Marking the two year anniversary of Hurricane María making landfall in Puerto Rico, the September 2019 release of the anthology Aftershocks of Disaster: Puerto Rico Before and After the Storm
(Haymarket Books, 2019) brings together a collective of artists, journalists, and scholars to reflect on the multiple disasters that have hit the island and how the people of Puerto Rico have responded.
and Marisol LeBrón
, the editors of the anthology, in their editor’s introduction foreground the history of Puerto Rico’s continual state failure. Social abandonment, capitalization, and collective trauma were not simply a result of María, but instead, María revealed the systemic failures of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Government. “Long before María, Puerto Rico was already suffering the effects of a prolonged economic recession, spiraling levels of debt, and deep austerity cuts to public resources,” wrote Bonilla and LeBrón (5). María and its aftermath should be understood not as a neatly contained disaster, but as itself a kind of aftershock of a larger colonial history and the financial crisis decades in the making.
Aftershocks of Disaster
offers poetry, theater, discussions about technology, photography, and other mediums as ways through which to produce and access knowledge about the multiple disasters before and after Hurricane María. Particularly inspiring are the discussions and critiques around notions of resistance, resiliency, and recovery on the archipelago. The anthology allows readers to imagine futures reliant on the self-determination of the people of Puerto Rico. As we find ourselves at the two year anniversary of Hurricane María and in the midst of more natural disasters in the Caribbean and the greater Atlantic Ocean, Aftershocks of Disaster
will continue to serve as an epistemological and pedagogical tool for scholars.
NYU Latinx Project Video here
PR syllabus here
Jonathan Cortez is a Ph.D. candidate of American Studies at Brown University. They are a historian of 20th-century issues of race, labor, (im)migration, surveillance, space, relational Ethnic Studies, and Latinx Studies. Their research focuses on the rise of federally-funded encampments (i.e., the concentration of populations) from the advent of the New Deal until post-WWII era. Their dissertation, “The Age of Encampment: Race, Surveillance, and the Power of Spatial Scripts, 1933-1975” reveals underlying continuities between the presence of threatening bodies and the increasing surveillance of these bodies in camps throughout the United States. Jonathan is currently a Ford Predoctoral Fellow as well as an assistant curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. You can follow Jonathan on Twitter @joncortz and on their personal website www.historiancortez.com