“People Are Desperate”: Puerto Rico’s Largest Jeweler Appeals for Help

The United States has been walloped by a number of hurricanes lately, but it seems like Mother Nature saved the worst for last.

On Sept. 20, category 4 Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico. At press time, most of the island’s occupants were still without power or water. The island’s governor called its aftermath a “humanitarian disaster involving 3.4 million U.S. citizens.” The eventual death toll is expected to be in at least the hundreds.

For a personal perspective, JCK talked to Marie-Helene Morrow, the owner of 12-store Reinhold Jewelers, the territory’s largest jeweler. Morrow says it is just a fluke that she was off the island when the storm hit; she and her husband were at a doctor’s appointment in Dallas. Since the hurricane, she has been unable to return.

Still, she has kept in close touch with her employees and friends on the island who have cellphones. The news, she says, is almost all bad. Over a week after the storm first hit, little is back to normal. In fact, the situation is deteriorating, and a lot more help is needed.

“It’s a desperate situation,” she says. “The elderly in the hospitals are not getting the right care. Everything is closed. The supermarkets are shut. Almost all the food is brought in by boat and with the [now-waived] Jones Act, they all have to be delivered in a certain way. It’s one piece of bad news after another. There’s looting, bad guys out on the street. People have lost everything—their shoes, their socks—everything. They are desperate. There are so many people who are starving.”

So far, though, none of the chain’s 73 employees has been hurt. And even though all her stores are closed, she is committed to paying her employees through this period.

She expects possibly one store may open next week, though she admits retail is not top of mind right now.

“Who can think of the jewelry business or anything like that?” she says. “You just want the island to survive.”

In the end, though, she expects her adopted home to pull through.

“This is terrible and really, really bad, and yet I just know we will overcome and become the shining star of the Caribbean again. I have great faith in the Puerto Rican people. They are very caring people. I got there when I was 23 and now I’m 77. I have always felt like family there.”

For now, she can only watch the unfolding tragedy from afar. Friends on the island have warned her it’s not the time to come back. But she does want to return, hopefully soon.

“It’s a beautiful island, beautiful people. Puerto Rico is a family. There’s no discrimination in Puerto Rico. Everyone kisses and hugs. I can’t imagine a place I would rather live.”

Morrow says that her jewelry colleagues have been wonderful, with many reaching out and offering help. She recommends people donate to Unidos Por Puerto Rico, the fund established by the first lady of Puerto Rico.

(Top image from the Department of Defense; second image from FEMA)

JCK News Director


  • scarlet pimpernel

    It is a left wing socialist government that is running the Island for years! They are busy spending money on welfare, instead of spending it on being prepared for the inevitable. Not prejudiced. Why are you inferring that the mainland of the US & HI & AK are filled with prejudice people. If so; then you would not ask for donations. Americans are the most generous people in the world & the least prejudiced. Stop living in some Utopian world that does not exist. Mother Natures is always in control; so Man is at her mercy & here is an extremely horrific, sad & depressing situation for which I am extremely sympathetic. That does not mean that I should overlook the ignorant fantasy economics that are part & parcel of the Island. Now you will move to Florida & turn that into a welfare State & ruin their economy by voting for the highest welfare bidder; which is always the Democrats. This is not what America is about; it is about the individual & personal responsibility. About not taking other people hard earned money, “because you can.” What feels good today is probably the disaster of tomorrow.

    • BizGuy4

      Funny. You don’t sound “extremely sympathetic.” What a sad, sad post.

      • scarlet pimpernel

        tough love ; what about the next time this happens? Will the government be in good financial condition or will they return to their socialist welfare spending & expect some poor person in the Appalacias should bail them out? Will they make preparations for the next major storm or pretend it will not happen? Saccharine sympathy will not be of help.

        • chuckles the clown

          First of all, your idea that a tropical island can somehow magically protect itself against a major tropical storm is belied by centuries of evidence, never mind by what just happened in Houston, and what has happened in Florida.

          But more importantly, of course, we should take care of our fellow citizens. Just like if there’s an earthquake in Appalachia, people there would rightly expect fellow Americans, including those in Puerto Rico, to come to their aid. Americans don’t say, we can’t do that, we don’t like your elected officials. That is what’s good about our country, we watch out for each other. It’s so sad that people are now trying to rip it apart.

    • chuckles the clown

      If the GOP is really all about personal responsibility, as you say, maybe the President wants to man up and take some responsibility for his administration’s failure here, instead of whining about the press, Puerto Rico’s debt, etc. (As if he’s anyone to talk about debt.)

      Real leaders get to work. Donald Trump whines, blames others, and tweets about football, while he continually fails and an island drowns.

      • scarlet pimpernel

        I am not a Republican. & we do not live in Utopia; surprise – politicians are people. You are not marrying them. It is your fantasy world where you think that they can help you & they are your savior.

        • chuckles the clown

          Actually, I think an agency called the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be able to provide management during emergencies. That’s their role. That’s no “fantasy.” That is literally their job. They have done it countless times, but unfortunately have not been able to do it here. If they fail, people need to take responsibility for that and heads need to roll. Deflecting blame, like you and the President are doing, helps no one.

  • savychic

    Mr. “Pimpernel” This is not a political post where you rant about their government. It’s about people! I’ve been in 2 of their stores over there and the employees couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful. So find some other forum to bitch on and get off this one!!!!