Students Travel to Puerto Rico to Study the Effects of Hurricane Maria

The students spent a week working with local grassroots organizations and linking their microbiology and history coursework to firsthand experiences
June 13th, 2019 by 

Students and professors walk down a street in Puerto Rico
Students and professors walk around Urbe Apie in Caguas, Puerto Rico, where young activists have renovated abandoned buildings into shared community spaces. Photo by Angel Carrillo '19

It’s one thing to study the effects of a hurricane in a classroom setting, learning about the biology behind the devastation or the history of the country it hit. It’s a whole other ballgame to visit the place you’ve been talking about and see the effects firsthand. And that’s exactly what 11 students from the combined courses “Microbiology of a Hurricane” and “America’s Colony” did.

Madeline Vargas, professor of biology, and Rosa Carrasquillo, professor of history, took the group of students on a five-day study trip to the island of Puerto Rico. There, they ventured far beyond the usual sun and sea holiday to meet and work alongside grassroots organizations making an impact in recovery from 2017’s devastating Hurricane Maria.

“Instead of hearing about issues from a textbook or professor, we were hearing them from the people who were living through them,” says Katherine O’Malley ’21, a biology major with a concentration in Latin American, Latinx and Caribbean Studies. “Particularly, hearing the stories from people about how they made it through Hurricane Maria was much more powerful than anything I could have read. Everyone was so willing to share and talk to people they had just met about such difficult times in their lives.”

On the itinerary: Students toured a self-sustaining farm in the mountains, installed drainage in an urban community garden and helped plant coconuts on the beach as part of an organization called Coconut Revolution. They also met with young activists who’ve rehabbed formerly abandoned buildings in Caguas, a hard-hit city 20 minutes south of San Juan, and created a soup kitchen and other community spaces.

Students hit the ground well prepared to look at the complex intersection of health, politics and public policy given the way the coursework was structured. While they enrolled in one of the two classes, they also met jointly with their course counterparts six or so times throughout the semester.

Carrasquillo urged to her students, United States citizens, the importance of learning about Puerto Rico and its relationship with the United States. “It’s their history, too,” she says. “Most people do not want to know it or don’t care about knowing it, but it’s part of that history, right? No one is going to be proud of the history of colonialism, and so it’s easier to ignore it and to intentionally not to learn about it. For instance, in class, it was easy for students to think about solutions where Puerto Ricans were completely ignored. They were challenged not to ignore Puerto Ricans.”

Students found the mix challenging — and intriguing. “One way we found common ground was by reading articles surrounding diseases from older scientific journals,” says O’Malley.

“Students from microbiology read with a scientific lens and investigated the microbe and its properties, while history students were able to place the article into a broader context and see what was happening at the time it was published. It was really cool to see the different perspectives coming together when met together.”

Going from classroom to on-the-ground meetings brought the impact to life. “When we toured a university, we saw a graduate student giving a PowerPoint slide show on hurricane damage,” says Vargas. “She had to stop several times because she was very emotional, and she just kept saying, ‘I haven’t seen these pictures since it happened, I took them and I didn’t want to look at them.’ You don’t see that in the news.”

That mission to go beyond what’s reported drove the learning both before and during the trip.

“One of the things that became very evident for students, I hope, was that Maria was just another crisis, right?” Carrasquillo says. “The context of Maria’s devastation was the financial crisis of a public debt of over 74 billion dollars. This financial crisis is still more damaging to most Puerto Ricans today. As we walked around the University of Puerto Rico, for instance, we can see how all the libraries, the satellite libraries were closed — all of them. The bookstore was closed and then when we went through the tour of the town, we saw more of the economic devastation. It’s really surreal; it looked like a bomb went off.”

“You can’t teach that,” Vargas added.

And the impact carried back to campus. “Sometimes it is easy to compare myself to what the majority of other people have and what I don’t,” says Sienna Ablorh ’21, a history and psychology double major with a concentration in Africana Studies. “But, seeing that people went without electricity, clean water and gas for so long after Hurricane Maria reminded me that I too, am privileged.”

Ablorh was surprised at how much information about Hurricane Maria she didn’t know.

