Trapped in the Toxic lens of Hurricane María

Description

On September 20, 2017 Hurricane Maria struck the island of Puerto Rico. The consequences were disastrous; no water, no electricity and no communication within the island or with the outside world. Although more than a year has passed, people continue to live under precarious conditions.

The hurricane triggered a massive relief response, from governments, NGOs and individuals. However, not all of these responses were conducted equitably. Elements such as power, the political climate, United States Colonialism, Wallstreet interest and a top-bottom approach to disaster management cascaded the disaster into a real mess.

This photo combination explores how these toxic elements created before or after the event shaped the island’s response to Hurricane Maria. While my first photo essay (The Toxicity of the U.S Aid Relief) highlights the intended or unintended consequences of the relief process carried out by the U.S government on the island, this new set of images reflect on how strategies used by Puerto Ricans to resist toxic relief and aid can reproduce toxicity in itself.

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Trapped in the Toxic lens of Hurricane María

On September 20, 2017 Hurricane Maria struck the island of Puerto Rico. The consequences were disastrous; no water, no electricity and no communication within the island or with the outside world. Although more than a year has passed, people continue to live under precarious conditions.

The hurricane triggered a massive relief response, from governments, NGOs and individuals. However, not all of these responses were conducted equitably. Elements such as power, the political climate, United States Colonialism, Wallstreet interest and a top-bottom approach to disaster management cascaded the disaster into a real mess.

This photo combination explores how these toxic elements created before or after the event shaped the island’s response to Hurricane Maria. While my first photo essay (The Toxicity of the U.S Aid Relief) highlights the intended or unintended consequences of the relief process carried out by the U.S government on the island, this new set of images reflect on how strategies used by Puerto Ricans to resist toxic relief and aid can reproduce toxicity in itself.

In Jesus we Trust

Substantive Caption:

(Keywords) religion, relief, white savior complex

While some faith based institutions (both local and foreign) were instrumental in the relief process post Maria, others reinforced the white savior complex through their actions. Many faith based institutions that came to the island after Hurricane Maria were foreign, and their actions responded to their own organization’s objectives and not necessarily to what people needed. Furthermore, these actions can lead to reinstate the system that has maintained communities in a precarious state rather than questioning the structure that keep them oppressed. In a way, this structure this structure imposes people’s forced acceptance of their situation, producing a veil between the perception and reality. For example, the structure of some faith based institutions promotes the idea that event such as hurricanes are simply “natural” disasters and that people must accept their consequences as a natural process rather than question their consequence as a product of human impact.

Design Statement:

In this image, there is status of Jesus next to a newly sprouted plant. I am trying to convey how faith based organizations are embedded in the everyday life of residents. Also, faith based institutions have a lot of political power on the island, which sometimes translates into forcing unjust policies onto citizens. For example, Puerto Rico’s  senate wanted to approve the "Religious Freedom Law", which would allow government employees to oppose taking actions that go against their religious beliefs (e.g. it would allow a Demographic Record employee to refuse to make a sex change on a birth certificate if a transsexual requests it).

Connectingmess

Substantive Caption;

(Keywords) electrical grid, connection, physical visualization of toxicity

Hurricane Maria left the island of Puerto Rico in total blackout. Almost two year has passed after the hurricane and there are still places that have no electricity. No electricity means no food in the fridge, mosquito bites, no school and for some it can mean the difference between life and death. Because state’s response has been so slow in connecting power to citizens, some people decided to connect the power lines back to their houses without the electric authority authorization. Furthermore, these same actions that residents are employing are the same ones that can expose them to toxic outcomes, such as death or physical damages if the person connecting the electricity fails to do so properly.

Design Statement

This picture serves as visual representation of the chaotic political structure and political toxicity on the island. Before Hurricane Maria,  the power grid was in bad shape (physically and financially). The financial hole the power authority found themselves in was caused in part to the emission of bonds to pay off Puerto Rico’s debt to hedge funds, mostly from Wall Street. Wallstreet interest unlawfully incentivize Puerto Rico government to issue these bonds even though both parties were aware there was no liquidity behind the bunds, and therefore there was “no” way they could pay them back. Two years later Puerto Rico was forced into bankruptcy. Furthermore, for years the local government wanted to privatize the power grid under the excuse that in needed to be modernize. After the hurricane the government had the perfect excuse to start their privatization plan for the power grid. Without any proper selection mechanism, the local government signed a $300 million contract to hire a company with little to no experience repairing power grids. Furthermore, after the cancelation of the contract the local government continue paying this company for 30 days, because of a clause the government neglected to see.

Resisting Ricky

Substantive Caption:

(Keywords) deaths, disaster, government, art

In a sense I am trying to capture how political actions leads to disaster, and how disaster breeds disaster under our current political climate conditions. One of the figures heavily criticized in Puerto Rico is former governor Ricardo Roselló. His government denied  that the island went through a health crisis during Hurricane Maria. Although the government stated that only 64 people initially died in consequence of Hurricane Maria, several researchers and journalists have reported the mortality rate beyond  4,000. Furthermore, the local government praised the Federal and Executive branch of the U.S government for their response to the event, overlooking the fact that they were responsible for stopping food and relief supplies at the ports of Puerto Rico the weeks following the hurricane. Puerto Rico's governor has been very lenient on critiquing the U.S government under the wrong impression, that will pave the way and draw political support for Puerto Rico’s statehood.

Design Statement;

Historically in Puerto Rico, art has been used as a way to bring political issues to mainstem society. The original picture is from a street artist called el Anti-llano (circa. 2018-2019), and it shows a Puerto Rican trap artist, Bad Bunny. Through art, it appears as if the artist is juxtaposing and playing with words, writing "Bad Gobby" instead of Bad Bunny.  This image conveys how, through art, government figures and actions have been heavily criticized. Furthermore, this piece of art was "hung" into one of the main transit roads in San Juan (Puerto Rico's capital).

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Created date

January 28, 2019