CULTIVATING COMIDA: What Maria Exposed to Us




Natural Disaster, Hurricane, Food Insecurity, Jones Act, Puerto Rico


First paragraph:

It has been nearly two years since Hurricane Maria unleased her fury on Puerto Rico, Dominica, and the U.S Virgin Islands in September 2017. Hurricane Maria caused an estimated US$94 billion in damages, with the majority of those damages reported in Puerto Rico (Mercy Corps, 2019). It is estimated that 2,975 Puerto Ricans lost their lives because of the hurricane, though the eventual death toll may have reached 4,000 (Mercy Corps, 2019). When Maria hit, the islands were still in recovery from Hurricane Irma, which had struck the north side of the main island just days before. The entirety of the archipelago, all 3.4 million resi­dents, lost power after Maria, and it was estimated that Puerto Ricans, on average, went 84 days without power, 68 days without water, and 41 days without cellular phone service (Mercy Corps, 2019). Overnight, Puerto Rico became discon­nected from the outside world. Prior to the 2017 hurricanes, Puerto Rico was already grappling with widespread poverty and a crumbling infrastructure after years of disinvestment and structural adjust­ment.[1] These inequalities left Puerto Ricans with a host of challenges related to their wellbeing. For instance, according to the National Resources Defense Council, in 2015, 99.5% of Puerto Ricans were served by community water systems that violated the Safe Drinking Water Act (NRDC, 2017). Before Maria, 1.5 million Puerto Ricans were food insecure, with children experiencing food insecurity at a rate of 56%—triple the U.S. average (Bread for the World, 2019).

[1] Structural adjustment refers to the delivery and administration of loans to states or regions in economic crisis, often loaned by institutions like the World Bank or International Monetary Fund. These loans are given on the condition of economic reforms. Structural adjustment is widely critiqued as a mechanism that deepens poverty and increases dependency.

See the press release for this article. 


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Author Biography

Teresa M. Mares, University of Vermont

Associate Professor of Anthropol­ogy

Portrait of Teresa Mares



How to Cite

Mares, T. M. (2019). CULTIVATING COMIDA: What Maria Exposed to Us. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 9(1), 7–11.