On the anniversary of Hurricane Maria.


One year ago today, Hurricane Maria hit my homeland of Puerto Rico. Like many Puerto Ricans here, I spent eight days not knowing if my family had survived.

But, thankfully, they did, and they did because my home neighborhood of Barrio Mariana had a long history of organizing its people. That is what saved them.

Naomi Klein writes about my brother, Luis, in her latest book, La Batalla Por el Paraíso, or The Battle for Paradise. He and his partner, Christine Nieves, and the Proyecto de Apoyo Mutuo Mariana (Mutual Aid Project of Mariana) built a communal kitchen, organized brigades to clear debris, and coordinated delivery of food and water to bedridden and elderly people. They have now rehabilitated a school and created a permanent mutual aid center that continues to grow.

It is their story, and the stories of many others, fighting against the worst imaginable disaster that continues to inspire me. They show what is possible.

After Maria hit, aid did not come. The government did not come. An organized community saved each other.

We are going to do the same thing here. We are going to organize ourselves and save this city.

I am in Chicago, but today especially, my heart is in Puerto Rico. I send my love and solidarity to my family, friends, and compañera/os fighting to (re)build communities and saying collectively, "This is ours."

Robert Quellos