Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm on the morning of 20th September, 2017, bringing winds at about 160 mph to an island that dodged the worst of Hurricane Irma’s destructive power only a few weeks previous. Tropic Ventures Sustainable Forestry and Rainforest Enrichment Project established 35 years ago, by the Institute of Ecotechnics in Puerto Rico, lay directly in her path.
Project Directors, Thrity (3t) Vakil and Andrés Rúa took shelter in the concrete bunker on the homestead, to emerge into a completely altered reality, a transformed world.
This is 3t’s visual story of the impact of Hurricane Maria on the rainforest project in Patillas, on the land known as Las Casas de la Selva, south east Puerto Rico.
Edited by Corinna MacNeice
Use headphones to appreciate the soundscape by Andrés Rúa.
In January 2018, Camille Collazo and her team at Visit Rico organized donations to projects in Puerto Rico and a spectacular event help to several farms in Puerto Rico. Teams of 30 people from City Winery descended on these places for a day and helped with debris removal from Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Las Casas was chosen as a site to build a stage to have a gourmet dining and music experience. We milled our own fallen pine, and in one day a stage was built. The day was an energetic movement that words cannot describe, bringing much needed help to devastated areas at the Las Casas homestead.
The Visit Rico initiative received support from the Foundation for Puerto Rico, the Segarra Boerman Foundation, the non-profit organization Slow Food, PRxPR and private entities such as Para La Naturaleza and Microjuris. There were fundraisers with Cape Cod Farm, Gramercy Tavern with Chef Juan José, El Boricuá Fund in Minnesota and Crazy Legs from Rock Steady for Life. In addition, Farmer’s Markets outside of Puerto Rico expressed their solidarity with the cause.
Institute of Ecotechnics directors, Marie Harding & Freddy Dempster visited and were a huge help in all areas. Freddy set-up an LED light-system in all the communal areas of the homestead, and life has been upgraded immensely. Las Casas de la Selva, in the mountains will not get electricity for many more months.
Thank you to all the volunteers who really worked hard, in the pouring rain, to set-up the stage area and footings, including: 3t, Andrés, Andrés Rúa Senior, Ramon Rúa, Axel Rúa, Kai Griebenow, Vanessa Acevedo, and Juanita Gonzalez.
On Wednesday 20th September Hurricane Maria made a direct hit on the island of Puerto Rico on the southeast shore. As a nearly Category 5 storm, with winds of 155 miles per hour, and 45 inches of rain, Maria lashed the island for longer than 30 hours. Thrity and Andrés were hunkered down in the library bunker at the project for the ten hour duration of this very violent hurricane.
Above: The Hurricane’s Path across Puerto Rico. The eye was 10 miles wide.
Las Casas de la Selva, Sustainable Forestry and Rainforest Enrichment project suffered devastating damage to trees and property within the eye of this extremely violent hurricane.
The project was still in recovery from the damage and results of Hurricane Irma which skirted the north coast of Puerto Rico on 6th September 2017.
Thrity Vakil, Project Director, has left the island two weeks after the hurricane, to raise funds for rebuilding the project.
Technical director Andrés Rúa remains on the ground at the project, and is keeping us updated on everything when he can find cell signal in the metropolitan areas of San Juan.
With the entire infrastructure of the island devastated, as of 7th October, 90% of the island’s people are without electricity or cell signal, and there are gas and diesel shortages, along with food, water, and health issues, facing the entire population of the island.
We will prevail in this very difficult time, and faced with the difficult task of asking for help. If any of you are able to donate any funds towards getting us back on our feet, it will be very much appreciated.
The Institute of Ecotechnics, (a US 501 c 3), has set up a Las Casas Disaster Relief Fund and we are grateful for any help you can give. Go to this page to click the donate button.
Or please send a check payable to Institute of Ecotechnics with a note for Las Casas Disaster Fund. Send to: 26, Synergia Road, Santa Fe, NM, 87508.
Andrés and 3t, along with the founders of Las Casas de la Selva, the Directors of The Institute of Ecotechnics, thank you, and are eternally grateful for your support in this exceptionally difficult time.