Trinity Hosts Photographers Who Documented Puerto Rico After Hurricane María

Students, Staff, and Faculty Attend Panel Featuring Visiting Puerto Rican Scholar Erika P. Rodríguez

​Hartford, Connecticut, February 15, 2018—As Puerto Rico continues to recover from the impact of Hurricane María last fall, one way in which the Trinity College community has offered its support is by arranging short-term academic residencies for Puerto Rican scholars through the Trinity College for Puerto Rico Fund. Puerto Rican photographer Erika P. Rodríguez recently became the first of these resident-scholars to visit Trinity, where she met with students, worked alongside faculty, and shared some of her photographs.

(Left-right) Photographers Erika P. Rodríguez and Patrick Raycraft with Trinity Professor of Fine Arts Pablo Delano at the Common Hour event.
Photo by Andrew J. Concatelli.​
Rodríguez spoke to the campus community in the Dangremond Family Commons during a February 6 Common Hour event called “Picturing María: The Wrath and Aftermath of a Hurricane.” The conversation between Rodríguez and Hartford Courant photographer Patrick Raycraft was moderated by Trinity Professor of Fine Arts Pablo Delano. Rodríguez was living in Puerto Rico and taking photos for The New York Times, while Raycraft traveled to Puerto Rico soon after the hurricane with a group from Connecticut that was bringing relief supplies. Both photographers spoke about their experiences of witnessing and documenting the devastation from María, which struck just weeks after Hurricane Irma.

Rodríguez began by recounting where she was when the hurricane struck and described the sound of the intense winds and the scope of the destruction. “At one point, I felt completely helpless,” she said. Rodríguez explained that while she did experience a traumatizing situation, she was equally impressed by the strength of the community and saw total strangers reach out to one another to provide help in any way they could. 

Rodríguez concluded her remarks by sharing her thoughts about the future of Puerto Rico, focusing on changes to the economy and providing for basic necessities. Because another storm is always possible and financial security seems elusive, Rodríguez said, “It’s really hard for me to see light at the end of the tunnel.”

The experiences that Rodríguez shared during her talk resonated with Trinity students, including studio arts major Julian S. Chun ’19. “A lot of people, including myself, do not know a whole lot about what has been going on after the storm, and if people don’t know what is happening, people won’t help,” Chun said. “Events like this always have a way of showing how important it is for a community to stand together and help each other through hard times.”

Puerto Rican photographer Erika P. Rodríguez speaks with Trinity students during a class. Photo by Pablo Delano.
After talking about their experiences, Rodríguez and Raycraft showed the audience a selection of photos they had taken in Puerto Rico. Raycraft said that when he first arrived, he was too shocked by the destruction to take a single photo on his first day there. Rodríguez shared images of shelters, crumbled buildings, and people trying to go on with their lives following the disaster. Throughout the series of pictures, Rodríguez pointed out both the hardship the citizens were experiencing as well as their resolve to support each other. She explained that the images of children playing together, and individuals helping one another find resources, ultimately gave her hope.

Trinity will continue to host events and discussions with scholars from Puerto Rico as the semester continues. The English Department will host the residency of Maritza Stanchich, a professor of English at the University of Puerto Rico, from February 26 to March 2. Stanchich teaches Caribbean, Latina/o and U.S. literatures and previously worked as an award-winning journalist. Her recent columns for The Huffington Post and The New York Times helped bring international attention to the crisis in Puerto Rico. Stanchich is scheduled to give a public talk called “Natural and Artificial Disasters Decades in the Making: Puerto Rico as Exemplary” at 12:15 p.m. on Tuesday, February 27, in Mather Hall’s Alumni Lounge. Stanchich will also be available to meet with students, classes, and public groups.

For more information about upcoming residencies by visiting scholars from Puerto Rico, click here.

Written by Lexie Axon ’19