Puerto Rico as a Concubinic Petrie Dish: Diagnosing the Viral Attack of US Coloniality
On September 6, 2017, Puerto Rico was struck a “glancing blow” by category five Hurricane Irma, whose eye passed fifty-five miles north of the island. This powerful storm left in its wake death, structural damage, and the loss of electricity to at least one million people on the small island. Other Caribbean islands, particularly the Leeward Islands were brutally hit and suffered catastrophic destruction. Before the inhabitants of Puerto Rico could adequately recover from Hurricane Irma, or prepare for any new storms, Hurricane Maria, a category four storm, made direct landfall on September 20. It cut a wide swath from east to west, obliterating everything in its path. The death toll was initially reported at 30, a severely underrated count that led Donald Trump to the false comparison that “sixteen [reported deaths in Puerto Rico] versus thousands” that died on the mainland in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina made the latter a “real catastrophe” (with the implication that Maria in Puerto Rico was not). While the official count is still mistakenly underreported as 64, others place a more accurate tally at more than a thousand hurricane-related deaths. Deaths related to the aftermath of the storm, particularly among the vulnerable population that have suffered without adequate medical care, continue to be reported.
Yet, the destruction goes far beyond human fatalities. As of February 2018, over 40 percent of the island has had no power for more than 130 days, and approximately one third of the island remains without power six months after the hurricane made landfall. Many remain with no source of clean potable water. What most of us take for granted as basic necessities for daily life are now items of luxury in Puerto Rico. The response of the federal government has been woefully inadequate. The news reports in the days leading up to the storms and in their aftermath were almost nonexistent: all eyes were on Texas, Florida, and other parts of the United States. Officials in the current US government laid blame for Puerto Rico’s state on Puerto Ricans themselves, and in some instances have taken punitive legislative steps rather than humanitarian ones.
Why such an inadequate response on the part of the United States to a population that is purportedly part of its citizenry? In this essay, I provide a historical context to two aspects of this tragedy: to the economic devastation that preceded the onslaught of the storms and continue to hamper the recovery efforts of the island; and to the historical response of the United States to the island in the face of natural disasters that have struck in the past. I argue that the current US federal stance is consistent with the economic history of the presence of the US in Puerto Rico, and to past responses to natural calamities on the island. Indeed, it is consistent with the colonial trajectory that began when the United States invaded Puerto Rico in 1898. Comprehending this colonial framework is essential for understanding the economic, social, and even health care policies that the United States has developed throughout its historical relationship with Puerto Rico, which I briefly sketch in this essay.
My purpose in presenting this historical sketch is two-fold. First, I want to underscore that the present calamity facing Puerto Rico is a “pernicious continuity” of colonial policies that have an intentional goal, with genocidal consequences for economic ends; that in fact, this is not new. Second, I want to emphasize that the response of the Church, if it is to be one of true justice, compassion, and love cannot be to extricate a people from their lands, and thus add to the population of the global homeless that roam our planet. The response of the Church should be to expose the sin of coloniality and white supremacy as it is expressed in Puerto Rico, and thus call for economic and social justice; to stand with the people of Puerto Rico as they seek to reconstruct their homes and communities; and to ensure that they and the rest of the people of the Caribbean do not disappear in the invisibilization process that is such a part of the globalization project. That is to say, the Church must ensure that part of the anticolonial project is to decolonize the personhood of all colonized peoples—indeed, even the very notion of humanity—from that which is currently constructed through the lens of white supremacy. So far, others have argued that these things must be done because Puerto Ricans are US citizens. I argue that this must be done because Puerto Ricans, like others, are children of the Living God.
“It went viral”: The Pernicious Colonization of Puerto Rico
In contemplating the colonial history of Puerto Rico in its relations with the United States (and its place in the world), I begin by discussing the notion of a virus. A virus is an organism that takes over another. One of the things that successful viruses do is that they rearrange or in some way impact the RNA or DNA of the host cell. Thus they affect its futurity. A successful virus invades, uses, replicates, absorbs, manipulates, distorts, and even drains; but it does not kill outright the host. A virus weakens its host enough to leave it powerless to fight back, while allowing its victim to survive in order to provide the viral agent a means or conduit within which it can replicate and disseminate.
