On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, while Puerto Ricans were still coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Ruthless, sustained winds of 155 miles per hour and torrential rain for more than 30 hours, resulted in an island wide blackout and a humanitarian crisis. With unprepared municipal governments, slow federal response, no access to electricity or cell service, Puerto Ricans were kept away from reality and basic necessities like clean water, food and medical care. 4,645 lives lost. Five months after Maria, a quarter of the island still lacked electricity. Approximately 130,000 Puerto Ricans (U.S. citizens) left Puerto Rico, including Mara and her family.
Mara Torres Gonzalez (b.1980, Puerto Rico) tells the story of the resilient, through 209.
"The merciless winds not only uprooted trees, it uprooted life as we knew it."
Mara shifted her fear and uncertainty and started documenting the aftermath of Maria on September 21, 2017. Throughout the island, she was able to document not only the catastrophe and humanitarian crisis, but the resiliency and the power of community. A few months later, she began working on the 209 series, which had its first exhibit a year later, September 20, 2018. "Every piece in 209 has its own story, memory and lived experience. From the first visit to an empty grocery store 15 days after the storm, to politics. 209 tells the story of every Puerto Rican living on the island, every Puerto Rican of the diaspora watching from afar and the Maria diaspora."