“The rich people are not going to do anything for us”
University of Puerto Rico students speak on inequality and the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria
Genevieve Leigh and Zac Corrigan
16 December 2017
Hundreds of thousands of students in Puerto Rico have resumed the fall semester after a prolonged shutdown following Hurricane María’s landfall on the island almost three months ago. Many of the school buildings are damaged, some are still without electricity, and others are open for only a few hours a day.
The University of Puerto Rico (UPR), the only public university on the island, was closed for over a month. Students at the campus in Rio Piedras spoke with our reporting team about the effects of the Hurricane on education, the political issues it has raised, and the way forward for the working class in Puerto Rico.
One student, Yamir Torres-Ramirez, explained that some students, including those at UPR in Río Piedras, have been out of school since before hurricane María. “We started the semester at UPR on September 4. On September 5, we had to leave because of Hurricane Irma. After a couple of weeks, the university reopened, but just a few days later, Maria hit. In total we were out of school for more than a month. It’s hard on students because we don’t want to fall behind on our goals.”
The students at UPR will have to extend their semester until March, and the spring semester is planned to continue well into summer to make up for the lost time.
Yamir explained that the effects of the hurricane are still present in every aspect of life. “The hurricanes came a couple of months ago, but the disaster is still upon us. Without power and water, it’s like living in the stone age.”