Building A New Puerto Rico

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, one resident of Puerto Rico shares details of the devastation—and information on how you can help—while celebrating the transformative power of a unified people.
Fernando Rodriguez

By Fernando Rodriguez

It has been 30 days since Hurricane Maria arrived at the island of Puerto Rico.  The aftermath of this storm has changed us forever.  An abundance of global support has helped our people and infrastructure, but we have a long way to go.

This is my story: on September 4th, 2017, Puerto Rico learned that Hurricane Irma was coming our way and on the 6th, the forecast became a reality.  The outcome was not as severe as we expected, since the winds were to our favor as Irma passed higher north.

Two weeks later, September 20th, 2017, Hurricane Maria destroyed my beautiful Puerto Rico.

I have experienced hurricanes in the past, but not a category 5 with 165 mph winds. I knew Puerto Rico could not survive the aftermath of two hurricanes back to back.

The day after the Hurricane Maria, our lives changed forever.  The island’s infrastructure was destroyed, leaving its people with no electrical power or water, and thousands without homes. Gas and diesel for generators became scarce. Water levels in certain neighborhoods rose to chest level. Trees that had stood the test of time (and many other storms) were pulled from the ground. Buildings lost their windows, homes their roofs.  Ruined roads left towns totally isolated.  People were in a daze. You could feel their defeat and vulnerability.

Having returned to Puerto Rico after 30 years living in the States, I felt I had to do something. Through our company, Aaron Stewart Home, my partner Aaron and I created a social media campaign called #LOVEPR #ASHCARES a marketing concept that creates awareness and a call to action. People wanting to help can visit our website ( and learn about four non-profit organizations that give 100% of the proceeds to the victims.  Since September 20th, we have received over 5,000 visits to our website. The outpouring of support and donations from friends and colleagues has been fantastic.

Mindfulness has been my source of energy and shield from uncertainty. The current state of mind in Puerto Rico is a mixture of people who believe the island will recover, and those who feel that there is no hope in sight. One thing that no act of nature can take away from the Puerto Rican people is perseverance to overcome any obstacles. With Hurricane Maria, we all lost something that needs to be rebuilt. That brings a sense of community and equality which bonds us all.

George Balanchine was known for choreographing challenging movements, yet on stage his ballets look natural. The art of dance is based on this notion, a perception to the audience created by the dancer who must work hard to make his performance appear effortless. Our new natural way of living is unnatural, yet we make it look sometimes effortless like a dancer, and adapt to ways of living to cope. What we are experiencing is a new normal that we are all are working hard to get used to.

Puerto Rico’s number one asset is our people.  We are resilient and never give up, no matter what comes our way.  It is beautiful to witness how humankind comes together in difficult circumstances to help each other. We need everyone’s support, to help and donate any way possible. There is a lot to get done.

To help Puerto Rico, visit:

Photograph by Jose E. Jimenez-Tirado