Save Our Souls
Save Our Souls

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

In the days following Hurricane Maria, kids from Jayuya, Puerto Rico, climbed to the top of the mountain above their homes and wrote this message in hopes that National Guard helicopters would see, and bring food, water, and help. The families here walked on foot over steep mountain roads buried by mudslides and broken trees to check on one another. When food ran low, they shared with each other. Only a few homes have safe water even now, and most homes still have no electricity, and running generators is costly. There's no guess how much longer it will be.

Cristo
Cristo

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

A mere hundred yards from the scrawled SOS, a cross, and Christ's arms extended toward heaven. 

Jayuya
Jayuya

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

Our first two days in Puerto Rico, we travelled about two hours from San Juan to the small town of Jayuya, deep in the mountains of the island. If you can read topographical maps, you can see that the mountains here are steep, and the roads wind precariously along their sides. The topography was just one of the challenges after the hurricane hit – those winding roads were covered over in places with mudslides, or washed away entirely into the deep valleys. The map was necessary for our trip, even with our fixer traveling with us, because cell service isn’t reliable due to towers lost during the storm so GPS and the map programs on our phones were no help. 

 Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Josue
Josue

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

Josue, 15, smiles as the school social worker asks how his family is doing. His home was badly damaged in the hurricane and is still without a roof, protected by the ubiquitous blue tarps. Because of damage to roads throughout Jayuya, the school bus can no longer reach his house, so Josue walks part of the way to a spot the bus can reach. His trip to school is now 45 minutes each way. 

Jesus
Jesus

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Jesus is 15 years old and has been diagnosed with brain cancer and has suicidal thoughts. The hospital where he receives treatment is in San Juan, a two hour drive each way from Jayuya. When he's older, he would like to study renewable energy. 

Elizabeth and Jesus
Elizabeth and Jesus

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

In a hallway of their home, now open to the sunlight, Elizabeth stands with her son Jesus, who stayed home from school because of his health problems. Behind him, a generator in the living room provides some light at night, and charges cell phones even though service is spotty in the mountains. 

Elizabeth
Elizabeth

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

Standing on her porch beside the empty space where her kitchen used to be, Elizabeth Agosto González says goodbye to the social worker and counselor from Escuela Josefina León Zayas, where her son Jesus attends high school. They visited her on this morning, because her son was speaking of taking his life. Elizabeth called the school, and they came. Elizabeth has two other children, daughters ages 10 and 4. She is afraid her 4 year old will fall off of the open floor where the kitchen was ripped away when Maria passed over. She is worried because the $3000 she has been approved for will not pay for all the necessary repairs anyway. She is worried that repairs can’t be completed before next hurricane season. Everyone in Jayuya is already worried about next season. 

Gas for the generator
Gas for the generator

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Invertor
Invertor

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Signal
Signal

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

A recurring theme among the teens was desire for cell service to return to normal. This middle school girl tries to get a signal to talk with her friends. School is out each day at noon for them because there is no electricity at the school. There is none at home either. 

A moment's peace
A moment's peace

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

In Jayuya, we came across a home with nothing but a door frame left. What we saw when we walked up the stairs shook us to the core. Toys had been left as they were, clothes wet with rain and weather from the day Maria hit until we happened upon it. As we were leaving, we saw the girl on the bike, and her mom, sitting in the car with smaller children. 

She has 4 children, and the house that is no more, is the house her grandmother had lived in. It was passed down to her parents, and then finally to her. She lived in that house till the day Maria destroyed it. Sadly, she cannot rebuild it. FEMA has said that because there is no deed in her name, she cannot claim any money to repair a house that is not hers. Unfortunately this is not an isolated case, and many people are facing this plight in Puerto Rico. Hands tied, the feeling of hopelessness for many reign supreme. The feeling of abandonment by the U.S is ever present.

Clouds for a roof
Clouds for a roof

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

All that remains of this home is what was made of cinderblock, and what was too heavy or too small to blow away. 

Toys
Toys

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Remains of life before Hurricane Maria, soaked and moldering in the sun, four months later. 

Road bed
Road bed

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

The road alongside this creek was washed away when the creek flooded violently in the hours following the hurricane. Beneath the asphalt, a roadbed from a past century. 

