Jose Contreras saws a concrete block in half as he rebuilds his house in Barrio-Bravos de Boston, San Juan, which was completely destroyed by Hurricane Maria a year ago . Photo by Jesse Costa for WBUR

Jose Contreras saws a concrete block in half as he rebuilds his house in Barrio-Bravos de Boston, San Juan, which was completely destroyed by Hurricane Maria a year ago . Photo by Jesse Costa for WBUR

On the outskirts of San Juan, far from the gleaming towers downtown, there’s a makeshift car wash on the side of the road. Young men spray down a beaming black Acura — a starkly clean machine in a neighborhood struggling to return to normality a year after Hurricane Maria.

This car wash didn’t exist before the storm. It’s one of many realities people on the island describe as “before Maria” or “after Maria.”

Angel Rosario is a resident of the neighborhood, Bravos de Boston, in an area called Peninsula de Canteras. He spent much of his childhood in Springfield, Massachusetts; in the wake of Hurricane Hugo, he was sent to live with his grandmother in the late 1980s. And like all Puerto Ricans, who are U.S. citizens from birth, Rosario had the chance to return to Springfield when Maria hit.

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