Young women vie for an ideal "selfie" backdrop on San Juan's Condado Beach. Young women vie for an ideal "selfie" backdrop on San Juan's Condado Beach. The oceanfront along much of San Juan's beaches is frequented by tourists and locals alike.
Luis Perez and his family lost their home following Hurricane Maria in September 2017. The house, like many in Puerto Rico, was a wood structure and not built to survive winds that reached 175 mph in September 2017. Following the storm, Luis, his wife Maria, their three children and two dogs moved into an abandoned schoolhouse in the small mountainside town of Adjuntas. Unable to find a well-paying job, Luis is unsure if or when they will be able to move into a proper home.
"It's hard, of course, but I don't know what to do anymore." Sofia and Ricardo Arraya have seven children, five were born healthy but two, Jose and Josie were born with developmental impairments and have lived with Sofia and Ricardo their entire lives. Both in their late 60s, the parents acknowledge neither of their children receive the care they would if the family had more money or lived somewhere with better services.
An array of medications taken daily by siblings Jose, 52, and Josie Arraya, 48, share a small table with stacks of bills, prescription instructions and cheap decor. The adult brother and sister both suffer from developmental disabilities and mental health issues and struggle to receive proper care.
Even before Hurricane Maria hit the island in September 2017 Puerto Rico suffered from poor health infrastructure, a shrinking healthcare workforce, high debt, poverty and unemployment. Following the storm, conditions have worsened as some medical professionals choose to find work elsewhere and others grapple with insurance companies often unwilling to reimburse.
“Do you know why? We listen to His words. That is why we are here today. There is too much pain in Puerto Rico, even more since Maria. There is suffering everywhere though and it’s easy to say “why should I help?” “What can I possibly do?” We talk ourselves out of acting because life and the many problems are overwhelming. But I can do this much. We all can. These are my brothers and my sisters. It’s very simple.”
A pastor at a church in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Marlo is one of a team of 10-15 people who volunteer their time 7 days a weeks to provide a meal and prayer for anyone who needs either. He and his team of volunteers gather in a small parking lot and deliver food from the back of trucks as the sermon is delivered from a portable loudspeaker.
Though most reports assert the tap water in San Juan is safe to drink some residents continue to seek out sources to bottle their own. SuperMax, a 24/7 grocery-store chain popular on the island, offers filtered water; a small line can be seen waiting much of the day and into the evening.
On the island of Puerto Rico the disparity between wealth and poverty is growing, visable in San Juan where luxury brand stores and multi-million dollar beachfront homes collide with homelessness and those unable to find adequate employment. A short drive from the capital city one can see some of the estimated 30,000 homes that still do not have a roof, two years after Hurricane Maria.
“I bet I can hold my breath longer than you” ... “Mom, will you count for us?”
Sisters Amara and Kamila compete to learn who can hold their breath longer while their mother, Maria, keeps time. The three live in a village an hour from the city and visit the ocean once or twice a month.