Josue's house
Josue's house

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

Guardian Angel
Guardian Angel

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

The mudslides burst through her home leaving gaping holes on either side of the house. Everything had been left as it was when the mud tore through in September. When we walked into the house, it was like walking into a crime scene. There was mud splattered everywhere on the walls, dirt piled high on the ground, the fridge overturned, yet the cooking pot on the stove with a spoon remained intact. When we met the woman who lived in this house, she recounted the story which included the loss of her leg, as well as her husband. Throughout the heartbreaking story, she smiled, constantly reminding us and herself, that she was in the hands of God. That she had angles around her as she was stuck in the mud, opened to the elements of Hurricane Maria for 4 hours. Despite her ordeal, and the continued strife she faces, she believes in the higher power.

Evelyn's house
Evelyn's house

Photo credit: Aniya Legnaro

Evelyn's things
Evelyn's things

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

The mudslide broke through the window of the back wall of the house, where the bedroom was. The force of the flow of mud broke the wall between the bedroom and bathroom, and careened through to the front of the house, sweeping Evelyn and her husband away. 

Las horas de la pasión
Las horas de la pasión

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

Lourdes
Lourdes

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

Lourdes Bennett is the lead social worker at Escuela Josefina León Zayas, the high school in Jayuya. It’s an exemplary school, blessed with a uniquely committed director and staff. In this moment, Lourdes comforts her friend, Evelyn, a special education teacher who lost her leg, and her husband, when a mudslide crashed through her house as Hurricane Maria ravaged the mountain town. Lourdes’s heart is for her community, and she credits her father for teaching her to be strong in the face of adversity. In these last four months she has worked tirelessly to catalog and meet the pressing needs of the students in her school, their families, and their neighbors. Evelyn’s miraculous survival may seem the more amazing story; but to me, Lourdes’s unwavering strength and evident compassion are the emblems of the people of Jayuya. No one came to save them, they had to save each other.

Baxter's water
Baxter's water

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

Cantera/Golden Mile
Cantera/Golden Mile

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

Across the Lagoon
Across the Lagoon

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

Luis
Luis

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

A resident of the Cantera neighborhood in San Juan pauses in the midst of repairs to his home to greet Luis Cintrón, director of the Cantera Community Development Company. He asks Luis, “can you help me reach FEMA? They haven’t come back.” Residents of Cantera are among the poorest in San Juan, and they hold out little hope that either Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority or federal agencies will remember them.

The door of a school
The door of a school

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Solitary
Solitary

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

Barber shop
Barber shop

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

The light
The light

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

A resident of Cantera community, one of the poorest areas of San Juan, stands on her balcony to show us where the municipal basketball court metal roof has fallen against her building. It crashed over during the hurricane and remains to this day. It blocks the light to her porch, where she likes to sit with her brother and have coffee in the morning. Since she is also still without electricity, the daylight is longed for. Her community is in the middle of Puerto Rico’s beautiful capital, but she says they are forgotten. The city has not come to help them. In a neighborhood already overlooked, it seems unlikely that Puerto Rico’s limited recovery resources will reach these people soon.

Wind damage
Wind damage

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Recalling that night
Recalling that night

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

As she led us into her bedroom and showed how the municipal basketball structure fell on her apartment, she broke down. She recounted the sound, the crash of the metal hitting the side of her bedroom wall, and how her husband held her close, telling her how much he loved her, and that this was their end. Her fear was as alive in that moment as it was on this day as it was 4 months ago when this happened. My empathy for her was overwhelming, but my shock and utter disgust took over at the fact that this structure has been resting on her home for 4 months without a word as to how or when it will be removed. When the structure fell, it covered her bedroom window, and so now, without overhead lights on, her bedroom is dark during daylight. Turning on lights means using the generator. This means spending money to light the house during the day when most keep the generator on at night only to save money. 

Faith
Faith

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

All the food in my house
All the food in my house

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Juan and Denisse's house
Juan and Denisse's house

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Denisse
Denisse

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

Denise stands on the clean white tile floor of her home. No roof, and the only remaining walls are a cinderblock cubicle where the bathroom was. As her family weathered Hurricane Maria in the nearby home of her in-laws, Denise’s children watched their house lift off its foundation and plunge into the valley. Denise ran a business from her house, so the equipment and supplies for her livelihood were lost with the house. The family is somewhat fortunate in that FEMA aid totals about $10,000. But, the estimate costs of rebuilding the home to be around $35,000. More troubling for the moment, though, is the fact that they ordered cinderblocks to begin rebuilding, and paid, in mid-November. The cinderblocks have yet to arrive, and they don’t know when they will. It is Denise’s understanding that FEMA has legal right to take any supplies that arrive in port, and she thinks maybe FEMA used their cinderblocks for something. Meanwhile, the price of basic building supplies has more than doubled on the island. She thinks maybe US suppliers (thanks to the Jones Act, all shipments of anything to Puerto Rico have to come from US suppliers in US ships) are hiking up prices of supplies to Puerto Rico.

