By: Haley E. Muehlbauer ’24, Student Attorney, Puerto Rico Recovery Assistance Legal Clinic
While I am not a native Puerto Rican, nor is my family from Puerto Rico, I like to think of Puerto Rico as a second home. I have been traveling to the island for several years and have grown custom to the culture and beauty that Puerto Rico has to offer. I am extremely privileged to have been able to travel here and do not take that privilege for granted.
One thing that I have loved more than anything during my week as a student attorney with the University at Buffalo School of Law Puerto Rico Recovery Assistance Legal Clinic has been watching my classmates (and now friends) embrace Puerto Rico and fall just as in love with it as I am. Watching them gaze over the greenery and the crystal turquoise water will be something I will never forget. Puerto Rico has some of the most beautiful wildlife in the Caribbean. It is also home to the El Yunque National Rainforest, which my friends were unfortunately not able to see this trip due to our service and learning schedule associated with the course. I am certain that several, if not all of them, will be returning to Puerto Rico as soon as possible.
We regularly hear the saying that Buffalo, New York is “the city of good neighbors”. This phrase applies to Puerto Rico as well. Puerto Rico is probably one of, if not the most welcoming community I have ever been exposed to. Locals smile at you as you enter their stores and nearby strangers tell you “buen provecho” as you sit down to eat. The warmth is definitely felt here – both literally and figuratively.
The Puerto Rican community is devoted to keeping their home beautiful. Community members will clean beaches when they see trash and take turns picking up after one another. There is an unspoken rule that the community has with the island – an idea along the lines of you take care of us, so we take care of you.
I have loved watching my fellow clinic student attorneys be amazed by this little home away from home, and I cannot wait to hear their stories and perspectives after this trip.
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