Reimagining Puerto Rico

Carlo is making sure communities create their own future.


“Reimagining Puerto Rico” is a film from GlobalGiving’s 20th Anniversary Film Series, “Community Forward.”

He calls it Post-Hurricane Maria Imagination.

How do we imagine a better Puerto Rico that stems from the communities?

People stand on a gravel path looking at a concrete slab with pieces of sheet metal nearby. Trees are in the background.

That’s what Carlo André Oliveras Rodríguez is asking.

“The work of imagination is the most powerful tool that we have; it enables us to envision a different, better environment.”

Two yellow houses are sketched onto white paper

Carlo is the Executive Director of La Maraña, a woman-led, participatory design and planning nonprofit focused on including Puerto Rican voices to create (and recreate) the island’s cities and communities.

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, the violent winds, heavy rains, and flooding took lives and devastated neighborhoods. Maria is considered the third costliest US hurricane on record, causing an estimated $101.7 billion in damages. The devastating storm also exposed massive cracks in the island’s systems.

More than four years later, Puerto Ricans are still recovering.

Billions of dollars in federal aid have been delayed, so many are left waiting to rebuild roads, bridges, and homes Maria wrecked.

An aerial view of houses, many with blue roofs, and winding roads. Green grass and trees surround the houses and roads.

This centralized power and lack of access to funds not only denies Puerto Ricans the services and relief they need—it denies them a role in their recovery. They’re locked out of the process of creating their own future.

To Carlo, it feels like Puerto Ricans don’t have a seat at the decision-making table.

It’s a lasting challenge of colonization: ideas and power come from somewhere else, someone else.

“No one comes to you and asks, what do you wish to see in your community? What do you need? What do you want?” Carlo said.

But he and La Maraña are.

A group of people sit and stand around a table where model buildings made out of wood sit on top of cardboard.

They’re creating new systems that give everyone the chance to be involved.

A group of women stand on a gravel path. A white house destroyed by Hurricane Maria is behind them.

To be heard.

A group of people stand around a table with blueprints spread out in front of them and point to different sections.

To dream.

They’re imagining and building a better future for Puerto Rico—sometimes in communities that went without clean water and electricity for a year and sometimes from the debris of Hurricane Maria itself.

People move debris surrounding a yellow building. A ladder is in the foreground in the right corner.

In one community, La Maraña used scraps the storm left behind and enlisted the help of children there to design a new structure. And in a school serving as a storage unit instead of an environment to serve students, La Maraña fought alongside the community to clear the debris and re-open it.

La Maraña’s projects are participatory and also utterly practical. After they kickstart imaginations, they give community members the tools to translate their ideas into designs that drive new, more sustainable development.

Workers build the frame of a house. Chickens walk on the grass in front of the structure and banana leaves fill the corner of the frame.

La Maraña doesn’t see Puerto Rico and its recovery as a single challenge or a task to be ticked off of the island’s to-do list. It’s a chance to solve the systemic problems they see daily. It’s a way to tackle the island’s economic crisis, the climate crisis, and prepare for the next storm that’s sure to come. It’s their opportunity to patch the cracks and create a new future—with solutions from their own backyards.

Help Carlo and communities in Puerto Rico reimagine their island.


All photos by La Maraña.

Featured Photo: Creating a Just Recovery for Puerto Rico by La Maraña

Looking for something specific?

Find exactly what you're looking for in our Learn Library by searching for specific words or phrases related to the content you need.

WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.