Successful colonization is similar to a virus. It invades, and it seeks to alter or destroy the basic DNA and RNA of the people invaded: it destroys the cultural values of the colonized, their language, their history, their religious beliefs, their social fabric, and their economic pillars. When possible, the colonizer affects or destroys the reproductive future of the colonized either through rape, intimidation, mass sterilization, or, ironically, through intermarriage. Colonization diminishes populations either through attrition or other means. However, the colonizers typically do not destroy an invaded population entirely; for whether they are Romans, British, Spanish, or the USA, the colonizer can further its own economic and political designs by subjugating (and often enslaving) the host population. Colonizers introduce foreign elements that despoliate but keep the colonized functioning. Like a virus, any empire that outright kills its colonies does not survive in the long run.
Puerto Rico’s long history has been one of infection by the colonizing virus. This history did not begin with the United States but rather with the invasion, genocide, and destruction of the native peoples and lands of the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese conquistadores. This background is relevant to the current discussion. I am fully aware of Nishant Upadhyay’s observation that there is a continuous link between the five hundred years of colonialism of Americas, the colonial violences and legacies incurred against South Asia, the ongoing colonization of Americas, and the continued racist violence perpetrated against communities of color in the United States—what she refers to as “pernicious continuities.” Therefore, while I do not engage a full discussion of this history of conquest and colonization, I also do not diminish it nor do I want to erase the important theological and political discussions that led to the infantilization, forced indentured servitude and outright slavery, and genocide of indigenous and African people. Puerto Rico was infected by the virus of colonization long before the United States invaded. Nevertheless, a wave of nationalist sentiment and pro-independent push in the Caribbean created an environment that permitted Puerto Rico to reach a political status of autonomy from Spanish rule, with the dream of becoming an independent nation-state in its own right. It had taken steps to loosen the grip of its colonizing invaders. Then the Spanish-American War broke out. This war was begun under an intentional imperial policy of Manifest Destiny that sought to obtain further territorial hegemony in the Caribbean and Latin America, principally by wresting lands and power from Spain. Thus the war was initiated under the flimsiest of excuses—the claim that Spain allegedly had been involved in the bombing of the U.S.S. Maine while docked in a Havana, Cuba.
The hostilities gave cause for Rear Admiral William Sampson to encroach upon San Juan with seven warships and bombard the city without explicit orders from Washington. It seems that “being an island surrounded by water” did not stop an armed invasion of a peaceful people, although currently that geographic fact seems to have become a major obstacle for humanitarian aid from the US. One of the mistaken notions about Spanish-American war, and its effects on Puerto Rico was that it was, in some way, a nonviolent ceding of territory. This is far from the truth: the US Navy’s attack on San Juan’s civilian population, as well as the invasion of other island towns by US forces, led to material and human losses. The imagery often projected of the United States entering the island as saviors welcomed with open arms by a peaceful population is purely propaganda that ignores actual historical events.
At the conclusion of the war, and with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, key territories were ceded to the United States as war booty. The Treaty of Paris disregarded the prior treaty between Spain and Puerto Rico that had granted the latter political autonomy. The Treaty of Paris enabled the United States to gain the strategic foothold in the Caribbean it had long desired, and in gaining Puerto Rico it specifically gained a key military location, as well as land rich in natural and human resources it could exploit for monetary gain.
“It’s the Economy, Stupid”
No one is ever prepared for a natural disaster, but a natural disaster within an economy crippled by colonialism, an odious debt, and a weak infrastructure is beyond disastrous.
Vulnerability is not simply a product of natural conditions; it is a political state and a colonial condition.
Cyclones are natural, but disasters are political.
