A Year After Maria
I cannot believe it’s been one year since Hurricane Maria hit this island. We have borne witness to 365 days of stories, videos reliving the all-powerful storm, cries of ongoing pain and trauma, tales of unimaginable hardship, paths of inconceivable wreckage that persist across Puerto Rico — where families still live without roofs, amid intensifying mold, no windows to keep out the frequent rains in uninhabitable remnants of homes, semi-safe poorly-repaired corners, or prolonged squatting in relative’s houses whether welcome or not. No one was exempt from the wrath of the hurricane, the total blackout, the absence of communications, the limbo, the lack of efficient, proportionate, effective, timely response, the economies wiped out, the heretofore inadequate recovery plan and implementation, which means Maria is all too real for the tens/hundreds of thousands of citizens of the United States of America who live as if the record-breaking, mind-boggling storm made landfall last week, not 52 weeks ago. There is much still to be done with haste, resources, energy, dignity.
I did not live the horror, the shock, the devastation Hurricane Maria unleashed upon a population that can never ready itself for such an unfathomable degree of destruction, but I have experienced how the Boricua heart responds with a resilient spirit, open nature, steadfast determination, shared conviction, tangible effort, and community focus. I mourn the beautiful lives lost senselessly, the families ripped apart, the histories shredded, the earth upended, the cities leveled — and would never wish such a dark day upon anyone. Though somehow today, I find myself particularly grateful for the compassionate, brave, tenacious, dedicated souls who did not pause before rising from the waters and mud to help their brothers and sisters at a time of even more dire need. I truly cannot believe what you, what we have done to feed those who need to be fed, to strengthen the culinary and agriculture landscapes islandwide, to promote food justice/security/independence/access, and all that we continue to work towards individually and collaboratively day in and day out without wavering, faltering or tiring. Thank you — to the phenomenal humans I have the privilege to call my tribe, my neighbors (home!), my colleagues, my friends, my inspirations, my family — for demonstrating to me what is possible, for teaching me about humility, for embodying the promise of the best in humanity, for envisioning and enacting new inclusive systems that respond nimbly with impact, efficiency and relevance, for acting deliberately with emotion, intellect, wisdom and resolve, for serving side-by-side to a degree and depth I never thought possible, for co-creating new bridges and everlasting bonds that no storm can ever rip apart.
#PuertoRicoSeLevanta — it already is. Listen, respect, learn, visit, ally, support, champion and be a part of the storied, multifaceted, intricate, ever-evolving reality of our beloved Isla Del Encanto.