Francisco Gonzalez, 79, and his wife Marisel arrived in New York nearly a month ago to live with their student son after Hurricane Maria. US citizens, they nonetheless feel like foreign refugees in their own country.
Uprooted from the island they love, they are angry at corruption and the political system in Puerto Rico, and its complicated ties to the United States, which they believe hindered the response to the Category Four storm.
Flying to New York to join their children, they initially planned to find refuge for a couple of weeks. Now they're planning to stay a couple of years, Gonzalez told AFP at a new aid center for hurricane victims in Harlem.
They are sharing a studio apartment with their 22-year-old son and their three dogs. Their daughter, his twin, lives in the same building.
"I feel like a refugee," says Gonzalez, a US Army veteran who sold insurance for more than 40 years and who lived in Bayamon, west of San Juan. "Although I am an American citizen, I think of Puerto Rico as a separate country."
"The weather is not the same, the system is not the same, I have to get used to everything," he said. "It's as if I had come to China," he added. "I left because I was forced to, because God knows what would have happened if I stayed."
Tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans have fled to the mainland since Maria struck on September 20, devastating the island, just two weeks after Hurricane Irma tore through the Caribbean.
The vast majority went to Florida and New York, which already had around one million Puerto Ricans each. Around 700,000 Puerto Ricans live in New York City.
Overall there are five million Puerto Ricans on the mainland, compared to 3.4 million on the island.
The Trump administration has come under fire from all quarters for its sluggish response to the humanitarian catastrophe in Puerto Rico, where more than five weeks after Hurricane Maria struck, 75 percent of the island remains without power.
But in New York, a beacon of diversity opposed to Trump, Democrats have been eager to pick up the slack.
The city's mayor Bill de Blasio is eyeing re-election next month, and the state's governor, Andrew Cuomo, is a rumored presidential hopeful for 2020.
- 'Lived a lie' -
Cuomo has visited the island twice since Maria struck. The state and city have sent supplies and hundreds of police and rescue workers to Puerto Rico.
The city opened an assistance center 10 days ago, where nearly 65 families come every day, says Johanna Conroy of the city's emergency management team.
Pleas for housing before the onset of the freezing winter, medical assistance, food stamps and school supplies are the most common requests, Conroy said.
"The constant labor of having to look for food, stand in line, it was very difficult," remembers Gonzalez. "We couldn't continue like that," he added.
"In addition, prices skyrocketed. A packet of 24 bottles of water used to cost $14 and now costs $40. We could not cook, the gas ran out."
For days they were without water or power, living as if in a century past.
If the Gonzalez couple find New York "terribly expensive," they are grateful for assistance they have received in navigating their requests for subsidized housing, medical help, an additional veteran's pension and a disability pension.
"I'm calmer now I know they are safe and they're not sick because they had to bathe or drink dirty water, or going hungry," says their daughter Maria, who lives in another studio with her boyfriend.
The problem, says Marisel, is not the hurricane but the system of government on Puerto Rico "and our colonial status."
Puerto Ricans do not have political representation in Congress, nor the right to vote for US president as long as they live on the island, although they do when they reside in the continental United States.
"We had a power system left over from the 1940s, and the government instead of renewing it, time goes by and that old system remains," she said.
"Where is the money? The money is in the corrupt government. And that has been very frustrating," she said with tears in her eyes.
"You realize that you have lived a lie," she said. "That the government failed you... that we were living in a country that isn't what we thought."