Mis Raíces: 60 Days After Hurricane Maria - Carlos Rodriguez Plays On (4/5)

“Carlos takes a break between sessions” (Old San Juan, Puerto Rico 2017)

Carlos Rodriguez and I first met when I started working on the Mis Races project, back in January of 2017. It was what would become my first of three trips that year. I had just walked out of El Parque de las Palomas and began to wander the streets of Old San Juan. I barely walked 100 feet before running into Carlos. He was on the same doorstep, with the same guitar, wearing the same straw hat, playing music for the tourist. He recognized me instantly; “Boston!” he yelled out when he saw me. It didn’t take much before he began to tell me about the Hurricane and all he has been experiencing since then. It’s sad to say but he didn’t mention anything I didn’t see already by that time. It was the same sad tune playing over and over again- lack of food, no electricity, a damaged economy and little help from the government.

Carlos had been playing his guitar in the streets of San Juan as a source of income for a few years now. This meant that as long as Carlos had his guitar, he had work. But although the hurricane didn’t take away his employment, it affected his clientele. The island experienced a tremendous drop in tourism during the months that followed the disaster. I remember him saying something along the lines of “before [the storm], it was about making enough money to be able to save a dollar tomorrow, but now, it’s about making enough money to just see tomorrow.”

I spent a few hours with Carlos that day. I had a couple of beers and some delicious food while we talked about everything from his past relationships to his years living in the states. He told me a lot about himself during our time together. He told me things I still laugh about and others things that I’ll take to the grave with me. During our conversation, a woman and a man came up to Carlos and I, introducing themselves as members of an organization that was helping victims of the hurricane. Their mission was to provide local communities with clean water. This was all good news for Carlos, considering he had no source of clean water at this point.

The woman was kind enough to gift Carlos and I some pretty cool water bottles. The water bottles came with a filtration system built into them. This made it safe for us to drink just about any water we could find without the risk of getting sick. We all shared stories and discussed art for a while, before deciding to call it a night and part ways. Carlos had to get home before the sun went down, I had to get ready for a morning flight and everyone else still had a lot of work to do.

If you’re ever in Old San Juan and find yourself near El Parque de las Palomas, please make it a point to find Mr. Rodriguez and say hi. He lis going to be the gentlemen playing the Spanish guitar outside of a local restaurant. I’m sure you won’t miss him!


I originally planned to do one BIG post when I returned. But after reviewing all my images and reflecting on my experience in Puerto Rico, as a whole, I feel it's best I present my work in segments (photo-essay format). I want to give certain moments their own individual time on stage. With that being said, this is post 4 out of 5. I hope you'll be back soon for more!

Pedro "FLAKO" CruzComment