After Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico's Three Kings Holiday Symbolizes Its Spirit of Resilience

With the island now over 100 days in darkness, the people plan to celebrate the upcoming holiday in a different way.
January 5, 2018, 7:30pmUpdated on January 5, 2018, 8:50pm
Image via Flickr user Timothy Krause.

This is an opinion piece by writer and consultant, Miguel Guadalupe, for Three Kings Day in Puerto Rico.

On Three Kings Day in Puerto Rico, normally, the streets would overflow with celebration. The Day of the Three Kings - or Los Reyes Magos, are the climatic end of the holiday season. People take off work, parties are thrown, parades march down main streets in town after town. Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar are the celebrities of the new year, as they bring joy and gifts to children all over. But in 2018, with the island now over 100 days in darkness in the wake of Hurricane Maria, the people are looking at the Kings in a different way.

Today, the Kings are looked to as a symbol of deliverance, to strengthen the soul of a weary people and lead them from darkness into light, to bring back the joy that once filled this time of the season. For many, today the Kings cry over Puerto Rico.

They cry because of the unparalleled devastation that Puerto Rico has experienced. They cry because of the response of the government of the United States, the supposed most powerful nation in the world, which has been lacking. They also cry with pride at what the people have been doing, helping each other to rebuild, while the diaspora and its allies lead the charge stateside in advocating for people with no voice in the darkness.

Citizens of the United States of Puerto Rican descent, who have fought and bled for this country for more than 100 years, are fighting for three things: To put more effort and money into recovery and rebuilding efforts on the island; to repeal the Jones Act, an unjust law that shackles the island and prohibits it from being competitive in trade and industry; and to forgive the island’s debt -- perhaps the biggest albatross preventing recovery.

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We continue to ask our leaders for change, but the distractions are many. And while they play politics, people die -- over 1,000 since the hurricane hit, though many are still undercounted. An exodus from the island of survivors reduces economic potential, and those left behind struggle with closing schools, foreclosed homes, and continued trauma in a world they no longer recognize but must suffer through.

So the Kings cry. But they can also bring us hope. We are reminded of what their gifts represent and how those gifts can strengthen us. With their gold, we recognize the regality of our ingenuity and hard work. With their frankincense, we remind ourselves that our spirits are strong. And with their myrrh, we bare our suffering with poise and grace.

"Espiritu Y Sufrimiento" by artist Ernesto Cuevas, an original illustration reflecting the Three Kings crying over a dark Puerto Rico.

The Kings are the spirit of Puerto Rico, and they represent how Puerto Rico can rise again. But It will take the efforts of all of us, the diaspora, and all other citizens of this country, to realize that dream.

We can call and write our federal representatives and and ask them to support a new bill sponsored by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren - a $146 Billion “Marshall Plan” to rebuild Puerto Rico, with a focus on renewable energy, debt restructuring, and infrastructure.

To help the island’s residents directly, one can partner with and donate to various organizations working on the island’s recovery and future growth.

UPROSE is part of the Climate Justice Alliance, and are distributing sustainable supplies like water filters and solar generators to residents. But their mission is also to prevent disaster capitalism from controlling Puerto Rico, so that Puerto Ricans are empowered to take control, rebuild and continue to own their own land.

The UNIDOS Disaster Relief and Recovery Program is part of the Hispanic Federation, which from the beginning of the crisis coordinated hundreds of donation drives in the U.S. mainland. They distributed millions of pounds of food, water and essentials to those most affected by the storm, delivering emergency relief aid to municipalities, and supported emergency relief and recovery projects throughout Puerto Rico.

On this Three Kings Day, wethey are ask that we inspire each other to bring hope back to Puerto Rico and fully restore its beauty and enchantment. With our help, La Isla Del Encanto will shine again.

Happy Three Kings Day.