A middle-aged woman sat over a pail of water, a blue umbrella shielding her from the scorching sun. Surrounded by a wreckage of branches and twisted metal sheets, Angelina Arroyo Rivera salvaged what remained of her belongings — some silverware and some plastic containers, a blue tarp, a red purse, a white blouse.
It was two weeks after Hurricane Maria had made landfall, not far from the town of Punta Santiago in the southeast of Puerto Rico, and Arroyo still hadn’t heard from her partner, who was in grave condition with a failing heart. She said he’d been transferred to a hospital in another city, the day before the storm, and with communications down across the island, she hadn’t heard from him in weeks.
A year later at the same spot — with the image of her under the blue umbrella ingrained in our minds — we found Arroyo cleaning her patio with a hose.
I asked her in Spanish how she was doing.
“Regular las cosas,” she replied, which I translate roughly to “so-so.”
And her husband?
“He passed away,” she said. “He had two heart attacks. The first he survived, the second he did not.”