Puerto Rico struggles to recuperate after Hurricane Maria's devastation


Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico September 20 as a Category Four storm with winds up to 155 miles per hour, according to The New York Times. Now, approximately one month later, the island is still struggling to access clean water and electricity, and the death toll of 48 continues to rise, according to time.com. Despite the mass destruction it caused, Hurricane Maria presents Puerto Rico with the opportunity to rebuild and renew itself. 

An aerial shot of a shack in San Juan, Puerto Rico destroyed after Hurricane Maria. Courtesy of CNN.

Maria is the first Category Four storm to hit Puerto Rico directly in the past 85 years, according to washingtonpost.com. The storm impacted the 100-mile-long island, destroying homes and leaving the entire island without electricity. According to The New York Times, 30.5 percent of the Puerto Rican power grid is restored, leaving 3 million people out of a total population of 3.5 million people powerless.
Puerto Rican resident and Resource Development Director for the 13 Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico Patricia De La Torre was in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico when the storm occurred. Ms. De La Torre reflected on her experience of being in Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria hit.
“It’s part of our history,” Ms. De La Torre said. “The neighborhood where you had lived all your life, where you had been up and down forever, it just didn’t look the same… it was totally destroyed.”
A man wades through flood waters in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. Courtesy of nbcnews.com.

Ms. De La Torre believes that Hurricane Maria devastated more than just what is being highlighted by news outlets. She also thinks that reporters are failing to discuss the extreme health issues that the island is now facing, specifically the diseases and infections that are spreading through water and animals. 
In addition to health and sanitation issues following the storm, Ms. De La Torre said that the Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico are focusing on ending the halt in education that the storm caused.
“Public schools are closed, the kids are out in the street, they’re just wasting time, energy, they’re wasting their brains,” Ms. De La Torre said.
Prior to Hurricane Maria, 58 percent of Puerto Rican children lived in poverty, according to bgcpr.org
“The Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico is and will be forever committed to propel youth development to its highest potential focusing on education as the main tool to break the generational poverty cycle,” Ms. De La Torre said.
Eighty-nine percent of Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico participants and their families live in poverty, according to bgcpr.org. Hurricane Maria destroyed schools and homes, increasing the percentage of impoverished families that participate in the Boys & Girls Clubs.
Volunteers outside one of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico. Courtesy of The Boys & Girls Clubs de Puerto Rico.

Ms. De La Torre believes that Hurricane Maria presents Puerto Ricans with the opportunity to not only better prepare themselves for future hurricanes, but to improve the future of the island.
“It’s a grand opportunity to come together as Puerto Ricans and as Americans to build a brighter and stronger Puerto Rico,” Ms. De La Torre said. 
The storm impacted many, including senior Tiara McIntosh’s family who live in Puerto Rico. Tiara contacted her family and to ensure their safety, but the storm posed challenges for them because the electrical grid failed.
“It affected my family and everyone in Puerto Rico by basically setting back the island by years, because the island already lacked infrastructure,” Tiara said. “Now, a lot of roads, electricity, and things like that are gone.” 
-Sydney Gallop, Staff Writer