When Puerto Rico fell to the United States in 1898 after the Spanish-American War, it was "an afterthought," named a territory only because of its "strategic importance." By 1996, U.S. industries began to abandon the island when they lost federal income tax exemptions that had made Puerto Rico a manufacturing haven. Unemployment skyrocketed and, by 2013, Puerto Rico was $87 billion in debt. Four years later, the government had closed more than 300 public schools.
On September 12, 2017, Hurricane Maria hit the island with winds reaching 165 miles per hour. Buildings collapsed, homes were flooded and 80% of Puerto Rico's crops were destroyed. Communication, electrical power and municipal water systems were almost nonexistent island-wide. Five days later, FEMA's director arrived to assess the disaster, leading a Florida congressman to observe, "We've invaded small countries faster than we've been helping American citizens in Puerto Rico."
When the Sky Fell gives a vivid account of Puerto Rico's dark colonial history and the economic difficulties that have befallen the island while under U.S. control. Journalist Michael Deibert (Haiti Will Not Perish) shows how depredations of the past created fertile ground for the tragedies of the present, giving voice to the words of a San Juan resident in 2018: "The United States is a superpower, one of the greatest in the world, and they can't get the lights on and the water running for a 100 by 33 mile island...? They can take their citizenship and get out of here. Let us have our island." --Janet Brown, author and former bookseller