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Puerto Rico

Bourdain’s Field Notes

It has been six weeks since the hurricane, and 70 percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million American citizens are still without power. About 25 percent are without fresh drinking water—people are drinking from streams and other contaminated sources. They are burning their dead. This is, of course, unthinkable. And grotesque. It is also true.

But things on these lovely islands filled with great food, incredible music, wonderful people who’ve given so much to their country—served its military, been such a vital part of our collective culture—were already tragically absurd. A state of financial limbo, political paralysis, and powerlessness that defies both decency and belief. A Kafkaesque situation that was already bleeding them out.

We visited Puerto Rico with our cameras in April, five months before Maria. We, of course, found the beautiful place we expected: turquoise and gin clear seas, bright greens, colorful and delicious things to eat, a painful history—and a complicated and ambivalent relationship with the rest of a nation who once took them by force, and has held onto them since.

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“More than a hundred years under the wing of the U.S. has left Puerto Rico without any real economic engine beyond tourism.”

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