The United States’ goal to exploit Puerto Rico for monetary gain was quickly asserted through a series of economic policies and legal maneuvers. Prior to the US invasion, and its intervention in Puerto Rico’s agricultural industry, agriculture was diversified, with many small landholders raising coffee, sugar, and about a third dedicated to subsistence farming. The Foraker Act (1900) was part of the overall strategy to steer Puerto Rican agribusiness to growing sugar, and thus to US-owned or multinational corporations and the global market, and away from subsistence farming and local food needs. The passage of the Foraker Act imposed a 15 percent levy on all imports and exports. It created a “body politic” of the “people of Puerto Rico” with limited rights, and it maintained a military governor appointed by the President of the United States. This law, coupled with the devaluation of currency and devastating storms, primarily affected the coffee industry, which included a diverse number of small landowners (including poorer Puerto Ricans of color). While the Foraker Act prevented US corporations from owning more than 500 acres of land, the more restrictive Olmstead Bill of 1910 succeeded in overturning this restriction. Puerto Rico’s economy, that had largely been agrarian and whose focus was on subsistence, was shifting to a peonage system: landless and now poor Puerto Ricans working the land for rich land barons, depending on the US for economic aid and economic employment stimulus. The Jones Act (1917) provided citizenship as part of an overall defense strategy of the United States—despite the US’ misgivings that providing citizenship to the people of Puerto Rico would only taint the national DNA because it would incorporate “the mixture of black and white in Porto Rico [that] threatens to create a race of mongrels of no use to anyone, a race of Spanish American talkers.” While the Jones Act provided citizenship, it did not overturn the primary elements of the Foraker Act (including the import/export tariffs). The cumulative legislative decisions together with the military, and later civilian, governments imposed on the island swiftly and drastically changed the island’s economic RNA, as other laws in education, health, and those impacting the social life of Puerto Ricans slowly began to impact its DNA. Moreover, they revealed US long-term political and economic plans: that the US had no plans to let go of its Caribbean concubine, and that, on the contrary, its policies would ensure both economic exploitation through appropriation of the primary means of production on the one hand, and on the other the creation of economic dependency by stifling any industry that was owned by Puerto Ricans, stifling of trade with any other nation other than the US, and by the eventual depletion of island resources. By 1920, the US controlled 85 per cent of total export trade with Puerto Rico. By 1935, the profits acquired from tariff protections had risen to $35 million dollars, benefiting primarily “absentee producers” rather than Puerto Rican consumers who bore the brunt of the costs in the form of higher consumer prices. Within fifty years of the invasion, 80 percent of land ownership had transferred from Puerto Ricans to US and multinational corporate interests.
In short, Puerto Rico’s agricultural industry had shifted from a diversified one to one almost solely dependent on sugar, and from being primarily for local subsistence to one focused on export for external gain. The slow introduction of industrialization and the collapse of the coffee industry forced the population to migrate from inland to coastal cities. A consequence of this growing number of landless workers (agregados) was that between 1899 and 1929 the unemployment rate in Puerto Rico more than doubled from 17 to 36 percent. During times of war, Puerto Ricans not only gave their lives, but also provided a significant portion of earnings to the US. Despite all this, the US was slow to respond to the real needs of the people. During World War II, the then US-appointed governor to Puerto Rico (1941–1946), Rexford Tugwell, documented how the island’s material and civil defense needs were met with “indifference and cynicism” at “every level of government.” Slowly but surely, the island was being sacked of its most precious resources, both human and material. By this period of time, unemployment remained in the double digits, without counting the underemployed. By the time of recession in the 1970s, its real unemployment (taking into consideration those no longer looking for employment and the underemployed) was probably closer to a staggering 60 percent and has since probably hovered between 25 to 30 percentile range.
Natural disasters contributed to this economic reconfiguration that US legislative and political decisions had begun. The first was Hurricane San Ciriaco—a massive category five storm that struck the island in 1899, destroying what remained of the coffee crop, thus accelerating a process that had begun with US economic policies that were aimed intentionally at destroying the coffee industry. Over 3,000 people died as a result of that storm. Subsequent hurricanes such as San Felipe—another category five storm that hit the island in 1928—also caused damage, and even then there was reportedly little response or aid from the US to help islanders to recover from these storms. The economic impact of US policies, together with that of these hurricanes, had lasting consequences still being felt today, which is the key point of this historical overview.
“Above all, do no harm”: The Politics of Eugenics and Medical Experimentation
Nevertheless, official and public reports have never accrued the economic woes of Puerto Rico to US policies or even to “the hand of God” (due to the hurricanes). Rather, the island’s impoverished state was allegedly of its own making. Thus, according to the popular narrative propagated and “scholarly analysis,” the island’s poverty was due to a problem of “overpopulation”—this in spite of the fact that the census in 1899 held the population count at one million inhabitants. The larger framework that birthed this propaganda was the consideration that “on a world scale, the entire Puerto Rican labor force served as a reserve army of labor for the metropolitan countries; within the regional economy of Puerto Rico, there was primarily floating overpopulation, as rural subsistence and coffee-growing farmers drifted toward sugar and urban areas.” In other words, as the coffee and other agriculture industries were dismantled, the people who depended on such industries migrated to, and thus overpopulated, the newly developing urban sectors and areas where sugar was the primary agricultural crop. This narrative of “overpopulation” led to policies of “attrition” of the general population.
