Gladys Pena, a resident of El Cano, brushes the dust off a photo of her sons who no longer live in Puerto Rico. This photo was one of the few that remained after Hurricane Maria decimated Pena's home and much of the El Cano district. Six months after Maria, Puerto Rico is still rebuilding from the natural disaster.
El Mani, a neighborhood located on the western coast of Puerto Rico, was completely evacuated in anticipation of Hurricane Maria. Six months after the hurricane, the devastating effects of Maria are still visible from the air and on foot. Blue tarp roofs installed by FEMA dot the community and houses can be seen sunken into the sand along the coast.
Residents of El Cano pack their things to move down the street to a new home. Six months after Maria, their house still lacks a roof and chronic flooding plagues the first floor.
Carmelo Garcia poses for a portrait in his home in Humacao, Puerto Rico. Six months after the storm, Garcia's neighborhood is still without power. He explains that he and his family use a generator during certain hours of the day for essential functions. Garcia is an activist fighting against the way coal ash is handled in dump sites in his town as well as many other places along Puerto Rico's southeastern coast. According to the EPA, coal ash is most dangerous when it is wet: this allows the harmful chemicals to leach out into the soil and groundwater. Hurricane Maria's high winds and estimated 25 inches of rain were devastating to the unprotected mountains of coal ash along the southeastern coast.
To the unfamiliar eye, El Yunque may look like it is making a swift recovery after the hit it took from Hurricane Maria. However, national forest scientists estimate that it will take another 10-15 years with no significant storms for the rainforest to return to its previous state. "It was like a bomb hit, or like I was in a different ecosystem," says Grizelle Gonzalez, a research ecologist at the International Institute of Tropical Forestry. "I felt like a lot of the animals... disoriented."
A shopowner fixes the roof of his small gift shop in El Yunque national forest. The main road through the park has little to offer in terms of tourist traps, but this one outpost offers stunning views, snacks, and alien-themed merchandise that capitalizes on the claims of UFO sightings in the forest.
Tito Kayak, a bringer of light or a misguided vigilante depending on how you look at him, gives a speech to his congregation on March 11th, 2018. After Hurricane Maria wiped out power on the majority of the island, Kayak took matters into his own hands and began fixing downed power lines.
A doctor from Iniciativa Comunitaria says goodbye to a patient in Agauda, Puerto Rico. Iniciativa Comunitaria is a volunteer medical brigade that provides free services to patients that would otherwise go without medical care. The nearest hospital to this mountainous neighborhood is 30 minutes away, and after Hurricane Maria many of the roads were impassable.
A little girl waves a black and white version of the Puerto Rican flag at the Women's March in San Juan on March 8, 2018. The black and white flag is a symbol of mourning and resistance of PROMESA: a law passed by Barack Obama that was meant to help manage the commonwealth's 70 billion dollars of debt. However, many Puerto Rican's feel that the law undermines the island's political autonomy.
Angel Rodriguez and his wife, Lourdes Borrero, shuck peas on their front porch in Penuelas, Puerto Rico. Five months after Hurricane Maria, life is back to normal in this small town on the southern coast, but that doesn't mean residents aren't still fighting battles. Penuelas is home of a massive coal ash dump site, and residents are concerned about the health ramifications of the site. "I like living here. But the problem, it comes from over there," says Borrero, motioning to the coal ash depository. "A lot of people have cancer here."