The Work Here is FAR From Done: Moxie's Take on the Hurricane Damage in Puerto Rico

An iguana catches some rays on the deck of a wrecked boat. This wreck was one of many dozens we saw in Salinas.  Artists painted the h...

An iguana catches some rays on the deck of a wrecked boat. This wreck was one of many dozens we saw in Salinas. 
Artists painted the hulls of wrecked boats on the beach at Boqueron, PR


Hud removes cleats from a beached sailboat to re-purpose them as tie-ups on the town dock in  Boqueron

A new dock cleat installed by the Moxie crew, as seen through Sadie's legs

The beautiful lighthouse at Cabo Rojo

We call this MOOG POWER

Iguanas are EVERYWHERE in Puerto Rico!
Preparing to take the plunge at Gilligan's Island

A sweet local guy let us borrow his sunfish one day.  "Harden it up, let's boogie!",was Trav's rad quote of the day.

Viv at the helm

Outside the historic fire station in Ponce
The Moxie crew fell in love with Rincon!  We surfed twice at Playa de Maria

Viv has gotten better and better at surfing.  Here she is, tearing it up at Rincon.

About to ride...see Dad in the back :)

Hud catches a beauty at Rincon
Reason #472 why we love Rincon: One of our very favorite movies is "Nacho Libre" with Jack Black.   Our favorite food is Mexican food.  Rincon has a restaurant named Nacho Libre and it's Mexican food is amazing!!!  (The wrestling masks were an added perk)   


Celebrating my 44th birthday in Ponce.  (Note two of my gifts: chocolate covered cherries and good conditioner-- Major luxuries for this sailor girl)
At the marina in Ponce, Viv adapted and directed a production of  "Cinderella" with a sweet family of sisters from SV Chasing Waterfalls (and Hudson) as actors.  She also costumed and advertised the production, which was performed to about 15 very enthusiastic attendees.  In my professional opinion, the show was EXCEPTIONAL. 

Hud catches air at the skatepark in Ponce on his 11th birthday.

I love my sweet boy!!!

Moxie anchored at Caja de Muertes (Coffin Island)


Salinas is a huge cruising port and hurricane hole, but it was no match for Maria.  The damage here was intense.

Viv ponders the destruction on our tour of the Salinas harbor

This barge is moving up the coastline of Puerto Rico, pulling sunken and wrecked boats from harbors with its giant crane.

A former sailboat shop in Salinas
Everywhere you look, destroyed homes and businesses

Swingin' in Salinas

Puerto Rican Power

Here's Hud on his board at the gorgeous surf beach, Inches, near Patillas

Hud paddles out



Trav and I raise our kids to be best friends, and best friends they are


Hitching back to the boat after surfing, Trav offers a cold beer as an incentive to anyone driving a truck.  What a gang of ragamuffins!  Would you pick us up?

Buddies

Palm walking at Palmas del Mar

Golf cart thugs are the most dangerous kind
The damage to the vegetation is pretty severe, especially to the poor palm trees

No explanation necessary


The throbbing hum of generators is the ever-present soundtrack to much of Puerto Rico these days.  Rumbling and shaking behind small shops and restaurants, the generators provide a constant, often deafening roar, and people strain to hear and to be heard.  But shouting over the noise of machinery is just part of the Puerto Ricans’ struggle to have a voice.  Four months after the devastation of Hurricane Maria, the stories of that terrifying storm pour out of the locals as if released from broken dams.   

“I lived with my Mom and my little sister up in the hills above Ponce.  My Mom had just finished making a garden in the backyard,” the young guy at TJ Maxx told me as he rang up my purchases. “But Maria blew the roof off our house.”  He smiled with sad eyes. “Now we live with relatives.”

A girl at the little store in Boqueron told us about what it was like living without power in the hottest days of a Caribbean summer. “There was no air conditioning and no fans.  If you went outside to cool off, the bugs were terrible.  And you couldn’t sleep at night, it was so hot. We would run the generator for a few hours every day and I would freeze a water bottle to take to bed with me at night.  That was how I would try to stay cool so I could sleep.”

The guy from the rental car place had tears in his eyes as he described the night Maria hit, how he and his neighbors huddled in the 9th floor hallway of their 16 story apartment highrise for 10 hours and felt the concrete building move and sway, felt the wind rush through the halls, heard the glass shattering through the walls all around them.  “My father, my uncles, and my brothers all served in the military.  I always ask the question, if Puerto Ricans can serve in the US military, then how come we can’t vote for the President?”

A dad we met on the beach on the tiny island of Vieques told us how his wife and seven year old daughter were visiting relatives in the US during the hurricane.  “There was no cell service, no internet, no phones at all,” he explained, “So for three weeks, I had no way to get in touch with them.” Can you imagine what that must have been like for that family?  Three weeks without communication.  THREE WEEKS without knowing if their house was still standing, not knowing if their husband/dad was even alive.        

