Hurricane Maria caused trauma but fuels purpose among mainland Puerto Ricans

Many thanks to Peter Jordens for sharing this link to an article by Gwen Avilés and Associated Press (NBC News Latino) about a study of Floridians of Puerto Rican descent. The study found that although Puerto Ricans experienced “secondary trauma” from the storm, they felt a renewed sense of identity and purpose. The study Avilés refers to is “The day no one spoke: Florida Puerto Ricans’ reaction to Hurricane María” by Cristalís Capielo Rosario, R.L. Abreu, K.A. González, and E. Cárdenas Bautista (The Counseling Psychologist, Volume 46, Issue 8, November 2018). Here are excerpts from Avilés’ article:

[. . .] What effect did the worst hurricane in over a century have on Puerto Ricans like [Charlie] Fonseca who have lived in the U.S. mainland for many years?

It turns out Hurricane Maria did have a strong effect on them, but it also led to a renewed sense of identity, according to a new study.

“Connection to the island may put [Florida] Puerto Ricans at both an advantage and a disadvantage in terms of their secondary trauma to the storm,” wrote Cristalís Capielo, an assistant professor of counseling and counseling psychology at Arizona State University. Her study, “The day no one spoke: Florida Puerto Ricans’ reaction to Hurricane María,” was recently published in The Counseling Psychologist.

Capielo said the study is the first to explore the psychological reactions of Puerto Ricans with secondary exposure to Hurricane María, which struck in September 2017. She focused on Florida because it’s home to the largest boricua community on the mainland and because its geographical proximity makes the population more vulnerable to the effects of events on the island. In fact, after the storm, tens of thousands of Puerto Rican families left the island to seek shelter and refuge in Florida.

Capielo and her research team used focus groups of Florida-based Puerto Ricans as their main source of data collection and observed a set of emerging themes.

Most of the respondents spoke of seeing the impact of the storm in the media and becoming frustrated and saddened by the lack of resources available to islanders. They also expressed concern about loved ones they couldn’t reach, especially in the immediate aftermath of the storm, and they perceived that the U.S. government wasn’t helping with relief efforts.

On the other hand, mainland Puerto Ricans also experienced post-traumatic vicarious growth, defined as “the positive outcomes that emerge from otherwise negative experiences.”

Mainland Puerto Ricans felt strengthened by the support they provided and received and by the belief that Puerto Ricans are resilient and strong-minded.

For them, the storm strengthened their cultural pride and made them more determined to help and serve the island. [. . .]

[Photo above by Ricardo Arduengo: Houses damaged by Hurricane Maria in Naranjito, Puerto Rico, on Oct. 23, 2017. AFP – Getty Images.]

For full article, see

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