“Mí María: Puerto Rico After the Hurricane” is a large-scale public humanities project that uses biographical methodologies—with a focus on oral history—situated within the contexts of critical disaster studies, environmental humanities, social justice, and climate justice to study the impacts of Hurricane María and its aftermath on the people of Puerto Rico.
This project is being undertaken in collaboration with Voice of Witness—an organization dedicated to amplifying unheard voices—and the Humanities Action Lab “Initiative on Climate and Environmental Justice,” led by Rutgers University.
As the culmination of the project, we will publish an edited volume of oral histories of the hurricane and its aftermath in the Voice of Witness book series produced by Haymarket Books, a leading social justice press in the United States, which will be accompanied by a curriculum that meets Common Core standards. Current books in this series are used in over 20,000 classrooms, are distributed to legislators, and have been cited as evidence in legal cases. The editorial team for this book includes three faculty members and one graduate student from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez: Ricia Anne Chansky, Marci Denesiuk, Jocelyn Géliga Vargas, and Yarelmi Iglesias Vazquez. We have received support from the National Endowment for the Arts for this portion of the project.
We will also make a contribution to the Humanities Action Lab international traveling exhibition, which will be based upon both our collected oral histories and other, multimodal forms of auto/biographical expression related to narrating the hurricane, including, but not limited to: parranda and other song lyrics and recordings; radio broadcasts from the days after the hurricane; a children’s book; photography; comics and graphic narratives; micronarratives; and podcasts. Our biographical research will be positioned within economic and climatological research. There will be a permanent digital version of this exhibition hosted by Rutgers and we will have a breakout portion of the exhibition dedicated to Puerto Rico that will travel throughout the archipelago.
At the core of this research project is the work of approximately 150 undergraduate students from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez who are majoring in different fields and disciplines of study. Last semester, we trained approximately 100 students to conscientiously design oral history interview protocols, and ethically collect, transcribe, translate, and edit oral narratives. Under our guidance, committed, capable and conscientious UPRM students—members of a generation that will be forever marked by María—have designed and conducted their oral history interviews across Puerto Rico. Currently, over fifty students are working to collect the additional multimodal narratives for the Humanities Action Lab exhibition. The courses affiliate with the project have won an Innovation in the Humanities Award from the Modern Language Association (MLA).
Banner photograph: FEMA tarps in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico. Courtesy of Eric Purcell.