of a feature length documentary .
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