One of those policies of attrition was a side benefit of the Jones Act. The Jones Act had been in debate for a number of years because, while it restricted trade and imposed tariffs that benefited the United States financially, it also included a clause for granting Puerto Ricans citizenship. While there was some concern about this particular aspect of the Jones Act, it was finally passed by Congress in 1917 because the United States was about to enter the Great War against Germany. By imposing citizenship upon Puerto Ricans the US now had a disposable regiment of bodies for its military machinery, while also easing the alleged “population problem” on the island.
By the 1940s and ’50s, the response to the “problem of overpopulation” was to encourage people to migrate from Puerto Rico to the US mainland, touted as the “Promised Land, the land of milk and honey,” the place of plentiful jobs and financial opportunity. This led to a key event in the history of Puerto Rico, “the Great Migration,” which we might be seeing again in the post-Hurricane Maria era. Almost 40 per cent of the island’s population, some half-million people, moved from the island between the 1940s and 1960s. My parents were part of that migration. This exodus, described by some as the “dismemberment of the Puerto Rican nation,” on the one hand provided a source of cheap labor for the mainland. On the other hand, it also diluted the island of a valuable resource: many of the people who had knowledge of its history, especially the unwritten kind – the stories passed on from generation to generation through oral transmission and other means.
In addition to attrition through migration as a means to solve the problem of “overpopulation,” a systematic policy of sterilization was implemented that began in the 1930s and allegedly ended in the 1970s when Helen Rodríguez Trías exposed the unethical practice among (mostly poor) women of color in the United States and among Puerto Rican women specifically. Up to 35 percent of Puerto Rican women between the ages of 14 and 49 were sterilized; 92 percent were under the age of 35. By 1968, Puerto Rico had the dubious distinction of having the highest sterilization rate in the world. Women who needed Caesarian sections emerged from surgery to be informed of “complications” that led to a hysterectomy, or those who went to the doctors to inquire about birth control were informed about a “reversible” procedure of “tying their tubes.” Women were being sterilized either without consent or through misinformation. The sterilization of women was related to the industrialization and therefore exploitation of the workforce. Rodríguez notes the large number of women employed but for whom childcare services were not provided. Industries did, however, provide, and encouraged, sterilization as an “effective means” of birth control. Such legislation was permissible given the larger context of eugenics that led to laws that permitted the coerced sterilization of certain population groups such as the poor, those deemed other-abled or with cognitive deficiencies, criminals, or those otherwise dependent on the state.
The lie of “overpopulation” was revealed when the United States began to encourage the importation of migrants from Latin America to work in newly developing industries on the island, particularly under the aegis of “Operation Bootstrap.” These migrant workers were hired to work for even lower wages than their island-raised counterparts. Puerto Rican migrants, on the other hand, provided low-wage labor for mainland industries, and women were recruited for the burgeoning needlework industry.
Operation Bootstrap (Operación Manos a la Obra) was a program that was instituted in the late 1940s, ostensibly to help the island develop economically. In truth, it was a tax haven for corporations, a “rehearsal” if you will for many of the globalizing practices we see worldwide today. Operation Bootstrap allowed corporate businesses to establish their industries in Puerto Rico, tax-free for ten years. More often than not, after ten years, businesses left Puerto Rico (at times for Latin America or other tax-free havens). The purpose of Operation Bootstrap was to provide incentives for industry to develop in Puerto Rico, and thus provide sources of employment for Puerto Rico that would allow it to develop economically (thus, “pull itself up by its bootstraps”). In reality, many of these industries exploited the population by paying minimal salaries (e.g., my mother, who was a college-trained executive assistant, but earned a salary of about $250/month until eventually it was raised to only $400/month). Few companies remained in Puerto Rico after the period of tax incentives ended, and this contributed to the volatility of the job market. In their wake, they left only a damaged environment, while pillaging the island’s natural and human resources for their own profit.
