Section Synopsis: In September of 2017, Hurricanes Irma and María devastated Puerto Rico. Thousands died, many remained without power for a year, and the hurricanes propelled one of the largest migrations to the US in Puerto Rican history. Bad Bunny used his first performance on national US television, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, to shed light on the catastrophic aftermath of Hurricane María, and the Trump administration’s woefully inadequate response.
Aftershocks of Disaster brings together essays, plays, photography, poetry, and more to analyze the effects of Hurricane Maria. The aftershocks that the book is named after are not just the natural effects of the storm but also the state’s failures to respond adequately to the needs of the people after the hurricane. The book shows how the damage that Hurricane María caused was not a singular event but the consequence of Puerto Rico’s colonial history.
In “Ruin Nation”, Hilda Lloréns argues that Puerto Rico’s history of colonization and neglect and how that created the vulnerabilities allowed for Hurricane Maria to be so destructive. Using her own family’s history, she shows how Puerto Rico’s crisis has evolved throughout the 20th century, long before the hurricane. Lloréns presents Hurricane María as an “unnatural disaster” because the history of US colonialism and extraction made the catastrophic effects of the hurricane much worse.
This work focuses on how disasters like Hurricane María expose and deepen the effects of colonization and capitalism. Yarimar Bonilla connects the experience of Puerto Rico after María to the experiences of New Orleans, Detroit, and Flint in that they have also been treated as disposable by the United States despite being on the mainland. She writes about how a state of emergency evokes a fast and urgent response but in the case of Puerto Rico, they were left waiting and the response and help never came.
In this article, Jason Cortés outlines the historical context leading up to Hurricane María starting with Hurricane San Ciriaco in 1899 at the beginning of U.S. rule in Puerto Rico. He connects the devastation that María caused to Puerto Rico’s debt crisis and how colonization has forced places like Puerto Rico to bear the burden of climate change more than the mainland United States.