Mis Raíces: 60 Days After Hurricane Maria - Thanksgiving Day (3/5)
It was the morning of November 23, 2017. I was woken up by the sounds of my cousin bathing his race horses outback. I could tell what he was doing because of the sounds of running water and horses stopping around. I stepped into my sandals and walked outside, bringing only with me my camera and my curiosity. The sun wasn’t out as I expected it to be but the weather was still beautiful. Perfect, if you ask me. Not too hot nor cold; it was just right. I followed my little cousin, whom woke up right after me, outback to what use to be my aunts home. The house was being used as a shelter for the horses since being destroyed by the storm. She was excited to show me the animals. (image above)
It wasn’t until my uncle mentioned the need to buy a turkey that day, that I realized what day it was. It was Thanksgiving. I will never forget the feeling that took over my body at that moment. Imagine your motherland being hit by a hurricane of historical force. Imagine your family being without electricity for months, without any idea of when it will return. Imagine having to portion meals just to make sure you will have enough. Now imagine waking up and having to celebrate a day of giving thanks. Thanks for what? Thanks for the government assistance that has yet to arrive? Thanks for the food we don’t have? Thanks for the answers we haven’t received? Thanks for what?! I’m usually the optimistic person in the room but this was a tough moment for me. It was difficult for me to focus on the positive side of things and truly feel gratitude for what I did have. I felt as if my people were being neglected, and treated like animals. I was witnessing a crisis and no help was on the way… but still, it was Thanksgiving.
Not once did I complain out loud. Not only because I knew it wasn’t going to help, but I didn’t feel entitled too. After all, I would be returning back home soon enough, to my cozy bed, hot showers and apartment with electricity. I put on a smile and just went with the flow. I watched as my family got food ready for the dinner, prepared a fire pit and danced to music. I would only think about the hurricane in specific moments; like when I would flinch to connect my charger to a wall, or when I would go use the bathroom and had to flush the toilet manually, using a bucket of water. Aside from those few moments, it actually felt like a normal day. We were able to cook up a feast, invited friends and family over, had some beers and shared plenty of laughs. At the end of the day, that’s what Thanksgiving is all about, right? Being grateful for the little things in life!
That night I went to bed with a sense of pride I had never felt before in my life. I was proud of my family for being so resilient and positive minded. I was proud of my people (my culture) for being so strong and coming together during difficult moments. And I was also proud of myself, for making this journey and putting myself in that situation. I could feel it in my bones, I was living in a historical time. I knew exactly what I needed to do… I had a story to tell. A story about those who survived.
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 3 out of 5. I hope you'll be back soon for more!