An example of the exploitative nature of the system is the presence of pharmaceutical companies. Through the intricacies of law (including the still active Jones Act), the island did not benefit from having pharmaceutical companies on the island but rather saw the very medicines they helped manufacture shipped to the United States, and then shipped back to Puerto Rico for resale at up to ten times the price for resale. Puerto Rico not only failed to benefit from the presence of these companies on the island, islanders were directly injured when at times they became unknowing participants in pharmaceutical studies for certain medications, especially contraceptives for women.
Whose Histories? Hidden Stories
Puerto Ricans, then, are a population that has been dispersed, regrouped, and hammered into new configurations by the changing requirements of production and profit, and by the inability of its working sectors, in present circumstances, to survive disconnected from the contemporary process of US capitalist expansion.
This history of economic exploitation, resulting in the slow, destruction of our native industries and resources, in conjunction with the population being expelled in diasporic exile, created the economic, social, and political dependencies that frame Puerto Rico’s current status. The terrible consequences of Hurricane Maria, both natural and political, must be understood within this larger historical and colonial framework.
The colonial history of Puerto Rico should give us pause when we hear the continued US propaganda that is propagated as “historical narrative.” Such a narrative tells a story of a benevolent nation that “saved an impoverished people,” and brought the gospel to them (ignoring Puerto Rico’s already established Christian roots). The narrative speaks of hospitals built but not of forced sterilizations or the use of an unwitting population as medical guinea pigs. This colonial history speaks of schools but not of the move to eliminate Spanish or of how it continues to ignore a rich native cultural history of literary giants, poets, musicians, philosophers, scientists, educators, and so forth. It is a narrative that does not admit that there are historians whose works are not published because they write in a “different tongue” and provide different narratives. The US narratives speak of liberty but not about the bombing of San Juan (1898), the massacre of Ponce (1937), the murders of young people at Cerro Maravilla (1978), the systematic repression of independentistas, or the infiltration of nationalist movements by federal agents.
We must be wary of narratives. As a colony, misinformation is rampant. We are being blamed for the financial woes that beset the island before Maria, and to a degree we do bear some responsibility for them. But if the larger history of exploitation, destruction of resources, murder of political leadership, extraction of mineral resources, enrichment of US industrial interests at our expense, the speculative investments of hedge fund owners that led to the collapse of our economy, and now the “generous offer” of those same fund owners to “loan us” billions of dollars to rebuild is not made clear, then the perspective of writers like Don Feder, who once described Puerto Rico as a “Caribbean Dogpatch,” will prevail. According to the New York Times, a new breed of “venture capitalists” is sweeping into the vacuum left by the forced migration that is the consequence of Irma and María. These so called “Puertopians” are nothing other than new “foreign speculators” who seek to enrich themselves upon the backs of a wounded and broken people. Like vultures, they will suck the current land and population dry of what they can, destroy without attention to consequence, and leave when there is nothing else from which they can profit. As for the people of Puerto Rico, whether residing on the island or in diaspora in the United States, we will continue to be treated as mongrels, satxs, sobrajas, with no worth, dignos only to be swept aside with the trash.
I have witnessed the slow genocide of our people through financial, cultural, and biological strangulation. Hurricane Maria was actually a convenient way to speed up what was the ultimate goal of a colonizing virus: to rid the island of a people who continue to cling to a knowledge of its history and maintain nationalist ideals that obstruct the US from its “national interests”—to exploit the resources and maintain strategic military outposts at little cost to themselves.
Good News of Salvation: Spiritualized Vacuousness or True Gospel
This essay has sought to provide a historical framework for the humanitarian, political and economic crises facing Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and María. However, as a theologian I want to conclude with what I believe should be the response of people of faith, especially the Christian Church, to the current situation in Puerto Rico. How can we be evangélicxs, a people of “good news” to those who are undergoing unimaginable suffering? How can we legitimately claim to be a people who proclaim the hope of the Reign, that we are in fact a people of the light in a world gone dark with despair?
As an evangélica theologian, I lay claim to the belief that God is the God of life, the Creator who is the ground source of all that we are and will be through the blowing of the Holy Spirit. As Triune, God is perichoretic—Three Persons in intimate, interpenetrating vínculos (intimate ties that bind) or enlaces (relations), God-in-Communion, Diversity-in-Community. God reminds us that we are created to be en vínculos de amor (loving intimate ties), what Scripture refers to as koinonia. To live in this way is to be “perfect” (Ephesians 4); that is to say that we are called to be whole. It is no coincidence that the biblical terms for salvation are the ones for healing (sōter, salus).
