I’ve been avoiding talking about this topic for weeks now, but I have finally faced the courage to put my hurt on paper. I just didn’t have the words for a while. I still feel like I don’t, but I am going to try. A piece of me is missing knowing that the island is not the same as when I left. I am writing this post for the people who feel how I feel. The people who were first handedly affected. The ones who are so broken to speak on the topic that has cut them so deeply their lips start to tremble when they begin to speak on it. My mind can’t seem to escape the thought of my people suffering.

Puerto Rico has had such an influence on me since I was a little girl. I can remember walking through pueblos with my grandmother thinking about the lives and ancestors that once walked the land before me. Listening to the coquis, thinking about how our stories cannot be checked into boxes. We are the children of forgotten slaves, Africans and Tainos. Tainos who were taken over by Spaniards because of the wanting of gold and sugar cane. A beautiful mix of the three, creating a boricua. I have always felt the feeling of belonging when walking the streets of old San Juan, it has always been innate. The earliest settlers heard the Indians speak of the great wind they called hurracan. The natives said that such storms were caused by the evil God Juracan. These storms were what we call hurricanes.

This past summer I had the opportunity to spend my summer helping my parents start off their earned retirement on the island at their new home in Villalba. Going up the mountains with my father at 5 years old was the same as at 21 years old. Looking at the view of mountains that go on for miles, persistently taking my breath away. This island taught me how to be alone. It taught me to remember how small my problems are. I learned how to ride the ocean waves. I learned how to ride a horse there. I learned unique traditions like why children cut grass to put in a shoebox under their bed for the camels to eat. I learned how to dance salsa. I learned how strong and prideful my people are. I’ve learned so many lessons from the men and women on this island. I am still learning from you Puerto Rico. The spirit and grace of my people despite a disaster is astonishing. My ancestors fought. My family fights. My island fights. I wish I could be fighting there next to you all.

After over a week of not hearing from my family after Hurricane Maria; I cannot put into words the hurt that no one should feel. I am so happy my parents are okay, but that doesn’t take the hurt completely away. The island is running short on food, fuel, and access to clean water. There is limited communication. Among the greatest threats is the continuing lack of power. The New York Times reported it could take four to six months before the island can get power again. The island that gave me beautiful moments and places to photograph is not so beautiful anymore. I pray that good will come from this disaster, although I cannot see it yet. I hope one day I can take my grandchildren to the beautiful island I once shared memories on with my grandparents. I lastly wanna say thank you to the people who see me, who know how hard these last few weeks have been despite of the smile I put on. If you would like to help, please visit http://unidosporpuertorico.com.

Below are some pictures I took before Hurricane Maria:

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After Hurricane Maria

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Living on an island for 2 months has really opened my eyes. The sound of the coquis, waves, and breeze calms me leaving me to my endless thoughts. My problems seem so small. There’s this constant anxiety running through me, not knowing if I am doing enough, or if I will ever be good enough to reach my dreams. I admit to not trying my best sometimes, and not pushing myself hard enough. Then I realized, it is okay to not be where you want to be or know how to get there. One of my favorite quotes by  F. Scott Fitzgerald says,

“For what it’s worth… it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start over again.”

Your morals, your dreams, your personality, your aspirations, all of it makes you who you are. Remember to take a step back from your life and look at the bigger picture, there is only one life. In this one life I hope you are proud of who is staring back at you. I hope you take in the moments that take your breathe away. Don’t let the anxiety of life distract you. It’s never too late to change yourself into the person you want to be, the person you will be proud of. If you are not yet that person, have hope you will be. If you ever find yourself being someone other than the person you want to live your life being, be brave enough to start over, and become the person you’ve always wanted to be. There is time. You can do it. It will be okay. Breathe.

A photoset of me boating and island hopping yesterday:

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When I decided to spend the summer in Puerto Rico I promised myself to take advantage of opportunity that comes along with living on a island. Growing up in a city has made it hard for me to go on the adventures that make my heart full. Today I headed for the mountains, finding a beautiful river and swimming pool. Todays adventure was full of swimming, dominoes, and food from the island. A day well spent.

Finally, finally, finally! I have always wanted to jet-ski but being from Philadelphia makes it hard. The water of the Delaware River is not very tempting and not the prettiest ocean water I want to fall in. I got the opportunity to jet-ski from Puerto Rico to Gilligan’s island and it was amazing! Made a few stops along the way to look at corals, fishes, and some luxury beach homes. There is nothing like being on the water on one of these bad boys. This experience encouraged me to go get my license one day and own a jet-ski. Isn’t that the dream? Tying a jet-ski to the back of the jeep and heading to the ocean. Maybe now that my parents live in Puerto Rico I can spend my summers on the water.