AMANDA HAUSMANN ’21
Photographers Erika Rodríguez and Patrick Raycraft shared their photos of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria during a common hour event on Tuesday, Feb. 6. Professor of Fine Arts Pablo Delano led the conversation, asking the photographers to describe their initial reactions to the storms, how their pictures reveal the experiences of Puerto Rican families, and what they hope for in Puerto Rico’s future.
Rodríguez, who is lives in Puerto Rico and was there during the hurricanes,
described watching videos of the destruction that friends posted to Facebook in disbelief as she sat in a newsroom waiting out the storm. When Hartford Courant photographer Patrick Raycraft first landed in Puerto Rico, he was in so much shock that he wasn’t able to capture any photographs on his first day.
Professor Delano asked the photographers to describe some of the photos they took. Rodríguez went first, one photo showing a house that had been flooded with 12 feet of water and another photo of an open casket funeral. Rodríguez pointed out that although the Governor of Puerto Rico has reported only 64 deaths due to the hurricanes, The Center for Investigative Journalism
says the death toll is closer to 1,000. One of Rodríguez’s final photos was of a new car that had been destroyed under a collapsed building in front of a mural of people standing tall with their fists in the air. Rodríguez explained the significance of this photo stating, “this is destruction but we’re still standing and fighting.”
Raycraft’s first photo depicted two men hugging tightly, one lifting the other off of the ground, as they stood in front of cases of water bottles in a shipping container. Raycraft described the long journey this shipping container had gone on to finally reach a furniture warehouse in Puerto Rico. Raycraft said he was trying to capture the joy and relief these men expressed that the supplies were still intact. Another one of Raycraft’s photos was of a collapsed bridge that had a sewer pipe attached to it, which led to the ground below the bridge to be covered in raw sewage. In the photo, there was a man climbing a makeshift ladder to walk across the bridge and
Raycraft explained how the destruction of this bridge had led to an isolation from resources and communication for the people living in the rural towns near the bridge.
When asked to reflect on the future of Puerto Rico, Rodríguez said, “it’s hard for me to see the light at the end of the tunnel….I don’t think my work makes a justice to illustrate what actually happened….Puerto Ricans are very resilient but there’s only so much you can take.” Raycraft added that with regard to trying to rebuild and provide assistance to Puerto Rico “it’s like paddling against the current” in a political sense.
At the end of the event, Professor Delano opened the discussion up for questions from the audience. A woman who was forced to relocate to Connecticut from Puerto Rico following the storms asked Professor to Delano to translate her thoughts, stating, “although I love my island I also have to share my pessimism for the next few years….my family lost their roof, they’ve been told that electricity will come back in the summer but the electrical companies have no money to pay their employees….the time to change is real, there is no easy solution and there are predictions of three to four major hurricanes coming every year now.”
The photos taken by Rodíguez and Raycraft can be found featured in various articles related to Hurricanes Irma and Maria in The New York Times and The Hartford Courant.