By Ben Wheeler
AS THE COUNTRY grapples with the aftermath and devastation left behind by Hurricane Maria, a series of fascinating historic images have come to light showing the lives of 1940s Puerto Ricans.
Depicted among the black and white snaps is a large gathering of striking sugar workers in the town of Yabucoa.
Additional photos show impoverished young women working in the street in the town of Lares, whilst others reveal the plight of a beggar and young child in San Juan, in a scene which draws parallels with the country’s current residents.
The images capture all sides of life in this period of Puerto Rican history, from the hustle and bustle on the streets of the capital city of San Juan, to the remote mountain villages.
They were taken by US photographer, Jack Delano, who originally visited the island to document the working conditions of agricultural labourers but became so enamoured with its people and way of life that he made Puerto Rico his permanent home.
Puerto Rico has a fascinating history, originating from its Taíno natives to centuries of rule firstly under Spain and later the USA, it has a character and culture which is completely unique to that of its Caribbean neighbours.
The island has now been a designated US territory since the late 1800s, meaning those born on the island automatically qualify as American citizens, despite this almost the entire population speak Spanish as their first language.
Even before Hurricane Maria hit the island, Puerto Rico has been in crisis with a 45-percent poverty rate and a national debt of $72 billion, leaving it defenceless in the face of recent storm.
In the aftermath of Maria, the entirety of Puerto Rico’s power grid has been wiped out along with much of its agriculture with so far precious little restored.
President Donald Trump’s administration has been heavily criticised in recent weeks for its slow response to the crisis with the premier having despicably joked that it had ‘thrown our budget a little out of whack.’