Puerto Rican Exchange-Student Speaks Out About Hurricane Maria


Christian Iglesias

Ada Rios Rivera, Puerto Rican Foreign Exchange Student.

Many students around the New Mexico State University campus have heard about Hurricane Maria devastating Puerto Rico when it hit the shores of the island the morning of Sept. 20. However, it affected one student a little more than the rest.

Ada Rios Rivera, a fourth-year student, moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico in August to attend NMSU all the way from Puerto Rico. The English major found out about the hurricane ahead of time and stayed in contact with her family members every day leading up to it.

“My parents kept calling me and said, ‘You know, if we don’t communicate, don’t worry about it, because, you know, we’re going to be fine’,” Rivera said. Her parents expressed that the eye of the hurricane was going to go through a part of Puerto Rico farther north than their home which is located on the southwest side of the island. That was on Sept. 19. Ada was not able to talk to her family again until six days later.

“Every day [since I got back in contact with them] I’m receiving calls,” she was happy to mention. “From some new number, but I am receiving calls back from them.”

The 21-year-old expressed that her home in Puerto Rico was intact and was not totally destroyed by Hurricane Maria like many were.

The hurricane shook up the US Territory, Puerto Rico, with 160 mph wind speeds and extremely heavy rain. According to the United States Department of Defense, 95 percent of the 1.57 million electricity customers are without power. The Pentagon also reported that only 55 percent have access to drinking water.

Ada’s family is part of the fortunate few in Puerto Rico.

“They have water, but they don’t have electricity nor communication,” she explained. There are very few cell towers functioning and that is why communication is hard to access.

Ada expressed her concern for the education system in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico’s secretary of education, Julia Kelleher, told CNN on Sunday that there are 1,113 public schools on the island but only 400 schools have been evaluated for damage as of that day.

“Education has stopped. My sisters are not going to school,” she said. She also mentioned that her university in Puerto Rico has been shut down until further notice.

The Puerto Rico Secretary of Education reported that children on the island have already missed two weeks of school due to Hurricane Irma that hit just days before Maria. Their target date to open public schools again has been set for Oct. 16.

“[My family] always say, “I’m okay”, but I don’t know because I don’t see them. Maybe they’re doing it because I’m here, I’m worried, and they don’t want to make me more worried, but I’m just being positive that nothing else happened,” Ada said.

She said that her family told her that there is trouble accessing food and gas along with other commodities. They might even move to the United States due to the state the island is in because of the damage caused by the hurricane.

Although at least 18 have died because of this terrible hurricane, Ada Rios Rivera’s family in Puerto Rico is safe and doing well.

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