Updated: Nov 16
Last month I moved to Puerto Rico, fulfilling a commitment I made nearly a year ago, to collaborate with friends who had returned to the island after Maria, and to learn from and support powerful community-led, land-based work happening here.
I arrived after the hurricane, when power was back on in San Juan, but not yet in the western coastal town which will be my home for the coming year, as I make longer term plans. This town did not suffer the flooding and damage that other parts of the island experienced, but people still struggled to cook without access to refrigeration, to pay expenses despite lost wages from workplace closures, and to stay calm, with traumatic memories of Maria, wondering how long this would go on.
In the face of this, residents here checked in on and supported each other, marched against the privatized energy company LUMA, and organized collectively to send supplies and work teams to harder hit communities. A week later, locals gathered once again to dance salsa in the plaza.
This was not a natural disaster. We know that human-generated climate change is driving severe weather and intensifying hurricanes. We know that the US’s long history of brutal and exploitative policies in Puerto Rico creates the worst possible conditions for people here, and paved the way for the intentional disaster of a privatized energy company. We know that an alternative, solar-based energy grid could be created. We know that a Just Recovery approach is possible, and that collective action by and for Puerto Ricans, led predominantly by women, is the heart of the solution, with the potential to change everything.
Yesterday I did my laundry on the back porch, washing my clothes by hand in the sink with the built-in washboard. I loved the peaceful morning, hanging my clothes on the line, remembering my grandmother. When my landlord asked if I needed help to install a washer and dryer, I said no.
I am a guest here in Puerto Rico. In truth, I’ve always been a guest on some ancestral land, and a guest here on this earth. As David Cobb recently said, I must now learn to be a good guest.
Please consider donating to one of the grassroots-led Puerto Rican organizations below.