In 2017, Puerto Rico was affected by two hurricanes, Irma and María, within a few months of each other. Hurricane María, a category five hurricane, caused: thousands of deaths, severe power outages for months, diminished water supplies, and food shortages across the island. The physical damage to the environment and urban spaces was clear, but the storm also magnified systemic power imbalances and a lack of reliability of the existing governmental and socioeconomic systems that needed to be addressed during the rebuilding process. As relief funds get distributed and rebuilding projects begin, the potential for extraction and exploitation, increased economic dependence, and greater poverty loom large. Compelled by this realization, Lidia Henderson and Hannah Anousheh traveled to Puerto Rico in September 2019 to conduct interviews with Puerto Rican womxn at the forefront of recovery efforts on the islands, producing a video documentary entitled Tomando Espacio.
During their visit, Lidia and Hannah recorded personal narratives by Puerto Ricans contending with climate injustice. Tomando Espacio brings to light the efforts of frontline communities — largely led by womxn — that forge alternative paths beyond short-term recovery. The interviews highlight movement-building work that promotes a just transition and an equitable and resilient future through art, agriculture, and community organizing.
Tomando Espacio thus provides a tribute to on-the-ground, around-the-clock work being done in an underrepresented nation in the shadows of the United States, and the womxn unafraid to take up space for their communities. Interviews include: Tara Rodríguez-Besosa, Founder and Co-Director, El Departamento de la Comida; Cathy Vigos, Pedro Adorno, Christina Vives, and collective members, Agua, Sol y Sereno; Mariela Bravo, Architect, Manuel Bermúdez Architects; Carol Ramos, Graduate Urban and Environmental Planning Student, Universidad de Puerto Rico; Noemí Segarra Ramírez, Founder, Piso Proyecto; Camille Collazo Ortiz & Yoamadil Cabán, Executive Director and Committee Member, VisitRico; Marisol Plard Narváez, Artist and resident of La Perla neighborhood of Old San Juan; Sharlene Gonzalez, Performance artist and resident of the city of Adjuntas; Mariangelie Ortiz, Community Leader and Organizer, La Maraña in Las Palomas, Caguas; and Cynthia Burgos-López, Coordinator of Urbanism and Infrastructure, Proyecto ENLACE del Caño Martín Peña & Co-Founder, La Maraña.
Lidia Henderson is the Program & Communications Manager at Empire Clean Cities, an environmental nonprofit and local U.S. Department of Energy Clean Cities coalition. She has a M.Sc. in City and Regional Planning from the Pratt Institute where she focused on clean transportation, air quality and social justice issues. She holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Spanish from Colby College. https://www.linkedin.com/in/lidiahenderson/
Hannah Anousheh is the Community Land Trust Coordinator at Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation in East New York, Brooklyn. She recently completed a M.Sc. in City and Regional Planning from the Pratt Institute where her focus is on housing, community development and movement building. https://www.linkedin.com/in/hannahanousheh/
by Lidia Henderson and Hannah Anousheh
Captions for Images attached:
- Neighborhood of La Perla, San Juan
- Interview with Tara Rodríguez Besosa, El Departamento de la Comida
- Barrio of Palomas, Comerío in the hills of Puerto Rico with La Maraña