Aftermaths: Community Responses to Climate Disaster

Playa Boquerón, Cabo Rojo.

Courtesy of Astrid J. Zapata De Jesus.

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2019: UPRM students learning to test water quality at Steps Beach, Rincón.

Courtesy of Ricia Anne Chansky.

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2019: Water quality test from the public beach of Rincón showing 25X the danger level, a Mega Red Alert.

Photograph courtesy of Steve Tamar, Fundación Surfrider Rincón.

The Problem
The Roots
The Solutions

After category 5 Hurricane María devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, the government failed to provide adequate relief to the approximately 3.4 million U.S. citizens who live here, sparking a massive humanitarian crisis. People struggled with unsafe drinking water; lack of food, fuel, energy, and communications; compromised housing and homelessness; a dearth of medical and mental health care; and the erosion of public services.

Our post-hurricane precarity emerges from the colonial relationship between the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the United States, and the ongoing economic depression that has crippled the island and undermined the security of the population.

We suggest that spaces at risk for climate-driven disaster pursue the model of the citizen scientist and citizen responder—the everyday, average person who is prepared and equipped to care for themselves and their community in a time of crisis—working in collaboration with functioning government initiatives.

UPR illustrative image 1

February 22, 2019: Destroyed home in Barrio Stella, Rincón.

Courtesy of Ricia Anne Chansky.

UPR illustrative image 2

FEMA tarps in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico.

Courtesy of Eric Purcell.

UPR illustrative image 3

FEMA tarps in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico.

Courtesy of Eric Purcell.

Power truck on Culebra on the day that the last generator was unhooked, March 20, 2019.

March 20, 2019: Power truck on Culebra on the day the last generator was unhooked.

Courtesy of Ricia Anne Chansky.

Gas station on Culebra. March 20, 2019.

March 20, 2019: Gas station on Culebra.

Courtesy of Ricia Anne Chansky.

Three Kings’ Day: Miguel celebrates his new house, built in collaboration with TECHO, Villa Sin Miedo.

Courtesy of Hatuey.

Mural in the Arecibo Plaza.

Mural in the Arecibo Plaza.

Courtesy of Kiara Rivera Santiago.

Oral Histories

Oral Histories

By Edwin J. Santos Rodriguez (Electrical Engineering), Pierucci Aponte Andujar (English), Fabiola del Valle Sanchez (English), and Andrea Valdes Valderrama (English).

Radio Broadcasts

By Jonathan Acevedo (English), Janely Rentas (Microbiology), Issac Rodriguez Aponte (Software Engineering), and Kidanny J. Medina Droz (Microbiology).

Water Quality

By Kevin Lopez Matias (Biology), Astrid Zapata De Jesus (Microbiology), Juan M. Perez Gonzalez (Civil Engineering), Allyson Vargas Ortiz (Biology), and Andres Perez Colon (Economics).



By Julisa Figueroa Echevarria (Plastic Arts), Grace Lucca Feliciano (Human Resources & Marketing), and Angelic Lucca Feliciano (Humanities).

Homelessness and Abandoned Spaces

By Bryan Ramos Romero (English), Kiara Rivera Santiago (English), Daniela Mulero Morales (Political Science), and Joe Centeno Reyes (English).

Children’s Literatures

Children’s Literatures

By Adriana Montes Pacheco (Agribusiness), Sharon M. Nieves Ferrar (Physics), Francheska Morales Garcia (Theoretical Physics), and Yarelis Marcial Acevedo (English).



By Joelys Tardy Vargas (Industrial Microbiology), Kiara Velez Velez (Agronomy), Aixamar Ramos Acevedo (Agronomy), and Paola M. Rodriguez Garcia (English).

Our Point of View

University Partners
Community Partners

Each of the students, faculty, and community partners involved in the “Mi María” project survived category 5 Hurricane María, which brought new disasters born of insufficient government relief efforts. This mass listening project—designed to empower students and community by counteracting the silencing of Puerto Ricans—demonstrates the value of stories in seeking climate justice while connecting classrooms to communities. Working with community partners allowed us to collect and compare grassroots responses to disaster to record innovative and replicable responses.

—University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez

Fundación Surfrider Rincón is the Puerto Rican chapter of a global nonprofit that protects beaches, oceans, and waves. Their Blue Water Task Force educates, advocates for, and monitors ocean health. In the aftermath of Hurricane María, their attention turned to freshwater sources that potentially sickened those who drank from them. Under post-disaster conditions, the quality of already vulnerable coastal areas and freshwater sources is unreliable. The UPRM student collaboration with Surfrider helps us understand how to develop and mobilize citizen scientists in the wake of disaster.

—Fundación Surfrider Rincón

—Fundación de Culebra

—Sandra Farms


University Partners

University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez

Faculty Project Directors Ricia Chansky Sancinito Students Fabiola del Valle Sánchez Pierucci Aponte Andujar Pura Arroyo Morales Kidanny J. Medina Droz Edwin J. Santos Rodríguez Astrid Zapata-De Jesus Yarelis Marcial Acevedo Isaac Rodriguez Aponte Jonathan S. Acevedo Valerie Quinones Cordero Aixamar Ramos Acevedo Joseph F. Cortijo Tanco Dabnerys Y. Sanchez Milián Kiara Velez Velez Bryan Ramos Romero Jeremy A. Villafañe Diaz Kiara Rivera-Santiago Joelys Tardy Vargas Francheska Morales Garcia Kevin Lopez-Matias Brenda Flores Santiago Janely Rentas-Maldonado Mitchell Perez Velez Rodniel Alviles-Morales Pierucci Aponte Andujar Sebastián Serrano Pagán Jaffet Oneil Tubens Bassat Rodniel Aviles Jerry Hernandez-Merced Ana Patron Fidalgo Juan M. Perez Gonzalez Yarelis Marcial Acevedo Allyson Vargas Ortiz Juan Perez Grace Lucca Feliciano Jerry M. Hernandez Daysel M. Arroyo Morales Naylah Ramos Martinez Maria Cecilia Inigo Sanchez Julisa Figueroa Andrea Rodriguez Paola M. Rodriguez Garcia Adriana Montes Pacheco

Comminity Partners

Fundación Surfrider Rincón

Steve Tamar

Fundación de Culebra

Luz Cantwell

Sandra Farms

Israel Gonzalez
Sandra Gonzalez