HINESVILLE, Ga. (WSAV) — Born in Puerto Rico, and now living in Hinesville, Ronald Rivera says Hurricane Fiona is weighing on the mental health of loved ones back home.
“The PTSD that a lot of people have from Maria are still showing it today with this new hurricane that just passed,” Rivera said.
Rivera manages D’Corner Latin American Specialties in Hinesville, a restaurant owned by Puerto Ricans who moved to Georgia after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. Territory in September 2017.
Rivera’s wife also lived through Maria.
“My wife didn’t have electricity until March of the next year, water until almost February of the next year,” he said while standing inside the restaurant.
While the destruction from Fiona doesn’t appear as bad as Maria, Rivera’s family and friends, still living on the island, are struggling with damage to their homes and a lingering blackout.
“Parts of my family don’t have electricity and still using generators, and going to the gas station two or three hours away just to get gas for their generators,” Rivera said.
Amid flooding and landslides, FEMA workers are on the ground in Puerto Rico, as President Biden approves an emergency declaration, hoping to avoid government mistakes made in response to Hurricane Maria.
“There wasn’t communication. There were bundles and pallets or purified water that was never given to the Puerto Ricans,” Rivera said.
He says while many Puerto Ricans, like himself, relocate to the U.S. Mainland for more opportunities or to escape the threat of a weather disaster, pride for their homeland is a big part of their identity, no matter where they live.
“Puerto Ricans wear either a hat, or clothes that say, Puerto Rico,” Rivera said. “Any Puerto Rican that has their car might wear their Puerto Rican flag on the rear view mirror.”