A bold, innovative vision is emerging for how to rebuild after hurricanes Irma and Maria battered the island’s shattered infrastructure. But some worry the staggering challenges could overshadow it.
As Puerto Rico continues the slow process of recovery from September’s near-knockout one-two punch of hurricanes Irma and Maria, the phrase “build back better” has become something of a mantra.
From the governor’s office to still-dark industrial parks, from roofless homes to flattened community health centers, the imperative to “reconstruir mejor” has sprouted as quickly as the fresh green shoots bursting from the swaths of bowed trees that now define the tropical island’s landscape.
Speaking Thursday to a convention of Puerto Rican builders, Governor Ricardo Rosselló said that in the wake of the destruction of Maria, the island was at a crossroads where it could choose to build a more resilient future, with safer roads, better-placed schools and housing, and a stronger health system.
“This is a grand opportunity for Puerto Rico to rebuild in a planned and correct manner,” he said.
The rallying cry captures the mounting conviction that Maria, which roared across Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm, was not a fluke. For many here, it was likely the harbinger of a new reality in the Caribbean, and as a result, much must change.