June 1st marked the official beginning of Puerto Rico’s hurricane season. This is an annual cycle on the calendar. However, many of many of our fellow U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico are still reeling from last year’s hurricane season. They have gone 10 months without power.
The long term damage from Hurricane Maria is mind-boggling. Approximately 1,000 homes remain without power on the island, while Puerto Rico’s electric utility company, PREPA, struggles to find a CEO. In the ongoing battle over electric power administration on the island, Governor Ricardo Rossello recently signed a bill to privatize power generation but retain government control over its distribution. The infighting and instability is felt by the thousands of people who still don’t have reliable power.
In February, CWB – USA performed for many of these communities. Their rebuilding process was in limbo thanks to the politics of getting the lights back on. Thousands of Puerto Ricans who emigrated to the mainland U.S. say that they may never return. The lack of economic opportunities on the island, coupled with the slow infrastructure recovery, have forced people to permanently uproot their lives.
CWB – USA was founded to bring levity and laughter to children in international crisis zones. By our own definitions, touring to Puerto Rico in February was a domestic project in response to a natural disaster and immediate crisis. However, with the continued lack of power, the situation is morphing into one of protracted internal displacement and emigration. Those who remained on the island in the aftermath of the Hurricane Maria face ongoing trauma and potential economic ruin. The displacement is ongoing, long after the hurricane passes. But now, with a new season looming, the impact of a storm has the potential to be even worse.
While the mission of CWB – USA may be simple, we embrace the complexity of the crises faced by our community partners. Even now, as we plan a return tour to Puerto Rico, to continue the healing process from Maria, we know that the island may be impacted by another hurricane. CWB – USA is proud to share laughter with people around the world, and at home. We are inspired by the resilience of the Puerto Rican people, as they face the daunting task of rebuilding.