The irony of Maria’s devastating effect on Puerto Rico is something out of “The Gift of the Magi”.  When Hurricane Irma hit in early September, it missed Puerto Rico, but ravaged the nearby USVIs, BVIs, and St. Maarten.  The Puerto Ricans responded by assembling a massive relief effort, gathering huge quantities of supplies including generators, blue tarps, chainsaws, and bottled water and shipping it all to their neighbors in need.  Less than two weeks later, Maria came, and Puerto Rico found itself up a creek without a paddle. They had given away most of the supplies they now desperately needed.

Throughout Puerto Rico, and especially on the eastern end where the hurricane first hit, the damage still overwhelms the peoples’ ability to fix it.  Everywhere you look, things are broken.  Giant store signs lie shattered in parking lots.  Electricity poles remain snapped in half like matchsticks.  At most intersections in busy cities like San Juan and Ponce, the broken traffic lights hang precariously, bobbing and swaying on loose, stretched-out wires.  The cars and trucks below weave through without guidance, drivers waving each other through, often putting pedal to the metal and gunning it to make sure they get their turn.  For the first few months after Maria, the police officers directed the traffic in 12 hour shifts, standing at intersections in the brutal heat and taking bathroom breaks in bushes.  If someone called in sick, their shifts would double to 24 hours.  Not only were these police officers never paid for their overtime, after a while their paychecks started to bounce. Eventually they stopped coming to work and the intersections went unmanned.  Now, occasionally, you’ll see the traffic being directed by an entrepreneurial guy in an orange vest, waving on the cars with gusto, energetically working for tips.       

Much of the island still has no power. A few places still have no water.  Some public schools have not yet reopened.  And everywhere, skeletons of the little places, the colorful beach shacks and shops and watering holes that gave this place much of its character now sit in heaps of splintered wood and twisted metal.

But the outlook here isn’t as bleak as you might imagine.  If anything, the struggle of the storm has been a powerful reminder to Puerto Ricans of their resilience, ingenuity, community minded-ness, and resolve.  A surf photographer named Justin we met in Rincon told us about the initial weeks after the storm, how he and his friends cleared roads with chainsaws, often taking an entire day to remove one tree.  But here comes the best story of all, the one that absolutely blew me away: Justin described how he and his neighbors, after two months without power, banded together and took matters into their own hands.  Led by the one guy in the neighborhood who had some previous experience with powerlines, Justin and his buddies spent a week digging a hole, replacing the fallen electricity pole, and putting the lines back into place.  They succeeded in restoring power to their neighborhood.  “It was amazing, so amazing, that feeling,” Justin told me, and he blinked back tears. He apologized for becoming emotional.  “I’m sorry for tearing up, but when I think about it, it’s like I’m living it all over again.”

A sweet guy named William gave us a ride to the surf beach at Inches.  I asked him if the storm had been hard on his community, and his response surprised me. “Actually, I think the hurricane was the best thing that could have happened to Puerto Rico,” he said. “I work at Kmart, and the first things we sold out of were board games and kids’ bikes.  Without power, kids aren’t watching TV anymore, they’re playing like we did when we were kids, you know, old school, like Jenga.  Before Maria, everyone was just staring at their phones all the time.  Now the parks are full of people hanging out with each other.  The hurricane forced us to be a community again.”

 The Moxie crew is currently anchored off of Culebra, a tiny island in the Spanish Virgin Islands, and this is our last stop in Puerto Rico.  After more than a month here, it is abundantly clear that the US has seriously failed at providing Puerto Ricans the support and resources they still desperately need.  While most communities have found ways of coping and are keeping a stiff upper lip, it's hard for us to imagine what we would feel like if WE lived here, with so much still in chaos and SO MUCH WORK TO BE DONE.  The repairs and restorations are not happening fast enough, the evidence of this is all around us.  As I sit here finishing this blog post, Trav has just shown me a NY Times article which reported that FEMA  had contracted with one particular company for 30 million meals to be delivered to Puerto Rico back in September, and the company only delivered 50,000.  This is just one example of the glaring deficits in support that we have learned about while we've been here.    
       
If you are interested in supporting a relief fund for Puerto Rico, the link below is one that has been recommended to us, as funds will go do directly to grassroots local charities here:         

www.hispanicfederation.org/donate

As always, thank you for reading! xo



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2 comments

  1. Thanks so much for your blog Jen and love that you can share with us what is happening in PR. I’m sad that they are not getting the support they need and pray that your blog will reach people who can help them. Love you all and continue to pray for safety. Love Sylvia

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  2. As always thanks for reading and thanks for the support. Its been an eye opener being down here right now. Cheers Travis

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