Hurricane Maria ‘Lifted the Veil’ on Puerto Rico’s Broken System

The Island Must Confront Past Mismanagement, or Face Outsize Future Disasters

On September 20, 2017, when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, the media, government officials, and the American public were in awe when the island lost electricity and went dark. More recently it’s been estimated that thousands may have died in the storm and its aftermath. How, in a place that is part of the United States, had this happened?

As a sociologist who studies disasters, I wasn’t surprised. I study the role that communities play in avoiding, preparing, responding to, and recovering from disasters. This view holds that while natural …