Author Junot Díaz calls for help for hurricane-battered Puerto Rico

Junot Díaz.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Junot Díaz, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” called for more help for Puerto Rico, which has suffered massive power outages and shortages of food and clean water since Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory, in a speech in Cambridge, Mass., on Sunday.

Díaz's remarks at the restaurant La Fábrica Central, where supporters were gathered for a fundraiser to help Puerto Rico, were recorded by journalist Julio Ricardo Varela, a Puerto Rican native who now lives in Boston and New York.

“The love that we have had for Puerto Rico is, in some ways, our guidepost, but it is not going to be enough,” Díaz said. “I think I don’t need to rehearse to you the situation that is facing the Puerto Rican nation. It is dire beyond anything that we have seen in 500 years, anything that we have seen in memory.

“If Puerto Rico is going to have any kind of future, the love that we feel for it must not only double, it must triple.... If Puerto Rico means anything to you, we have to step up.”

President Trump is set to visit Puerto Rico next week to survey the damage.

Hurricane Maria swept through the American territory last week, killing at least 16, devastating the island’s farms and laying waste to its power grid, leaving “3.4 million American citizens living in increasingly dangerous conditions,” The Times editorial board wrote, “on the verge of a massive humanitarian crisis.”

Díaz, a native of the Dominican Republic, said people need to unite to help Puerto Rico heal from the devastation brought on by the hurricane.

“We are all facing a future where we are exquisitely vulnerable to the ravages of climate change,” he said during the noisy fundraiser. “What is going to be required in this future is new forms of solidarity, and new forms of love, not only for each other but for the lands from which we come.”

Díaz quoted an excerpt from the Nobel lecture of the late poet Derek Walcott, from St. Lucia in the Caribbean, to emphasize the need for people to come together: “Break a vase, and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than that love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole.”

Díaz continued, “Puerto Rico in some ways is now broken. We must reassemble, repair and heal it, and the only way we’re going to do this is with love.”