In reading the almost 150 oral histories collected by project participants in the autumn of 2019, our director noted that many of our narrators were focusing on community responses to climate disaster, which then became the overarching theme for our exhibition. Within this larger theme, Dr. Chansky identified four topics that were frequently discussed in the narratives and were ripe for further exploration: clean water, food insecurity, homelessness, and medical and mental health.
Our contribution to the Humanities Action Lab focuses on our study of these four issues within the larger context of the post-disaster landscape of Puerto Rico. In the larger exhibition, we have worked with our community partner—Fundación Surfrider de Rincón, in particular their Blue Water Task Force that is led by Steve Tamar—to study water pollution that has been exacerbated by disaster capitalism in the post-hurricane space, which has allowed for the dumping of septic tanks and medical waste in our rivers and at our beaches as well as the inability to locate and procure potable water in the aftermath of Hurricane María. We have also worked with our community partner, Fundación de Culebra, to study the program they developed to teach elementary school children how to use Sawyer filtration systems and, in turn, teach their families how to do so as well as a community leader in Comerío from la Defensa Civil de Barranquitas who partnered with Samaritan’s Purse International Relief organization to distribute water filters and train people in the interior how to use them and a community activist from Cabo Rojo who leads Limpia tu Playa, an an organization that cleans the waters and coral reefs of Boquerón from kayaks.