Business
Business

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Water
Water

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Orocovis, 5pm
Orocovis, 5pm

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

Orocovis, 5am
Orocovis, 5am

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

We visited the central Puerto Rico town of Orocovis, and stayed in the home of a family there, as we photographed with several people in the neighborhood. Around 5am, I woke to use the bathroom, and noticed the grandparents were already up, quietly starting their day before the rest of the family was awake, as grandparents often do. I quickly threw a sweatshirt over my pajamas, and grabbed my camera. They were reading by the light of their phones in the deep pre-dawn darkness. The generators that ran from dusk through half the night, had run out of gas some hours before, and were silent until the sun came up and someone would refill them with gasoline for the next evening. About two weeks after we visited them, we learned through their jubilant Facebook posts that a power company truck arrived on their street, and within a few hours they were celebrating the return of the light – regular electricity for the first time in 18 weeks. 

Provisions
Provisions

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Jojo
Jojo

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

Where the river rose
Where the river rose

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Next in line
Next in line

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

A mother and her children stand in line for bags, filled with water and canned goods, being handed out by a team of volunteers. The supplies came from donations made by Puerto Ricans living in the mainland US - collected by Puerto Rican radio host and stand up comedian Molusco as he toured US cities performing and accepting donations for the people on the island. They collected enough to fill *six* 53-foot shipping containers. Once the goods arrived in Puerto Rico, the team has been driving small moving trucks loaded with goods sorted into reusable shopping bags, stopping in every town and handing out as many as they can before moving on. We happened to be in Orocovis, staying in the neighborhood, when the truck arrived at the church and handed out the supplies.

No pase
No pase

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Leganro

Save Our Souls
Cristo
Jayuya
 Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro
Josue
Jesus
Elizabeth and Jesus
Elizabeth
Gas for the generator
Invertor
Signal
A moment's peace
Clouds for a roof
Toys
Road bed
Josue's house
Guardian Angel
Evelyn's house
Evelyn's things
Las horas de la pasión
Lourdes
Baxter's water
Cantera/Golden Mile
Across the Lagoon
Luis
The door of a school
Solitary
Barber shop
The light
Wind damage
Recalling that night
Faith
All the food in my house
Juan and Denisse's house
Denisse
Business
Water
Orocovis, 5pm
Orocovis, 5am
Provisions
Jojo
Where the river rose
Next in line
No pase
Save Our Souls

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

In the days following Hurricane Maria, kids from Jayuya, Puerto Rico, climbed to the top of the mountain above their homes and wrote this message in hopes that National Guard helicopters would see, and bring food, water, and help. The families here walked on foot over steep mountain roads buried by mudslides and broken trees to check on one another. When food ran low, they shared with each other. Only a few homes have safe water even now, and most homes still have no electricity, and running generators is costly. There's no guess how much longer it will be.

Cristo

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

A mere hundred yards from the scrawled SOS, a cross, and Christ's arms extended toward heaven. 

Jayuya

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

Our first two days in Puerto Rico, we travelled about two hours from San Juan to the small town of Jayuya, deep in the mountains of the island. If you can read topographical maps, you can see that the mountains here are steep, and the roads wind precariously along their sides. The topography was just one of the challenges after the hurricane hit – those winding roads were covered over in places with mudslides, or washed away entirely into the deep valleys. The map was necessary for our trip, even with our fixer traveling with us, because cell service isn’t reliable due to towers lost during the storm so GPS and the map programs on our phones were no help. 

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Josue

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

Josue, 15, smiles as the school social worker asks how his family is doing. His home was badly damaged in the hurricane and is still without a roof, protected by the ubiquitous blue tarps. Because of damage to roads throughout Jayuya, the school bus can no longer reach his house, so Josue walks part of the way to a spot the bus can reach. His trip to school is now 45 minutes each way. 

