Puerto Rico: Life After Maria

On September 20, 2017 Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico over the southeastern city of Yabucoa as a category 4 hurricane. It continued its course traveling over the central mountainous region of the island. Hurricane Maria left thousands without power and a home. A year later, Puerto Ricans in some regions still struggle with access to electricity or have not found means to repair their homes.

THIS IS PUERTO RICO ONE YEAR AFTER HURRICANE MARIA.

Hurricane Maria on Sept.23, 2017 moving toward the Bahamas. Image Source: NASA.

People

A year after Hurricane Maria many Puerto Ricans still struggled to pick up all the pieces in their lives in hopes to return to normalcy. Some spent almost a year without electricity, some continue living with blue tarps as roofs, and some lost absolutely everything. For Puerto Ricans who experienced the hurricane first-hand there will always be a "before" and "after" Hurricane Maria.

Click on their pictures to learn their stories.

“Abuela! Maria took everything!”

Maria Gonzalez
Maria Gonzalez

Maria Gonzalez lost everything after Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico. The storm’s deluge forced authorities to open a flood gate in the Rio de la Plata dam. Toa Baja residents were given no warning and in a matter of minutes her home and many others were flooded. Photo by Claudia Perez Brito.

“God opened up all the faucets from the sky.”

Harry and Vivian
Harry and Vivian

Harry and Vivian are residents of Utuado and the owners of what was known as Rancho Marina. It was a restaurant that was rated highly on TripAdvisor but was destroyed by the hurricane. Their little slice of paradise that took them years to build up was gone overnight. Photo by Kaitlin Hall.

“Diesel, oil, air filter, diesel filter, oil filter — I have spent $60,000.”

Jose Saldaña
Tonti

Jose Saldaña better known as Tonti lives in "El Yunque National Forest". On Aug.14 when Puerto Rico's Power Authority announced electricity had been restored to 100 percent of their clients, Tonti still remained without power. At that point he'd spent over $60,000 on generators to keep his business open and had been almost a year without power. Photo by Kaitlin Hall.

“I said, ‘My God, do not let anything happen to me.”

Gregoria Delgado Aponte
Doña Gregoria

Gregoria Delgado Aponte lives in the mountains of Trujillo Alto. The night of Hurricane Maria she witnessed her roof be torn off plank by plank. A year after the hurricane, a church group are the ones that helped her rebuild her home. Aponte faced the problem of not having a property title, which is a requirement by FEMA to receive assistance in the rebuilding homes. Photo by Kaitlin Hall.

“Everything needs to be demolished and rebuilt again.”

Pablo Soto Soto
Pablo Soto Soto

Pablo Soto Soto lives in Yabucoa and a year after Hurricane Maria he still lives with a blue tarp as a roof. Soto lacks a property title, a requirement by FEMA to receive help, like many other Puerto Ricans. This has been a huge impediment for him to receive the appropriate help to finish repairing his home. Photo by Claudia Perez Brito.

“It took the house. It took this one, it took that one.”

Modesto Viruet
Modesto Viruet

Modesto Viruet rode out the storm in the basement of his home, with his wife, who had to sweep the water out the door to keep the area from flooding. But they could not save their Utuado house. Photo by Gisselle Garcia.

“Right now I eat one time a day.”

Carlos Bonnet-Vargas
Carlos Bonnet-Vargas

Hurricane Maria took Carlos Bonnet-Vargas' kiosk, inventory and savings. Then, he was denied financial assistance and food stipends from FEMA and the Puerto Rican government.His energy bills have gone up, and he now eats only once a day because that’s all he can afford. Photo by Gisselle Garcia.

The map below shows the locations of the homes of the individuals above.

Animals

Puerto Rico's stray animal crisis intensified after Hurricane Maria. The U.S. Humane Society had to take control of the island's animal welfare. In conjuction with the island's government the ‘Spayathon for Puerto Rico’ initiative was started with hopes of sterilizing 20,000 animals in low-income neighborhoods.

Pigs on a San Juan street. Pigs on a San Juan street. Pig and piglet in San Juan neighborhood. Dog at a Vega Baja beach. Two stray dogs lay near a beach. White puppy near a beach. Horses at Vega Beach. Dog eats food. Ana Victoria Pardo grabs food bag. Ana Victoria Pardo pours food for the dogs. Ana Victoria Pardo and her friend take a break while feeding dogs. Profile photograph of Ana Victoria Pardo.

Pigs in some San Juan neighborhoods are a common sight, so are stray dogs and horses. For residents in Vega Baja, a coastal city northwest of San Juan, a common sight is also Ana Victoria Pardo. Pardo has dedicated the last 20 years of her life to feeding stray dogs. She purchases dog food or receives donation from locals in order to continue feeding them. Photos by Kaitlin Hall.

Power

The government of Puerto Rico received criticism over the death toll following the storm while the Power Authority, which is in charge of the island's electrical grid, was criticized for not continually repairing the power grid appropriately over the years.

Click on the pictures to learn about each agency.

Government

Press room of La Fortaleza

Photo by Claudia Perez Brito.

In Dec. of 2017 the government of Puerto Rico released a press release where it stated that there were only 64 deaths that resulted from Hurricane Maria.

After intense scrutiny over the death toll and officials response to help, the government paid George Washington University to conduct a study that estimated 2,975 people died due to the storm. The study was released in September, one year after the Hurricane devastated the island.

Power Authority

Puerto Rican Power Authority

Photo by Claudia Perez Brito.

The Puerto Rican Power Athority (PREPA) tweeted on Aug. 14 that electricity had been restored to last client on the island. This was refuted by residents like Jose 'Tonti' Saldaña.

PREPA officials said the system was not prepared to receive more than a category 3 storm. As a result PREPA submitted a recovery plan to Congress, on July 9, with hopes of updating and strengthening the electrical system.