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Resilience in Rincon: Riding out Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico

When thinking of real estate, everyone is familiar with primary houses. A primary house is the one property you call home, whether it is a townhouse, condo, apartment, single house, boat or RV.  However, there are other types of homes that primary homeowners have invested in, such as secondary homes or vacation homes. This is especially true of couples over 50 with an eye towards eventual retirement.
This writer owns one such property in Rincon, Puerto Rico. Rincon was a beautiful, quiet, peaceful and lush paradise that I looked forward to every winter. That was before Hurricane Maria hit with full force, stripping leaves away, bringing down trees, utility poles, homes and historical buildings alike. Imagine an island in the middle of the Caribbean without power, water, food or sewage!
It has been five weeks tomorrow since a ferocious Maria slammed Puerto Rico straight on, as a category 4 hurricane.  In those five weeks, the improvement has been astonishing.   While the military does bring a 500 gallon tanker truck with water once a week to Aguadilla, overall, their efforts aren’t as notable as the work accomplished by the citizens themselves.  At least that is true in Rincon. However, the supplies are slowly being distributed, so  perhaps that is  due to the efforts of the military in the San Juan area.

Picking up the pieces

The damage from Maria was daunting, to say the least, however the resilience of the people was far more impressive than the storm. For those unfamiliar with the area,  Rincon is a small fishing village on the North Western Coast of Puerto Rico.  While those who live in larger cities may not have experienced the same reaction to the storm that we observed, we can’t help but think the situations must have been somewhat similar. When the storm hit, the power grid was destroyed.  Food in everyone’s freezers began to thaw, so the people just started cooking on grills in their yards. Handmade signs went up declaring “free food” to welcome anyone who was hungry and encourage them  to come and eat. Free Food signs became a part of the new scenery for our area.

Ocean City resident recounts his Hurricane Maria experience on the Island of Dominica

Although favorite restaurants and bars were closed down,  the local liquor store owner posted a “free internet” sign and started to share his internet service. Internet service is very scarce, so even though his internet didn’t work well, it was still a (shaky) link to the outside world.  The store owner then began serving drinks, thereby taking up the slack for the local gathering places that were still closed down.  Food was being cooked on a grill next door.  Children were running around, grownups hugging and visiting with their neighbors and friends, right in the parking lot of Bonnet Liquors!
The local gas station on Route 115 has a natural spring running behind the store front,  the owner was offering water for those in need.  People were on hand to help their neighbors, to bring food and water to those that lost their vehicle or means of transportation.  Everyone shares whatever they have.

Coffee could be found at the bakery once their generator was up and running, providing the ability to open their store,   After their reopening, there were people waiting in line every morning, chatting and laughing.  It was the new  (social) morning ritual.  You would think they were standing in the line by their own choice rather than due to a storm ravaged town!

Light through the storm clouds

Further,  although the local grocer doesn’t have fresh meats, fruits or vegetables in his refrigerated cases, he is still open to the public. He makes fresh oatmeal every day in his deli and whatever else he is able to prepare to help sustain his neighbors and friends. On his shelves there are whatever can goods, or food products he is able to obtain through shipments.

Along the roadways the fallen trees have been cleared, and much of the debris is slowly being removed. Additionally, stores are starting to open here and there.  Building materials are more available. Things are shifting towards normalcy once more and the people sway with the times.  Always smiling, always polite and always ready to lend a helping hand.

The people of Rincon teasingly compare their present circumstances to “camping out.” No complaints bemoaning their fate. They accepted that they were unable to enjoy a hot shower, or any shower for that matter, or that they could not flip on a light at night. There was no power, no television, or air conditioning in 90 degree heat.  None of that mattered. They were among family and friends. These people were genuinely happy! They are going to continue to laugh, hug, love and keep on with their lives in gratitude, regardless of whatever hand they are dealt.

Rincon locals don’t mind if they were now standing in a parking lot rather than sitting in a nice restaurant! They are actually grateful they are alive, grateful for everything that survived the storm. Nothing is going to keep them from enjoying their lives. They are a deeply giving, and happy, people. They make one feel honored and humbled to walk among them. Selfishness seems to fade in their presence. Almost as a testament to the steadfast nature and goodness of the local people, the land is already green again with the promise of blooms soon to come.

Coming back after Maria


As an aside, what are the chances that two people (from the same family) who are in the direct path of two separate, dangerous and destructive storms,  could escape both hurricanes without damage? The answer is: Zero.

Nevertheless, my daughter’s home, her sail boat in the Florida Keys, suffered only minor damage from Hurricane Irma, for which I am extremely grateful. Unfortunately,  my home (Villa Panorama) in Puerto Rico was not as lucky with Maria. The roof to our shed was lost. The shed holds our cistern (for fresh water). The top floor wall (on the gable end) pushed outward and allowed extensive water infiltration into the mid level. All three sets of mahogany French doors towards the Caribbean were shattered and splintered. Once the doors blew in, more water was allowed to flood the bottom floor. There are broken windows. Furniture was destroyed, and my oven has two inches of water in the bottom, etc. etc.

However…. we carry homeowners insurance. Anything material can be replaced. I am extremely grateful that the majority of the people of Rincon are safe, happy and smiling. That image will carry me through.

Villa Panorama before Maria

Joanna Laslo
Joanna Laslohttps://www.oceancitybeachproperties.com
Broker/Owner of Beach Real Estate, Inc., a local that Graduated from Stephen Decatur High School.  35+ years of experience in real estate sales.  Joanna is a broker in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.  Joanna also manages Ocean City weekly condo and vacation rentals.

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