Jesus

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Jesus is 15 years old and has been diagnosed with brain cancer and has suicidal thoughts. The hospital where he receives treatment is in San Juan, a two hour drive each way from Jayuya. When he's older, he would like to study renewable energy. 

Elizabeth and Jesus

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

In a hallway of their home, now open to the sunlight, Elizabeth stands with her son Jesus, who stayed home from school because of his health problems. Behind him, a generator in the living room provides some light at night, and charges cell phones even though service is spotty in the mountains. 

Elizabeth

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

Standing on her porch beside the empty space where her kitchen used to be, Elizabeth Agosto González says goodbye to the social worker and counselor from Escuela Josefina León Zayas, where her son Jesus attends high school. They visited her on this morning, because her son was speaking of taking his life. Elizabeth called the school, and they came. Elizabeth has two other children, daughters ages 10 and 4. She is afraid her 4 year old will fall off of the open floor where the kitchen was ripped away when Maria passed over. She is worried because the $3000 she has been approved for will not pay for all the necessary repairs anyway. She is worried that repairs can’t be completed before next hurricane season. Everyone in Jayuya is already worried about next season. 

Gas for the generator

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Invertor

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Signal

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

A recurring theme among the teens was desire for cell service to return to normal. This middle school girl tries to get a signal to talk with her friends. School is out each day at noon for them because there is no electricity at the school. There is none at home either. 

A moment's peace

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

In Jayuya, we came across a home with nothing but a door frame left. What we saw when we walked up the stairs shook us to the core. Toys had been left as they were, clothes wet with rain and weather from the day Maria hit until we happened upon it. As we were leaving, we saw the girl on the bike, and her mom, sitting in the car with smaller children. 

She has 4 children, and the house that is no more, is the house her grandmother had lived in. It was passed down to her parents, and then finally to her. She lived in that house till the day Maria destroyed it. Sadly, she cannot rebuild it. FEMA has said that because there is no deed in her name, she cannot claim any money to repair a house that is not hers. Unfortunately this is not an isolated case, and many people are facing this plight in Puerto Rico. Hands tied, the feeling of hopelessness for many reign supreme. The feeling of abandonment by the U.S is ever present.

Clouds for a roof

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

All that remains of this home is what was made of cinderblock, and what was too heavy or too small to blow away. 

Toys

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Remains of life before Hurricane Maria, soaked and moldering in the sun, four months later. 

Road bed

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

The road alongside this creek was washed away when the creek flooded violently in the hours following the hurricane. Beneath the asphalt, a roadbed from a past century. 

Josue's house

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

Guardian Angel

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

The mudslides burst through her home leaving gaping holes on either side of the house. Everything had been left as it was when the mud tore through in September. When we walked into the house, it was like walking into a crime scene. There was mud splattered everywhere on the walls, dirt piled high on the ground, the fridge overturned, yet the cooking pot on the stove with a spoon remained intact. When we met the woman who lived in this house, she recounted the story which included the loss of her leg, as well as her husband. Throughout the heartbreaking story, she smiled, constantly reminding us and herself, that she was in the hands of God. That she had angles around her as she was stuck in the mud, opened to the elements of Hurricane Maria for 4 hours. Despite her ordeal, and the continued strife she faces, she believes in the higher power.

Evelyn's house

Photo credit: Aniya Legnaro

Evelyn's things

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

The mudslide broke through the window of the back wall of the house, where the bedroom was. The force of the flow of mud broke the wall between the bedroom and bathroom, and careened through to the front of the house, sweeping Evelyn and her husband away. 

Las horas de la pasión

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

Lourdes

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

Lourdes Bennett is the lead social worker at Escuela Josefina León Zayas, the high school in Jayuya. It’s an exemplary school, blessed with a uniquely committed director and staff. In this moment, Lourdes comforts her friend, Evelyn, a special education teacher who lost her leg, and her husband, when a mudslide crashed through her house as Hurricane Maria ravaged the mountain town. Lourdes’s heart is for her community, and she credits her father for teaching her to be strong in the face of adversity. In these last four months she has worked tirelessly to catalog and meet the pressing needs of the students in her school, their families, and their neighbors. Evelyn’s miraculous survival may seem the more amazing story; but to me, Lourdes’s unwavering strength and evident compassion are the emblems of the people of Jayuya. No one came to save them, they had to save each other.

