Four years later, survivor of Hurricane Maria finds new purpose in Holyoke, Mass.

A photo of Jonathan Soto standing on a sidewalk in Holyoke, Mass. Soto survived Hurricane Maria and arrived here from Puerto Rico a few years ago.

Jonathan Soto left Puerto Rico in 2017 after Hurricane Maria and arrived in Holyoke, Massachusetts, originally unaware of the city’s deep Puerto Rican roots. (Jill Kaufman/NEPM)

Four years ago this month, high school teacher Jonathan Soto left Puerto Rico and made his way to Holyoke, Massachusetts. He was among the thousands of Puerto Ricans who evacuated from the island after the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

After the storm, Soto’s family considered themselves lucky, he said. But it was traumatic, and it’s left a mark.

“Everyone who went through that and even those who were here [on the mainland] and had family in Puerto Rico, we have all that trauma still of just those few hours,” Soto said, “not even counting the rest of the days that came.”

There are moments Soto can talk about easily and there are things that he can barely talk about, he said, like in the days after the hurricane when his brother’s whereabouts were unknown.

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