It has been four months since Hurricanes Irma and then Maria slammed into Puerto Rico. The death toll and damage to the island is unprecedented: Power grid and water infrastructure have been torn apart, triggering a health crisis. Best estimates say around half the nation is without power, and some experts say some areas may not get power back until this spring.
Although she now lives in Livonia, Marta Smith Cruz grew up in Puerto Rico and helped formed the Comité Cultural Boricua de Detroit, which is working on providing relief to the island.
Cruz joined Stateside to discuss the relief effort for Puerto Rico she's been leading since September, focusing on her hometown of Seva.
Listen to the full conversation above or read highlights below.
On the hurricane's disruption to daily life
"Losing power and losing electricity is not uncommon on the island. There are times where you lose power for some unknown reason and then it comes back or the water goes because they're doing some work. But having no power, no water, and no communication on top of that, I think all of those combined is really what makes it more difficult.”
What we should know about the people of Puerto Rico
"I want people to understand that we are their fellow citizens. I want people to know that the people of Puerto Rico are resilient; they've gone through many obstacles and many hardships just based on the economic status of the island over the past several years. And I want people to know that they do need help because they are just like you and I -- they're people and they do need help."
On how Michiganders can help
"We actually came together to form Comité Cultural Boricua de Detroit. We've been maximizing all of our efforts to bring resources together including monetary donations and we're all working together through a group called Grace in Action, which is located in Detroit."