This Impromptu Memorial Is a Haunting Depiction of the Massive Amount of Hurricane Maria Victims

Lead Photo: Photo courtesy of Jhoni Jackson
Photo courtesy of Jhoni Jackson
Read more

It’s now been more than eight months since Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico. From the get-go, government aid was scarce and the feeble attempts by the current administration at supporting its population have been depressingly inadequate. As media newsrooms continue to speculate about what counts as an offensive word or which morning tweet deserves more airtime, people on the ground have seen the numbers of those affected by the hurricane grow and grow every day. The official death toll may sit at 64, but Puerto Ricans know it to be higher. A Harvard study released on May 29 put the number at 4,645, which is as Amanda Sabater, one of the creative minds behind this “Hurricane Maria Shoe Memorial” video, a number that’s just 184 shy of those killed in Hurricane Katrina and on 9/11 combined.

Sabater, who’s of Puerto Rican descent, worked on the video with Flor Tejada who is Dominican and Ecuadorian. They make up NextRound Productions; they are committed to making videos out of their trips to Puerto Rico with their own money to raise awareness and try to help the people we can. The shoe memorial, set up in front of the capitol in San Juan consists of shoes that belong to those who died both during the hurricane and later because of the negligence that’s kept most of the island without power for months on end. Sabater and Tejada have been visiting and chronicling the island in the aftermath of Maria, aware that crisis felt on the ground hasn’t been much covered by mainstream media.

As Sabater told Remezcla, “Our goal with our continued trips here is to keep Puerto Rican people in the hearts and minds of Americans on the mainland in the United States.” Filming the memorial brought her to tears. “The energy is powerful, palpable and indicative of the larger history behind what Puerto Rican’s are and have experienced for a long time.”

But she has a more powerful message to those watching this testimonial look at the slew of shoes neatly organized, many of which carry with them notes both sad (“Abuelo”) and angry (“GENOCIDE!”). “In our experience Puerto Ricans aren’t angry. They’re in mourning. And I truly believe it’s up to citizens of privilege to get and stay angry. It’s up to their fellow Americans to call out the government — to show up and speak up.”

Hurricane Maria Shoe Memorial

Our latest trip to Puerto Rico has proven difficult. We found ourselves on the island in the days after a Harvard Study released this past Tuesday confirmed that the death toll from Hurricane Maria is over 70x the government official numbers. This count is reflective of a history of systemic oppression. We spent a few hours at the capitol watching Puerto Ricans bring shoes to add to an impromptu memorial. The energy is powerful and somber. We were in tears immediately upon arriving. We made this video in the past 24 hours because we want the world to know what's happening and not happening on this island. The government has left these people behind and every single day people continue to die from hurricane-related deaths. Please stay informed and don't forget these people. And if you have the means consider donating to our fundraiser below. Our goal is to fill in the gaps we find as we explore the island and help the friends we meet along the way. We can't change the attitude of the US government but we can show people that they're not completely alone. We see you. Thank you.

Posted by NextRound Productions on Sunday, June 3, 2018