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Voices from Puerto Rico: Reflections Two Months After Maria (Report)

Two months after Hurricane Maria made landfall, the Kaiser Family Foundation traveled to Puerto Rico to conduct focus groups and individual interviews with individuals affected by the storm. We spoke to 40 people from 10 different regions on the island (Appendix 1). See a companion video. Findings show:

  • Hurricane Maria was a terrifying and traumatic event for participants and their children. A number of participants suffered significant damage to their homes and property with some losing everything.
  • The storm had significant negative effects on physical and mental health, and many participants continue to experience depression, stress, and anxiety.
  • Two months after the storm, participants were continuing to face challenges meeting basic needs, and daily life remained extremely challenging due to lack of electricity and limited work options.
  • Participants felt that recovery efforts have been slow and insufficient.
  • Despite these challenges, many believe Puerto Rico will recover, although they recognize recovery will likely take many years and believe that the people themselves have an important role to play in recovery.

“I thought there was no end to it. We stood by the window, watching what was happening to my house. The wind and the rain wouldn’t stop…It was endless.”

“I saw the entire process of what happened to my house. It was a total loss. My dad was in tears out of helplessness in the face of that situation.”

“The place where I felt okay was the bathroom. If I had to cry, I cried. And sometimes I tried to muffle my sobs with the bath curtain.”

“I was not working for so long, because I used to work at schools and, if they are not open, I don´t work…that triggered a lot of anxiety….because…I used to be the one who made money.”

“…after two months, there are people who still can’t be reached because there is no road, they cannot leave their homes. They can’t get food.”

“And when he [President Trump] did his crazy things, throwing paper towels, he wasn’t valuing what we were going through, our pain.”

“They are taking so, so long, that I wonder, how is it possible that people who lost their homes aren’t given priority.”

“I would like Puerto Ricans on the outside and Americans to know there are brave people here, strong, and they are not giving up, because we are fighters.”


Issue Brief

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.