This is an update from Ramon Serrano, L.Ac., who coordinates AWB service work in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria. He is reporting from Guayanilla, Puerto Rico – January 11, 2020.

On my way to Guayanilla at 8 am, another tremor measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale shook the already traumatized inhabitants of La Isla del Encanto. Fortunately, I did not feel it on the road. Since Dec. 28th when the first major one struck, there have been at least 900 detectable episodes. Because the epicenter of the seismic shifts lies directly to the south of the Island, it is the southern towns where most of the structural damage has taken place, and as a result, where the physical, mental and emotional dislocation is most evident.

Puerto Ricans are still recovering from the PTSD associated with Hurricane Maria two years ago, so that the fear and panic being experienced by an already fragile psyche is quite understandable. Part of the underlying insecurity lies in the distrust of a local government that failed them miserably during the last disaster, and a Federal Government led by a narcissist who witholds badly needed aid while insulting the most vulnerable.

The silver lining in this scenario lies in the non-governmental response to both the crisis of Hurricane Maria and to the present moment. The Puerto Rican people on the Island and in the Diaspora, eight million strong, have demonstrated an inexharable determination to help their brothers and sisters most in need. During the aftermath of Hurricane Maria grassroots organizers met during the rescue efforts and have established a nexus that has proven its metal during the current situation. Physical Therapists, Community Health organizations, Food Coops and all manner of transportation services are now coordinating their efforts in the most efficient fashion.

When I arrived in Guayanilla we were directed to a stadium where the townspeople were being refuged. Entire families, including the elderly and children, were living in the outdoors under tarps and tents. This is also happening along most of the Southern coast from Penuelas to Sabana Grande. Folks are terrified to go indoors for fear that any shift in the tectonic plates will compromise the structures, causing them to collapse. The amount of activity in the adjoining parking lot with all manner of vehicles arriving with people and supplies was truly impressive. There were people cooking and free food was being handed out alll over.

We introduced ourselves as an international aid organization, Acupuncturists Without Borders, and were told that we could occupy any empty tent and set up shop. We found a recently constructed mobile wooden structure that actually had folding chairs inside. Serendipity! We announced our presence over a community sound system and began to “recruit” patients. A big part of what we do as an organization in Puerto Rico is introduce the idea of acupuncture. Most people outside the San Juan metropolitan area have never heard of it. We use the NADA protocol and attempt to convince people that five needles in their ear will reduce their anxiety. Usually the community is in such dire emotional stress that they will try anything. After the first few are convinced, the ice is broken and we normally get a steady flow of patients. In this instance, with the veteran skills of AWB volunteer Maria Lulu Castro and her able assistants, we were able to treat more than sixty people.

The work is really just beginning. Luckily there are other groups also using the NADA method. Acupuncture P’al Pueblo and Boricua Barefoot Doctors are helping to bring attention to the benefits of this medicine.to a much wider population. Also we will once again be welcoming our brothers and sisters from the Diaspora, who are coming with supplies and medical missions, in order to once again demonstrate that eight million really equals ONE!