September 20th, 2017 changed the island of Puerto Rico: its landscape, its people, its infrastructure, its environment and its economy. The passing of Hurricane María, a category 5 storm, ravished the island with an unprecedented level of destruction. While 100% of the population was left without power and around 80% with no water service, telecommunications, roads and bridges collapsed and thousands of homes were destroyed by winds, floods and landslides. Every single corner of Puerto Rico was impacted by the hurricane and its damage did not end with the storm: its aftermath continues to impact people’s lives and the country’s prospects for the future.
We are living the island's worst humanitarian crisis with most of the population without power, water, food and the collapse of communication and transportation networks. Public education, health services and the government’s ability to provide essential services have all been compromised. At the same time, Puerto Rico’s agriculture was destroyed in 95%, making the island depend even more on food imports under the strangling restrictions set by the Jones Act. Hurricane María has unveiled a growing poverty gap, exacerbated by the mass migration of Puerto Ricans to the mainland, in what is considered our first environmental migration. It has also awakened the island from the delusion of being a developed country.
Hurricane María has also shed some light on the colonial status of the island. This is perhaps the first time in the history of Puerto Rico's relationship with the United States, that Puerto Rico has been at the center of attention of US media outlets and the subject of open discussions in the U.S. Congress. All of these elements coupled with the billionaire debt of Puerto Rico’s government make it indispensable to discuss the roots of Puerto Rico’s crisis and design potential solutions. In doing so, human geography becomes an indispensable tool of analysis.
This panel aims to discuss post-María Puerto Rico from a geographical perspective, focusing on the human geography of the hurricane: exploring the political, economic, cultural, urban, demographic and agricultural impacts of hurricane María.
|Panelist||Neiset Bayouth Rutgers University||20|
|Panelist||Luis Sanchez-Ayala Universidad de los Andes||20|
|Panelist||Raúl Reyes Morales School of Architecture At the University of Puerto Rico||20|
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