Puerto Rico was (briefly) back in the news this week when a Harvard study shed more light on many people died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The study has a wide range of estimated deaths, but the mid-point is stunning: 4,645 people died as a result of the storm, the researchers found.
Meanwhile, a judge on the island ruled that the Puerto Rican government has seven days to release death certificates and data related to the death toll of Hurricane Maria. The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by CNN and the Puerto Rican-based Center for Investigative Journalism, or CPI. Both organizations have been investigating the death toll following the storm and question the government’s official tally of 64. CPI's estimate is that 1,065 more people than usual died in the weeks after the storm. We take this opportunity to revisit our reporting from the island in the aftermath of that devastating storm.
Hurricane Maria's category-five winds and torrential rain stripped away much of the island's lush vegetation, leaving behind a strange and alien landscape. But more was exposed than barren tree branches. The storm also called attention to, and exacerbated, the island's high poverty rate. Further-flung regions, outside of metropolitan San Juan, found themselves in the spotlight. And longstanding questions of identity and relationship to the mainland U.S. were brought to the fore.
In the three months since Hurricane Maria, those who have remained on the island have faced a choice. They could face Puerto Rico as Maria left it—stripped away of vegetation, infrastructure, and assumptions—and rebuild the island and its society anew. Or they could become acostumbrados: accustomed to a frustrating new normal.
Alana Casanova-Burgess looks at what the storms have exposed and at a path forward through a thicket of fear, adaptation, and hope, featuring:
- Benjamin Torres Gotay [@TorresGotay], columnist for the newspaper El Nuevo Día
- Walter Ronald Gonzalez Gonzalez, director of Art, Culture and Tourism for the region of Utuado
- Yarimar Bonilla [@yarimarbonilla], anthropologist at Rutgers University
- Alfredo Corrasquillo [@alcarrpr], psychoanalyst and expert on leadership at the University of the Sacred Heart in San Juan
- Sandra Rodriguez Cotto [@srcsandra], host at WAPA Radio