Puerto Rico is a place that is extremely close to my heart, especially the northwest coast. We've visited there countless times. As surfers, there are fantastic waves there for us but there is so much more. Beautiful sunsets, snorkeling, mountains, day trips when there aren't waves, sea glass, and more.
Last year we didn't get to go, and so this year's trip was much anticipated. As a RI children's photographer, I usually take some time off in the winter to breathe after the busy season. Not long after I booked this trip last summer, Hurricane Maria tore across the island and completely changed Puerto Rico. I watched in horror from afar as reports trickled in slowly, then faster, on the devastation in Puerto Rico, and the subsequent slow and steady push to rebuild and recover.
For awhile it wasn't clear if our trip would happen. The house we stayed at did not get electricity back until just about a week before we arrived (as I was lying in a hospital bed with pneumonia...another thing that put a kink in our plans.) We wondered if it was even responsible to go there...would we be a strain on the resources that are already limited there? We were assured over and over that now, at this time, what Puerto Rico needs is visitors. This year's tourist season has been extremely heavily impacted by the hurricane, and tourism has dropped way off, but that is so much of the way that the island, especially our little town, survives...they want you there.
So we got on a plane and landed, as we always do, in Aguadilla the middle of the night as all the Puerto Ricans on the plane clapped upon landing. It was definitely different than before. The plane had very few vacationers and mostly locals returning to the island or Puerto Ricans from the states visiting family. While we were there, and when we returned, I received many questions on the state of the island and the area. How is it there? Is there electricity? Is there water? Is there damage? Should I visit?
The island still has its spirit. There is still visible damage almost five months after the storm, ranging from mangled metal buildings and fences to houses still missing roofs, buckled buildings, signs with letters missing, coastal areas with trees flattened, telephone poles and wires still snapped in the middle of roads, and a whole beach that has literally no sand anymore. That said, there is much good, too. While it isn't the case on the whole island yet, we had running water and electricity. Electricity was still in the process of being restored to the town we stayed in on a daily basis. The further up in the mountains an area is, the longer it's taking. Grocery stores and restaurants are open, the greenery that was largely stripped during the storm is coming back, and the ocean and the sunsets are as beautiful as ever. We had no internet, but that really wasn't a big deal to me; it was kind of welcome. Whether you haven't visited before or are on the fence about going this year, GO. You won't regret it.
Following are the first set of photos from our trip. One of the best things about the house we stayed in was that there were a number of resident and visitor cats. This cat lady was in heaven! Take a look at beautiful Rincon, Puerto Rico...and stay tuned for more photos coming soon.