Hurricane Maria (2017)

Exposures: Puerto Rico in the Dark

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“I had spent years repairing the roof, spent $4,000 on it, but Maria came in and tore open the zinc like the lid off a tin can,” she told me. FEMA declared her house a total loss.

Ilda Sánchez and Alberto Luquis found a crocodile in their flooded house in Caño Martín Peña, a Santurce neighborhood of the working poor who settled along a canal that once nourished mangroves.


Ilda Sanchez 56, with her husband Alberto Luquis, 62. During the hurricane they found a dead six-foot long alligator in their backyard. The house was also under water up to his chest, and the roof had been blown away. Credit Joseph Rodriguez for The New York Times

The neighborhood was precarious before the storm; people feared displacement by tourism developments, as had happened in the 1980s in a nearby neighborhood. The hurricane’s destruction will encourage people to move along even faster, leaving behind a community that came to exist because of rural displacement after hurricanes in the early 20th century.

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Wendy Pettit

Wendy Pettit is a writer for NYT and writes for other publications on her spare time. She lives in Chicago with her husband and her dog Zuko.

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