Americas / United States / Puerto Rico

December 5, 2017

Helping to feed and repair the livelihood and dignity of a Punta Santiago fisherman

Anthony Torres, 58, is a fisherman from Punta Santiago, Puerto Rico. He and his family had experienced hurricanes before, and they never believed that Hurricane Maria would roar ashore with such power and ferocity, let alone destroy the whole community.

He and his family rode out the storm in life preservers from the second floor of their home, even as dangerous storm surges of seven feet flooded in and threatened their lives.

When the Malteser International Americas Assessment Team met with Anthony, he was volunteering at the parish next to his home, serving hot meals to hurricane survivors like himself. He thanked God for sparing his life, and the lives of his family, during Hurricane Maria. And, he was thankful for the food, water, and support he receives daily from the Order of Malta relief distribution center we support in the struggling community.

Torres is a fisherman by trade and President of his local fishing association. Before the storm, he would ride his small boat offshore and fish for all kinds of fish, which he would then sell to the many restaurants and markets in the region. The southeastern coastal town was well known all over Puerto Rico as a seafood destination.

In the wake of Hurricane Maria, all of that has changed. His livelihood, like that of all fishermen and those who survive working in restaurants and hotels in the community, became nonexistent.

Punta Santiago is located in the southeast coastal region of Puerto Rico, just slightly north of where the eye of the storm made landfall. Before Maria hit, the town was a busy tourist town of nearly 5,000 people, made up of fishermen, like Anthony, and those working in the hospitality industry.

Since the hurricane, almost everyone has lost their livelihood and means to make a living. Sadly, of late November 2017 there is still no electricity or operational hotels, restaurants, etc. for those working in the hospitality industry. The community is 100 percent dependent on humanitarian aid – water, food, electricity, and other necessary items – for their survival.

Anthony, his family, and community of Punta Santiago will benefit from warm meals from the distribution center until well into 2018. But, to help Anthony to regain his livelihood and his dignity, our recovery partner on-the-ground, the Puerto Rico Delegation of the Order of Malta, supplied Anthony with three new batteries. With them, he will be able to repair his boat engines that were destroyed in the storm, and begin to fish again.

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