Baxter's water

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

Cantera/Golden Mile

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

Across the Lagoon

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

Luis

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

A resident of the Cantera neighborhood in San Juan pauses in the midst of repairs to his home to greet Luis Cintrón, director of the Cantera Community Development Company. He asks Luis, “can you help me reach FEMA? They haven’t come back.” Residents of Cantera are among the poorest in San Juan, and they hold out little hope that either Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority or federal agencies will remember them.

The door of a school

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Solitary

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

Barber shop

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

The light

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

A resident of Cantera community, one of the poorest areas of San Juan, stands on her balcony to show us where the municipal basketball court metal roof has fallen against her building. It crashed over during the hurricane and remains to this day. It blocks the light to her porch, where she likes to sit with her brother and have coffee in the morning. Since she is also still without electricity, the daylight is longed for. Her community is in the middle of Puerto Rico’s beautiful capital, but she says they are forgotten. The city has not come to help them. In a neighborhood already overlooked, it seems unlikely that Puerto Rico’s limited recovery resources will reach these people soon.

Wind damage

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Recalling that night

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

As she led us into her bedroom and showed how the municipal basketball structure fell on her apartment, she broke down. She recounted the sound, the crash of the metal hitting the side of her bedroom wall, and how her husband held her close, telling her how much he loved her, and that this was their end. Her fear was as alive in that moment as it was on this day as it was 4 months ago when this happened. My empathy for her was overwhelming, but my shock and utter disgust took over at the fact that this structure has been resting on her home for 4 months without a word as to how or when it will be removed. When the structure fell, it covered her bedroom window, and so now, without overhead lights on, her bedroom is dark during daylight. Turning on lights means using the generator. This means spending money to light the house during the day when most keep the generator on at night only to save money. 

Faith

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

All the food in my house

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Juan and Denisse's house

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Denisse

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

Denise stands on the clean white tile floor of her home. No roof, and the only remaining walls are a cinderblock cubicle where the bathroom was. As her family weathered Hurricane Maria in the nearby home of her in-laws, Denise’s children watched their house lift off its foundation and plunge into the valley. Denise ran a business from her house, so the equipment and supplies for her livelihood were lost with the house. The family is somewhat fortunate in that FEMA aid totals about $10,000. But, the estimate costs of rebuilding the home to be around $35,000. More troubling for the moment, though, is the fact that they ordered cinderblocks to begin rebuilding, and paid, in mid-November. The cinderblocks have yet to arrive, and they don’t know when they will. It is Denise’s understanding that FEMA has legal right to take any supplies that arrive in port, and she thinks maybe FEMA used their cinderblocks for something. Meanwhile, the price of basic building supplies has more than doubled on the island. She thinks maybe US suppliers (thanks to the Jones Act, all shipments of anything to Puerto Rico have to come from US suppliers in US ships) are hiking up prices of supplies to Puerto Rico.

Business

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Water

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Orocovis, 5pm

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

Orocovis, 5am

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

We visited the central Puerto Rico town of Orocovis, and stayed in the home of a family there, as we photographed with several people in the neighborhood. Around 5am, I woke to use the bathroom, and noticed the grandparents were already up, quietly starting their day before the rest of the family was awake, as grandparents often do. I quickly threw a sweatshirt over my pajamas, and grabbed my camera. They were reading by the light of their phones in the deep pre-dawn darkness. The generators that ran from dusk through half the night, had run out of gas some hours before, and were silent until the sun came up and someone would refill them with gasoline for the next evening. About two weeks after we visited them, we learned through their jubilant Facebook posts that a power company truck arrived on their street, and within a few hours they were celebrating the return of the light – regular electricity for the first time in 18 weeks. 

Provisions

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Jojo

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

Where the river rose

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Legnaro

Next in line

Photo credit: Katie Jett Walls

A mother and her children stand in line for bags, filled with water and canned goods, being handed out by a team of volunteers. The supplies came from donations made by Puerto Ricans living in the mainland US - collected by Puerto Rican radio host and stand up comedian Molusco as he toured US cities performing and accepting donations for the people on the island. They collected enough to fill *six* 53-foot shipping containers. Once the goods arrived in Puerto Rico, the team has been driving small moving trucks loaded with goods sorted into reusable shopping bags, stopping in every town and handing out as many as they can before moving on. We happened to be in Orocovis, staying in the neighborhood, when the truck arrived at the church and handed out the supplies.

No pase

Photo credit: Aniya Emtage Leganro

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