As creation fashioned by God, we are made in the imago Dei. This is a soteriological statement and an anticolonial project: it reminds us that we are called to be a community that is to be in comm-union, and to seek katartismos – healing – wherever there is a rupture as we aspire to wholeness. Imago Dei therefore redefines not only what it means to be human, but more so a creation of God. What define our relationships to each other and the earth are not profits nor concepts fueled by the false science of eugenics, which implies that some created beings are worthier than others. The Church must be the voice of good news that reminds the world that we are invaluable because we are given life and brought into loving relations by the One who sustains all of creation with a loving Breath of Life, with the divine ruach, Holy Spirit. Rabbinic teaching further reminds us that this loving, Triune God created us for tikkun olam, to partner with God for the mending of creation and to bring it to wholeness.
When Scripture refers to the basileia of God it refers precisely to this divine vision for wholeness, and to God’s purpose for all of creation: that we are called to be the holistic diverse community in communion that God created us to be. This is not a utopian ideal for which we passively wait, looking vacuously into the clouds for an undetermined future. This is an eschatological reality that began in creation. Its in-breaking into history is embodied figuratively and literally with the advent of Jesus Christ and the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit. It is the good news that we proclaim both in word and in living witness.
This basileia is the realization that God’s foundational nature is not only perichoretic and relational love (hesed), but that such a love is based on God’s vision for justice. God’s basileia is extended first and foremost to “the least,” the poor, the forgotten, the oppressed, the marginalized, the outcast, the landless stranger, and those without familial ties. We often cite the fact that God is love (I John 4:8), but we forget that “love” in the Bible is meaningless if not understood as an expression of a God who is also justice (sedāqāh or mišpat in Hebrew, or dikaiosynē in the Greek). It is best expressed by the prophet Micah who challenges those who would proclaim themselves to true worshippers of God: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8 NRSV). The Church is called to preach a gospel, un evangelio, that provides hope for justice.
In this sense, the gospel is the ultimate “vaccine” against the virulent attack of colonialism and the destruction of peoples in the face of greed, exploitation, and even “benign neglect.” Wherever there is suffering, hunger, want, oppression, despair, or the encroachment of death, the Church is to be a conduit of God’s good news: we are bearers of God’s Spirit. Where there is hunger, we feed; where there is loss, we comfort; where our brothers and sisters are imprisoned or detained, we visit them and seek that the “captives [be] set free” (Luke 4:18). To a dehumanized and dehumanizing social system, we proclaim a new vision of humanity and a reminder that “God so loved the world” (John 3:16), that God became enfleshed and “pitched a tent” in the midst of us. To be a Christian is not to be an armchair theoretician, but rather to be a servant of God who embodies “good news” in the multiple and sundry ways that a suffering and broken world requires. We are to remind the world constantly about those the world would prefer to forget and ignore.
As conduits of God’s breath, we are called at this kairos time to be prophetic: to call a nation, a Church, and a world to accountability. Thus, as a theologian I call the Church to accountability for its historical amnesia and complicity in the colonization of lands; it justified United States’ hegemonic claims with the false call to Manifest Destiny. As a theologian, I also call the world to accountability for those whom the medical profession has failed through the abusive acts of eugenics, forced sterilization, and other genocidal abuses. Puerto Rico’s “storm” transcends the present hurricanes, because the “storm” of colonization has ravaged the island’s economy, culture, faith, and people for over a hundred years.
More so, we are also called to be conduits of God’s life and love, and therefore to seek God’s justice and mercy. To counter the virus of coloniality that usurps and kills all in its path, we must become sowers of seed: the seed of hope, comfort, material aid, and spiritual and emotional support. In face of the destruction of a people, it is the Church that is empowered to act prophetically and resist genocidal forces. We should not be complicit with the abandonment of the island by aiding in the mass migration of its people, thus leaving Puerto Rico open to rapacious developers who continue to steal a people’s homeland from them. Rather, in the spirit of tikkun olam, we should be at the ready to join our multiple gifts and help a people reconstruct their homes. We should ensure that economic justice through native industry and business can be rebuilt along with homes, schools, and churches. The people of Puerto Rico, and indeed, those ravaged throughout the Caribbean, should know that the world stands by them and with them, not for economic gain, but out of a theological imperative. God, who is life, has given us life so that we may share life and life abundant with the world.