(NCR Online) Puerto Rico, Dominica, the Virgin Islands, St. Maarten. Most Americans think of these small island nations when we get the weekly emails from Expedia offering special fares or hotel rates, the pictures of idyllic beaches with palm trees waving in the breeze enticing with the promise of a relaxing getaway, a destiny where you can escape life’s cares and refresh the body and spirit.
The reality of life for the inhabitants of these islands was less relaxing and more harsh. Census data released in 2013 showed that the poverty rate in Puerto Rico had hit 44.9 percent, double that of any U.S. state. Data from 2003 pegged the poverty rate in Dominica at 40 percent. The people who staff those posh beachside hotels are not making a lot of money to cook the food or clean the bathrooms.
This month, those islands were placed in an additional and vicious crucible. First, Hurricane Irma hit the northeastern islands, and then Maria hit others. People in St. John and St. Thomas were evacuated to St. Croix, but then St. Croix got a direct hit from Hurricane Maria last week. St. Maarten was devastated by Irma and 100 percent of Puerto Ricans lost power when Maria came ashore. [More]