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The Forgotten Island: How we covered Puerto Rico’s struggle a year after Hurricane Maria

Puerto Rico: The Forgotten Island

A year after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico the island remains in a state of recovery. The official death toll now stands at 2,975, making Maria one of the deadliest natural disasters in U.S. history. Narration by Rita Moreno.
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A year after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico the island remains in a state of recovery. The official death toll now stands at 2,975, making Maria one of the deadliest natural disasters in U.S. history. Narration by Rita Moreno.

How do you begin to tell the story of a Forgotten Island?

We started by tapping a team of talented, bilingual journalists and asked them to chronicle the daily struggles of Puerto Ricans, one year after Hurricane Maria.

For almost all of them, it was a return trip. They had traveled to the island in the immediate aftermath of Maria to report on its breathtaking destruction. And for at least one of our journalists, reporter Andres Viglucci, the assignment was personal: Viglucci is Puerto Rican.

Over two months, our reporting team rotated in and out of Puerto Rico, traversing the island to delve into its pressing needs: the crippled health system, the housing crisis, the embattled education system, the still-spotty electric grid and the U.S. response.

The effort spanned three newsrooms — the Miami Herald, our Spanish-language publication el Nuevo Herald and the McClatchy Washington, D.C., bureau — and involved nearly 40 reporters, videographers, photographers, editors, designers, programmers, copy editors, translators and social media experts. And that’s just the newsroom effort. We had helping hands across our company, from marketing and advertising to the print operation.

The result is The Forgotten Island, a sweeping package in both English and Spanish, that delves into the issues still gripping Puerto Rico.

It’s the story of Radamés Cabral, told by Jim Wyss, who still endures a 10-hour round trip — three times a week — for life-saving dialysis because the local hospital is still closed.

It’s the story of Brenda López, told by Kyra Gurney, who fought to find a teacher for her special-needs child as hundreds of schools across the island closed.

It’s the story of Fernando Rivera Molina, told by Andres Viglucci, who is one of thousands of householders who hasn’t received FEMA aid because of tangled property-rights issues.

And it is the story of a resilient people, told through heartbreaking footage captured by videographers Pedro Portal, Al Diaz and Matias Ocner. A narration by award-winning Puerto Rican actress Rita Moreno makes it all the more poignant.

The ambitious project was made possible, in part, thanks to the generous support of The Rockefeller Foundation. We are also grateful to our readers. Your support helps fund projects like Forgotten Island.

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