SAN JUAN – Half a year after Hurricane Maria, life is still hard for many people in Puerto Rico, particularly in the interior and chiefly for the lack of electricity.
Clearly seen by inhabitants of what was known as the Enchanted Isle, and which many now call the Disenchanted Isle, is the before and after of the storm.
“This is not what it was. It will never be the same. Not that before was perfect, but after is so much worse,” EFE was told by Maria Cuadrado, 70, who mostly worries about the next hurricane season. She got her electricity back just a month and a half ago.
“If we’re badly off now, what will it be like in two and a half months? I don’t want to think about it,” she said.
Though when one flies over the island it looks less lush and leafy than before Sept. 20, 2017, it is recovering.
Nonetheless, the tropical forest of El Yunque, one of the main tourist attractions on the island, is still closed after being ripped up by the hurricane.
Agriculture is slowly recovering, including the poultry business, which Hurricane Maria wiped out, killing 1 million chickens and causing losses of $39.4 million.
Another visible aspect of the aftermath is the sea of blue roofs installed by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), because some 60,000 of the roofs that were are no longer of any use.
Between 60,000 and 90,000 houses are calculated to have been destroyed, according to the Home Builders Association.
Also to be seen are homes totally devastated, especially in the mountains, where many remain blown to the ground.
In the capital it is usual to see wooden windows in the tall buildings, and at their entrances, damages that have never been repaired.
Companies that normally managed residential areas blame the delay on the insurance companies.
Many traffic lights still aren’t working, though some have been slowly replaced in recent weeks.
Also very noticeable is how many stores have closed down.
While in several shopping centers like the Carolina, some hope for the future begins to be seen with the reopening of stores in the city’s principal mall, in other places like the exclusive San Juan Mall, luxury businesses have announced they won’t reopen.
“Enough, I can’t go on. I think it’s inhuman that half a year after the hurricane, it feels like the day after,” EFE was told by the owner of a hardware store who wished to remain anonymous.
She blames the fact that many of her compatriots are in the same unfortunate state on “those people up there. The Americans have done practically nothing to help us...It’s a shame they consider us second-class citizens, but with the hurricane they certainly let us know.”
The official death toll from Hurricane Maria was 64.