top of page

Rubbles of Hope: Puerto Rico Post-Hurricane Maria

When deciding to take part in my university's social justice and cultural immersion travel trip to Puerto Rico I did not know what to expect. All I did know was I wanted to help those affected by Hurricane Maria. The trip ended up being a time of deep self-reflection, gratitude, rest, and education. The light of Puerto Rico natives never seemed dim, each encounter was greeted with a smile. It was their stories that held a hint of darkness yet still grasped hope for a better future. The Boricua people hold such insight, artistry, and mindfulness that is present throughout the streets of the island.

ruins from inside a building in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico | photo by Danielle Layton

We visited the town of Santurce to see the infamous Murales de Santurce. This is one of the poorest towns within the island yet its beauty presents itself throughout the remarkable art pieces stained upon the building walls. Artists created pieces to demonstrate political unrest, artistic liberty, and beauty in its many forms.

breathing life into a dying artist mural in Santurce, Puerto Rico | photo by Danielle Layton

As we walked through the streets, the people there welcomed us with blown kisses and bright smiles, for our presence seemed to be more a blessing than an annoyance. It was then I knew I wasn't in New York anymore. It struck me that those with less still manage to make the best of their lives, their joy and peace still ever present and abundant despite any struggle that may come. It is when we have much we tend to live in discontent, awaiting the next blessing than enjoying our current portion.

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico | photo by Danielle Layton

On the trip we spent a day in Las Carolinas, Caguas, Puerto Rico - another neighborhood where much of its inhabitants live in economic struggle and where Hurricane Maria truly took a hit. We volunteered at a community support center delivering food, meal prepping, and cleaning up storage space. A few of us helped in delivering food to the elders within the community. One of the standout deliveries was made to a home of three brothers. The eldest brother, an alcoholic, takes care of his two younger brothers - one whom is ill and the other being schizophrenic.

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico | photo by Danielle Layton

After delivering to some locals we took a pit stop to look at the beautiful landscape. Charito, one of the ladies from the center, said as we overlooked the breath taking view,

"it got more beautiful."

Despite the destructive affects from Hurricane Maria, the island "got more beautiful."

remains from a mural in Santurce, Puerto Rico | photo by Danielle Layton

A fellow peer and myself interviewed Giovanni, the project curator of the Las Carolinas support center, to share more on how the initiative began, how others can help, and his hope for the organization's future. I asked him about external aid that they receive and he replied that the generosity of the people is appreciated, but made it clear that they will not accept government funding because "they always use what they give you." So our group decided to create a GoFundMe page to campaign towards the non-profit organization's efforts.

a building without a roof in San Juan, Puerto Rico | photo by Danielle Layton

The most culturally immersive part of this trip was our two day visit to the agricultural farm in Ceiba, Puerto Rico. Not being one of the great outdoors, this experience changed that a bit. The farm was more than just a plantation for crops and harvesting, but a sacred place of healing where individuals gather to become one with nature. From the plentiful meal of pumpkin soup and plantain rice to the beautiful spirits sharing their stories and allowing us to leave a piece of ourselves, all of it was such an eye opening experience.

selfie in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico | photo by Ashley G.

My fellow peers and I created a GoFundMe (no longer accepting donations) to the Las Carolinas Support Center. We raised $1,050 of our $1,000 goal!  

Check out more of my visit to Puerto Rico in my travel vlog below:


bottom of page