On Thursday, the one-year anniversary of last year's devastating storm, news media from across the globe reported stories and images of an island still deep in the throes of disaster relief.
Once there, they repaired and replaced roofs, windows and doors, in addition to sanitizing and removing mold from homes.
WBUR's Simón Rios returned to Puerto Rico to report on the recovery effort one year out.
"We're Americans, we deserve better", Mercado said. A year after Maria, the island is far from prepared for the next big storm, with an ever-fragile power grid, damaged infrastructure and the same crippling debt. According to the New York Times, out of 1.1 million families who requested support from FEMA, 58% were denied, while those who were approved were given an average of $1,800 in home fix funds - more than $7,000 less than the average FEMA insurance payment for Texans hit by Hurricane Harvey the same year.
"We're installing permanent roofs on over 400 homes here on the island".
"Most of the people that have requested help from FEMA. have not received enough assistance to be able to take care of their problems", Mayor Cruz said, adding that "a lot of people that don't have a title deed and they really are not eligible to receive any type of support or help". Protests were planned in San Juan and elsewhere, as well as a funeral procession.
Cruz-Torres added those in the coastal areas, fishermen in particular, were among the hardest hit because of the gear and boats they lost.
On Thursday, Ben Carson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, announced in San Juan that $1.5 billion was being released to Puerto Rico as part of the overall $20 billion pledged for rebuilding, the largest in the agency's history.
While 60,000 homes remain protected only by temporary roofing, many people say they are still waiting for the approval of insurance claims.
Though they feel camaraderie together gathered at a park in Allentown, they feel the government turned its back on Puerto Rico.
"It's too much", she said.
But others felt that Maria's tragic legacy still needs to be acknowledged, long after the anniversary has passed.
Artist Omar Banuchi, who organized the exhibit, said he was reluctant at first, in part because he didn't know how to approach the subject.
He said the exhibition walks a fine line, with some paintings showing attractive landscapes alongside trailers set up by Puerto Rico's forensics institute as part of the effort to try to identify the bodies of those who perished in the storm. "But there will be certain uncomfortable moments".
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