‘Puerto Rico Strong offers heartwarming look at reconstruction efforts after Hurricane Maria

Matthew Aufiero

Months after the damage of two category 5 hurricanes, Puerto Rico is still recovering. Projects like “Puerto Rico Strong” are hoping to change that.

“Puerto Rico Strong” is an anthology with a wide variety of stories, from historical, fictional, autobiographical and even science fiction about the United States territory. Writers and illustrators from all walks of life, many of them from Puerto Rico or with family on the island, created the anthology with the intent of donating its profits to United Way’s Puerto Rican programs. Despite its variety of stories, the anthology remains solidly focused on the island and its people.

These stories are surprisingly informative, with the collection opening with a set of stories detailing in broad strokes the history of the island while mixing in personal stories of people who dealt with the hurricanes. An entire textbook of history is packed into short vignettes, providing readers with necessary information about Puerto Rican culture and foods as well as the island’s complicated status as a United States territory.

This anthology is a love letter to Puerto Rico. The stories have to do with the importance of family, food and history. The love that the creators feel for the island and its people shines through in every word and picture. Many of the stories deal with the relationships characters have cultivated with their Puerto Rican parents and grandparents. The book is almost too wholesome. Many of the stories revolve around characters taking care of each other in the aftermath of the storm in the most loving ways.

However, this love letter is not just focused on Puerto Rico. One of the points which this book stresses repeatedly is that Puerto Rico is a territory of — and therefore part of — the United States. While people may know that fact, people often lose awareness of it. This book focuses heavily on introducing Puerto Rico to young children who may only think of the United States as the 50 states. “Puerto Rico Strong” does not have to work hard to establish a connection between Puerto Rican values and the values of the United States. The stories are filled with veterans who served in every war since World War I.

Although many of the topics deal with serious topics such as Puerto Rico’s history with the military, the wave of contraceptives which plagued Puerto Rico in the mid-20th century and its bloody history with exploitative colonizers, this book deals with such somber issues in a kid-friendly way. For the most part, the stories are cartoonish and colorful so that small children can more easily digest the stories.

The profits go entirely to helping the island, and the book is about a group of people coming together to show their love and support for Puerto Rico.

It is difficult to expect too much from volunteer work, after all the authors and illustrators donated a lot of time and effort. However, many of the stories feel unsatisfying, ending abruptly. A few of the stories also feel very out of place. It is always exciting to see genres mixed together, but one story in particular was a dystopian sci-fi story set in the future. It would be a very good story on its own, but mixed in with the others, it feels out of place.

If you like the history of Latin America, stories of people coming together through hard times, the importance of family, the search for home or the understanding of your roots, you’ll like “Puerto Rico Strong.”