When Hurricane María hit Puerto Rico last September, towns had no power or cell phone reception. Punta Santiago, a coastal neighborhood in the eastern town of Humacao, went viral when neighbors scribbled “S.O.S. Necesitamos Agua/Comida” with chalk on the street. They were pleading for aid five days after the hurricane, grabbing worldwide attention on social media.
Now, Punta Santiago residents want the media to move on from the S.O.S calls and cover the progress made in Puerto Rico. They have started a new campaign inviting tourists to visit Punta Santiago, scribbling “Bienvenidos” on the same spot they begged for help 11 months ago.
“María’s anniversary is approaching, and the ‘S.O.S’ picture, along with many more pictures of destroyed areas, will resurface,” Janet González, a community leader, told CNN. “But we should focus on how far we have come and not on how ugly it was.”
The #CoverTheProgress campaign was shared on Twitter on Monday with a video highlighting the recovery efforts and natural beauty of Puerto Rico. The video also narrates the story of the original “S.O.S” picture, which, according to neighbors, helped the community get food and resources a week after the hurricane.
Punta Santiago, like many other coastal towns in Puerto Rico, depended largely on tourism before the storm, and has worked alongside Discover Puerto Rico, a tourism group in the island, to boost interest in the area again. Tourism makes up 8 percent of the island’s GDP, making it harder for Puerto Rico’s economy to recover after the hurricane destroyed much of the island’s natural scenery. The island currently faces a $73 billion debt that has deepened its decade-long economic crisis. The Puerto Rico Tourism Company reported a 12 percent sales increase for travel agencies earlier this month, while the island also received a record 1.2 million cruise ship passengers in the last year.
“We need to move on and we are working on that, so tourists come and can see the before and after,” a resident said in the video. “Now, we are working to re-establish the community and people can see that we are not only what they saw.”
Watch the inspiring video below, but be warned, you may shed a tear.