“We are a people”: Sovereignty and disposability in the context of Puerto Rico’s post-Hurricane Maria experience

The 2017 North Atlantic Hurricane Season brought many of the injustices faced by non-sovereign Caribbean States to the fore. These injustices, which positioned Caribbean people as expendable to colonial powers, highlighted the impact of historically-enduring colonial structures of non-sovereignty on post-hurricane response and recovery efforts across the region. In this article, we argue that Puerto Rico’s status as a Commonwealth of the United States (U.S.) influenced the nature and outcome of the U.S. Federal Government’s response to Hurricane Maria in 2017. Its response was marked by unnecessary delays, silence and the withholding of information, and the prioritization of bureaucracy, evidencing the disposability of Black and brown lives and bodies, and signaling the need to collectively leverage the power of an environmental justice agenda. For this to be achieved, we further argue, a people’s right to sovereignty and indispensability must be centered.

Associated space

Puerto Rico

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