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I was born and raised in La Crosse. I currently live in Ponce, Puerto Rico. It is the second largest city on the island and a city devastated by Hurricane Maria.

I am here as a teacher. I stick out like a sore thumb. Before opening my mouth, I get asked, “Where are you from?”

“I am first from Wisconsin, then Minnesota, then Chicago, then Monterrey (Mexico), then Chicago again and finally Houston.”

The initial reaction is that of disdain. “A gringo on our island?” The next reaction “Well, you are here to help the people of PR, so thank you.” Ultimately, the people here are kind and caring.

But President Donald Trump’s absurd claims about the death toll in PR is infuriating. I would like to invite him to my neighborhood in Ponce, where there are immense murals of Trump, depicted as a devil, throwing paper towels like a mascot throws T-shirts.

There are memorials for the thousands who died during and after Maria. And the thousands more still recovering.

If you do not want to support PR becoming a state, fine. But do not believe that the U.S. support to PR has been a “success” until you have either done your research or visited the island yourself. If you do visit, you will find people of amazing character, natural beauties and resilience.

Mikhail Guzowski, Ponce, Puerto Rico

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