Six weeks after the hurricane, most Puerto Ricans have had to make their own light
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Adjuntas, Puerto Rico
Most of Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million inhabitants are experiencing their 45th day without power. Hurricane Maria, which swept through the island Sept. 20, left transmission lines a tangled mess. The government has made some progress in restoring power—as of Nov. 4, nearly 38% of the island’s only electric utility’s generating capacity was back up.
But electricity isn’t expected to fully return for months. The utility, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or Prepa, continues to struggle with even with the most basic recovery tasks. The main contract it had signed to repair its tattered system, with a small Montana company called Whitefish, was cancelled Oct. 29 due to a growing controversy over how it was hammered out.
So Puerto Ricans are coping as best they can, lighting up their spaces with a slew of alternative sources, from diesel generators to solar lanterns. Here’s a look at life after dark in Adjuntas, a mountain town in central Puerto Rico.
Any sense of normalcy Puerto Ricans achieve during the day quickly fades when the sun goes down. Jumbled electric cables, such as these hanging from a post in Adjuntas, have become a common sight in post-Maria Puerto Rico. (Quartz/Raquel Pérez Puig)Puerto Ricans have rigged up temporary power systems. Heidy Hernández, 31, hooked up her car battery to an inverter to power her electronics. (Quartz/Raquel Pérez Puig)Hernández’s husband, who works in the mainland, brought the $30 inverter over during a recent visit. It has dramatically improved her family’s existence, she says. (Quartz/Raquel Pérez Puig)The distribution hub of Hernández’s power system. (Quartz/Raquel Pérez Puig)The Hernández household also relies on battery and solar-powered lanterns to see in the dark. (Quartz/Raquel Pérez Puig)Some Adjuntas residents have cobbled enough power to turn on the TV for short bouts. Here, a child catches up on kids’ shows before bedtime. (Quartz/Raquel Pérez Puig)Others are living more simply. Angela Santana’s only sources of light are candles, flashlights, and small solar lamps. It reminds the 64-year-old of her childhood, when much of rural Puerto Rico had no power. (Quartz/Raquel Pérez Puig)Santana’s neighbor, José Vera, eats dinner by the light of small inflatable solar lanterns; his niece’s husband, José Luis Robles, fills up a cooler with ice to keep the family’s food fresh. (Quartz/Raquel Pérez Puig)Many Puerto Ricans say they find themselves spending more time with family and neighbors since the power outage. Here, Vera poses with his nieces and his great-niece, who is two years old. (Quartz/Raquel Pérez Puig)In the darkness, all that can be heard in the empty streets is the din of generators and the high-pitched croaking of the coquí, a tiny frog native to Puerto Rico. (Quartz/Raquel Pérez Puig)Some Puerto Ricans are nonplussed by the dark. Armed with an inflatable solar lantern and a radio, this Adjuntas resident took a stroll in the town’s pitch-black streets on a recent night. (Quartz/Raquel Pérez Puig)