“People were willing to share to help educate me in a way where it was empowering and I didn’t feel bad for not knowing. There were misreported things following the hurricane, and some things weren’t even reported at all; so it was hard for an outsider to fully know everything. But, everyone who survived had a story to tell and a lesson to learn from.”

| More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 

06/24/19 World Premiere of Osvaldo Golijov’s ‘Falling Out of Time’ on Oct. 31 at College of the Holy Cross
06/24/19 Holy Cross Professors Celebrated for Outstanding Scholarship and Student Advising
06/20/19 Holy Cross Professor Quoted in The New York Times on Antitrust Lessons From the Gilded Age
06/20/19 Why Do People Love ‘Dark Tourism’? Holy Cross Professor Shares Insight With BBC 5 Radio
See All

AJCU Service Learning Professionals Conference
6/25/2019
J.D. Power Center for Liberal Arts in the World
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(07)
Open to the Public
See More >>


AJCU Service Learning Professionals Conference
6/25/2019
J.D. Power Center for Liberal Arts in the World
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite B/C - 4th Fl
Open to the Public
See More >>


AJCU Service Learning Professionals Conference
6/25/2019
J.D. Power Center for Liberal Arts in the World
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite A - 4th Fl
Open to the Public
See More >>


AJCU Service Learning Professionals Conference
6/26/2019
J.D. Power Center for Liberal Arts in the World
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(08)
Open to the Public
See More >>


AJCU Service Learning Professionals Conference
6/26/2019
J.D. Power Center for Liberal Arts in the World
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite B/C - 4th Fl
Open to the Public
See More >>


AJCU Service Learning Professionals Conference
6/26/2019
J.D. Power Center for Liberal Arts in the World
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite A - 4th Fl
Open to the Public
See More >>


AJCU Service Learning Professionals Conference
6/27/2019
J.D. Power Center for Liberal Arts in the World
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite A - 4th Fl
Open to the Public
See More >>


AJCU Service Learning Professionals Conference
6/27/2019
J.D. Power Center for Liberal Arts in the World
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(08)
Open to the Public
See More >>


AJCU Service Learning Professionals Conference
6/27/2019
J.D. Power Center for Liberal Arts in the World
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite B/C - 4th Fl
Open to the Public
See More >>


Odyssey 2023 Program Workshop
8/26/2019
Odyssey
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite B - 4th Fl
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Odyssey 2023 Program Workshop
8/26/2019
Odyssey
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite C - 4th Fl
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Odyssey 2023 Program Workshop
8/27/2019
Odyssey
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Odyssey 2023 Program Workshop
8/27/2019
Odyssey
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite C - 4th Fl
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Odyssey 2023 Program Workshop
8/27/2019
Odyssey
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite A - 4th Fl
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Odyssey 2023 Program Workshop
8/27/2019
Odyssey
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite B - 4th Fl
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Odyssey 2023 Program Workshop
8/27/2019
Odyssey
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 407(09)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


MPE Training
8/28/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Odyssey 2023 Program Workshop
8/29/2019
Odyssey
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 407(09)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


MPE Training
8/29/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Odyssey 2023 Program Workshop
8/30/2019
Odyssey
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite A - 4th Fl
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Odyssey 2023 Program Workshop
8/30/2019
Odyssey
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(07)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


MPE Training
8/30/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


RHA Weekly Meeting
9/4/2019
Residence Life & Housing
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(08)
RHA weekly meeting in which all hall councils are invited to share...
See More >>


Handshake on the Hoval
9/4/2019
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 3
Stop by the Hoval to meet Handshake, the new career platform...
See More >>


Handshake on the Hoval
9/4/2019
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
Stop by the Hoval to meet Handshake, the new career platform...
See More >>


Handshake on the Hoval - Rain Location
9/4/2019
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
Stop by the Hoval to meet Handshake, the new career platform...
See More >>


Handshake on the Hoval
9/4/2019
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Outdoor Oval
Stop by the Hoval to meet Handshake, the new career platform...
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
9/9/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Eta Sigma Phi Weekly Meeting
9/10/2019
Classics
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 407(08)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
9/11/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


RHA Weekly Meeting
9/11/2019
Residence Life & Housing
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(08)
RHA weekly meeting in which all hall councils are invited to share...
See More >>


LibFest
9/12/2019
Holy Cross Libraries
Kimball Hall Kimball Quad
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


LibFest Rain Location
9/12/2019
Holy Cross Libraries
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Crossroads Lounge
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
9/16/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Eta Sigma Phi Weekly Meeting
9/17/2019
Classics
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 407(08)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
9/18/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


RHA Weekly Meeting
9/18/2019
Residence Life & Housing
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(08)
RHA weekly meeting in which all hall councils are invited to share...
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
9/23/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


