Story and video by Gabriella Parsons
In the wake of two catastrophic hurricanes –– the shock, the disaster, the darkness –– there is dignity. Conversations about decolonization and sovereignty for Puerto Rico had been happening long before the hurricanes. Knowing the island was already at a vulnerable position in its 120-year-old colonial relationship to the United States, Puerto Ricans responded to the storms with a call for change. Communities across the island organized to build solidarity with one another and protect themselves from the risks of disaster capitalism, a process in which outsiders profit off Puerto Rico’s severely damaged and vulnerable infrastructure. In the heart of Puerto Rico –– the valley of Caguas –– one group transformed an abandoned building into a community center, which they named Centro de Apoyo Mutuo, The Center for Mutual Aid. Their mission was simple: to feed their community and heal the trauma and shock that the hurricanes left. But what resulted was more complex. A movement sparked across the island, with many grassroots groups exemplifying similar efforts. Their collective actions have emphasized the need to liberate Puerto Rico once and for all.