Rolling blackouts and lack of access to running water still plague much of Puerto Rico five months after Hurricane Maria struck the island.
Residents of the La Perla neighborhood of San Juan fear they will be left out of plans to rebuild the electric delivery system entirely. That threatens to leave the community on its own to figure out a method for energy production and delivery, according to University of Puerto Rico student Ibrahim Lopez-Hernandez, who was talking to community organizers.
Wind power might be one option, he said.
In Arecibo, west of San Juan, residents have long fought against a proposed waste incinerator. Gov. Ricardo Rossello rescinded his support of the project in February, but the fiscal control board overseeing the island’s energy system still supports the proposal. The proposed incinerator could produce energy, but would potentially pollute the communities surrounding the site.
“It’s still very hard to go about daily living,” said Ruth Santiago, an organizer Coqui Solar, about life after the storm. Coqui Solar is a community organization focused on making solar energy accessible to island residents.
“Everyday people needed to go out and sort of live out of their cars because it was a way to get your basic necessities,” she said.
Solar energy offers a future for energy production on the island, said Saybian Torres, a resident of Las Mareas, a community roughly 30 miles west of where Hurricane Maria hit the island. Torres spent 109 days without power and now volunteers with Coqui Solar.
“Now we know, we learned from it,” he said of the hurricane. Torres remains hopeful that residents of the island will take what they’ve learned from Hurricane Maria and use it to strengthen their communities.
Bleachers stand in a state of disrepair outside of a community center in Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico near where a solar panel array was planned for installation. This mountainous community had once hoped to use solar energy to power their water system. But after Hurricane Maria destroyed the roof over the basketball court, the proposed location for the solar panels, the project was halted indefinitely. Elizabeth Beyer/Medill Reports
A residence overlooks a damaged community center in Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico. Elizabeth Beyer/Medill Reports
A woman dances at the site of a proposed waste incinerator, which would have produced energy but had the potential to pollute the community. Elizabeth Beyer/Medill Reports
A well mannered “sato” in Arecibo. Many pets were surrendered, abandoned, or left without a home after Hurricane Maria. Elizabeth Beyer/Medill Reports
Clouds combine with the smoke from the Monacillos power station in San Juan. An explosion at the station caused a blackout in 10 municipalities in the northern part of the island on Feb. 11. Elizabeth Beyer/Medill Reports
Leafy greens grow in the hydroponic system outside of Casa Pueblo, a community center in Adjuntas. Elizabeth Beyer/Medill Reports
A resident of the butterfly house at Casa Pueblo. The completely solar powered community center houses a radio station and community theater. It also served as a meeting and information center for residents during and after Hurricane Maria. Residents visited Casa Pueblo to get information on the well-being of their friends and relatives across the island. Casa Pueblo also distributed hundreds of solar lamps and water filters to residents during recovery. Elizabeth Beyer/Medill Reports
At a roadside restaurant in Loíza-Piñones, an area built in colonial times by people who were once enslaved. More than a hundred years after slavery was abolished in Puerto Rico, residents are fighting against gentrification and non-sustainable tourism. Elizabeth Beyer/Medill Reports
A damaged restaurant stands empty in Loíza-Piñones. Elizabeth Beyer/Medill Reports
An empty but vibrant building shows the damage found across Loíza-Piñones. Elizabeth Beyer/Medill Reports
Artist Samuel Lind continues to paint in his studio and home in Loíza. Before the hurricane, Lind packed up as much of his art as possible and transported it into storage for safe keeping. Elizabeth Beyer/Medill Reports
A downed telephone pole acts as a stark reminder of Hurricane Maria’s power in Urbanización Villas del Coquí, a housing development located in Salinas. The municipality is located on the southern part of the island, roughly 30 miles from where the hurricane hit land. Elizabeth Beyer/Medill Reports
Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery in Old San Juan. The number of actual deaths related to Hurricane Maria may be more than 1,000, according to the New York Times. Elizabeth Beyer/Medill Reports
A morning scene in La Perla, a neighborhood that marks the site of the popular Despacito music video.According to residents, many tourists have made their way down to the seaside barrio for informal “Despacito tours”. Elizabeth Beyer/Medill Reports
The pediatric room stands deserted in an empty clinic in La Perla. According to residents, the neighborhood is being ignored in the municipal plan to revamp the electricity delivery system in San Juan. Elizabeth Beyer/Medill Reports
Photo at top: A cruise ship can be seen in the bay at San Juan. Tourism is coming back slowly to the area, but many businesses closed during and after the hurricane and haven’t reopened. (Elizabeth Beyer/Medill)
An earlier version of this story stated that Gov. Ricardo Rossello vetoed a bill in favor of a proposed waste incinerator in Arecibo. That was incorrect, Gov. Rossello rescinded his support of the incinerator; there was no legislation and no veto involved. Medill Reports regrets the error.