A lot has been said and written on hurricane María and our experience of it and our experience of its aftermath.
Today, exactly one year after its passage, let me commemorate it and all the students who with me have stepped through such a hard time.
Today we watched hare at Sagrado the premiére of my friend Sonia Fritz’s documentary Después de María. Las 2 orillas (After Maria. The Two Shores). Of course I–and all the public within the theater–was moved. Impossible to retain the wave of emotions whil the images passed by. But they were not images of wind and rain and water and debris. Those we know too well: In fact, more or less at this very moment one year ago I was working with my neighbors to clean up our street, just hours after the hurricane left us.
Sonia’s film was of people, instead. People choosing to resist and rebuild here (farmers, students, parents, teachers…) and people who moved to Florida (or other parts of the US, mainly). It was reported that over 130,000 people left our island for the mainland.
She focused her research into the economic and social dimension of the hurricane aftermath and its consequences. Two things stand out (beyond the emotion and the beautiful impactful photography):
The infantilization reported by a newswoman that has been used so pervasively by governments and power structures, as exemplified by the Boston’s mayor, who reportedly said, more or less
…terrible… but we’re working hard to help support statehood.
Whoa. The very infantilization as seen in so many environments, from cinema to food to education. Infantilization produced by a colonial state of affairs. Wait a minute: all this was said by the reporter during a panel following the film.
The second important stuff was said by economist Dr. Juan Lara, who reports that, as huge amounts of money are finally coming in for reconstruction, Puerto Rico’s econonomy is booming forward and escaping the collapse of the previous ten years. But that growth will continue for four of five years, until the funds get injected. If we don’t rebuild a better country, the oppportunity will be lost and we’ll find ourselves in dire straits.
So, that’s it, the three magic messages of the day. But there’s more: Alan Levine stepped forward and began the #care4sagrado initiative, whereby people from all over the world sent our students postcards of hope. Parisa Mehran was one of those extraordinary voices that responded with grace. My students and colleagues were moved by those gestures of solidarity. Thanks you again. And then how do I forget Alan and myself beginning our award-winning podcast, the Puerto Rico Connection? Its first episode was recorded from the students center at Sagrado, when we still worked off a generator.
— Antonio Vantaggiato (@avunque) October 11, 2017
The last point is coming here, and is a tribute to my August 2017 students who suffered the consequences of Maria in classes under tents, without power. I had a few of them who needed over three hour of destroyed roads to get here.
Here they are, as I published at year’s end on this blog. Let’s toast to their well being, but for me, they were exemplar citizens.
The Class of María
Also published on Medium.