Rebuilding Mariana Puerto Rico
UCC Darien Mission-Mariana, Puerto Rico
Mariana is a small mountain village of 3,300 clinging to the hills high above the city of Humacao at the far eastern end of Puerto Rico, the very place where Hurricane Maria made landfall on September 20, 2017. It is a poor barrio, and elderly, whose residents largely work in Humacao’s pharmaceutical factories, or collect social security.
Like much of Puerto Rico, Mariana was devastated by Maria – plunged into darkness without power or water, its homes ruined and its community buildings shattered. It went without electricity for many months and even today full power has not been restored
When the hurricane passed and it became clear that neither FEMA nor the local government could help them, two young local residents, Luis Rodriguez Sanchez and Christine Nieves, decided to take matters into their own hands. Initially they had neither power nor water nor cellphone signal; just heat, an old community organization called ARECMA, friends in the US, and a vision of self-sufficiency.
Together Luis and Christine created Proyecto Apoyo Mutuo Mariana (Mutual Aid Project), which initially organized free meals out of Mariana’s damaged community center kitchen. They began by feeding hundreds of people a day, with rice, pork and beans, rather than the MREs and tropical-flavored skittles provided by FEMA and the military. Then they added a weekly health clinic, provided potable water, delivered meals to the elderly, and offered and classes in chess and bomba dance for bored kids who had no schools to attend. The solar panels they installed on the roof provided the only electricity and Wi-Fi available to many in the neighborhood
Proyecto Apoyo Mutuo Mariana is built on the concept of mutual aid. It was not only giving away free food, but also giving people, no matter their age, the opportunity to contribute whatever they can so they can be part of our own solution. Rather than sitting back and depending on the government to fix all their problems, they are taking responsibility for their own community. Ultimately they hope to build a new culture of self-dependency.
The Imagination Center
Today Proyecto Apoyo Mutuo Mariana has transitioned from emergency disaster relief to longer-term programs to rebuild the community and establish self-determination. Their main focus is to help build The Imagination Center.
El Centro de Imaginación will be born out of an abandoned schoolhouse. The center will include space and supplies for learning, for art and music, lodging for visitors, and a business center for the area. The facility will support education and development of village children and also attract visitors for both the arts and for business. The facility will also provide shelter from future storms.
The First Congregational Church of Darien is leading the effort within Darien to support the people of Mariana, Puerto Rico in their quest to rebuild their village and their future. They have taken responsibility into their own hands, waiting for no one. They are imagining what can be and accomplishing it themselves! As neighbors and fellow Americans, we support them.
Join us for a Latin Music Party to celebrate the work of Mariana at First Congregational Church. Friday evening, September 28th 7:30-9:30 pm.