GE Meet & Greet Session
9/23/2019
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406
Students selected to interview with GE will be invited to attend this...
See More >>


Eta Sigma Phi Weekly Meeting
9/24/2019
Classics
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 407(08)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
9/25/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


RHA Weekly Meeting
9/25/2019
Residence Life & Housing
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(07)
RHA weekly meeting in which all hall councils are invited to share...
See More >>


3rd Festival of the Arts at Holy Cross
9/27/2019
Music
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Outdoor Oval
Open to the Public
See More >>


Holy Cross Chapel Artist Series-Ezequiel Menendez
9/29/2019
Music
St Joseph Memorial Chapel St Joseph Chapel
September 29th, 3:00 pmDr. Ezequiel MenendezHoly Cross' Organ...
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
9/30/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Luncheon with Lauren Markham
9/30/2019
Latin American and Latino Studies
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite A - 4th Fl
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Eta Sigma Phi Weekly Meeting
10/1/2019
Classics
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 407(08)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
10/2/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


RHA Weekly Meeting
10/2/2019
Residence Life & Housing
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(08)
RHA weekly meeting in which all hall councils are invited to share...
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
10/7/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Eta Sigma Phi Weekly Meeting
10/8/2019
Classics
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 407(08)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
10/9/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


RHA Weekly Meeting
10/9/2019
Residence Life & Housing
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(08)
RHA weekly meeting in which all hall councils are invited to share...
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
10/16/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


RHA Weekly Meeting
10/16/2019
Residence Life & Housing
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(08)
RHA weekly meeting in which all hall councils are invited to share...
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
10/21/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Eta Sigma Phi Weekly Meeting
10/22/2019
Classics
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 407(08)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
10/23/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


RHA Weekly Meeting
10/23/2019
Residence Life & Housing
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(08)
RHA weekly meeting in which all hall councils are invited to share...
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
10/28/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Eta Sigma Phi Weekly Meeting
10/29/2019
Classics
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 407(08)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Holy Cross Chapel Artist Series Halloween Concert with Matt Luca and Michelle Sacco
10/29/2019
Features
St Joseph Memorial Chapel St Joseph Chapel
A Hallowe'en ConcertHoly Cross' Organ Scholars Matt Luca...
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
10/30/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


RHA Weekly Meeting
10/30/2019
Residence Life & Housing
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(08)
RHA weekly meeting in which all hall councils are invited to share...
See More >>


Poverty Simulation Workshop
10/30/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Ballroom & Dunn
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
11/4/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Eta Sigma Phi Weekly Meeting
11/5/2019
Classics
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 407(08)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
11/6/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


RHA Weekly Meeting
11/6/2019
Residence Life & Housing
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(08)
RHA weekly meeting in which all hall councils are invited to share...
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
11/11/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Eta Sigma Phi Weekly Meeting
11/12/2019
Classics
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 407(08)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Resume Writing Workshop with Deloitte and the Center for Career Development
11/12/2019
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 320
Open to all students! Create a resume the write way!Come hear from...
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
11/13/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


RHA Weekly Meeting
11/13/2019
Residence Life & Housing
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(08)
RHA weekly meeting in which all hall councils are invited to share...
See More >>


Into the Deep: My Journey from Feminism to Catholicism
11/14/2019
Featured
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite A - 4th Fl
Professor Abigail Favale, Director of the William Penn...
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
11/18/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Eta Sigma Phi Weekly Meeting
11/19/2019
Classics
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 409
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Holy Cross Chapel Artist Series - Olivier Latry
11/19/2019
Music
St Joseph Memorial Chapel St Joseph Chapel
November 19th, 7:30 pm Olivier Latry, Titular Organist at...
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
11/20/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


RHA Weekly Meeting
11/20/2019
Residence Life & Housing
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(08)
RHA weekly meeting in which all hall councils are invited to share...
See More >>


Eta Sigma Phi Weekly Meeting
12/3/2019
Classics
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 409
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


RHA Weekly Meeting
12/4/2019
Residence Life & Housing
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(08)
RHA weekly meeting in which all hall councils are invited to share...
See More >>


Holy Cross Concert Band Concert
12/8/2019
Music
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Ballroom & 328
Open to the Public
See More >>


Eta Sigma Phi Weekly Meeting
12/10/2019
Classics
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 409
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
1/27/2020
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Multicultural Peer Educators Meeting
1/27/2020
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
1/29/2020
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>

See All