Puerto Ricans push ahead despite being far from recovery

Improvisation helps Puerto Ricans deal with lack of resources

By Nicole Perez - Anchor/Reporter, Andrea Torres - Digital Reporter/Producer

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - The Pernileria Los Próceres, a food truck in San Juan's Santurce neighborhood, specializes in pork, but after Hurricane Maria, Chef Mario Juan said he was forced to improvize. 

Instead of the pernil, the Puerto Rican slow-roasted pork shoulder, the chef said he served fried egg sandwiches. The regulars are still asking for the sandwich, so he kept it on the menu. He also started growing his own oregano. 

The chef trained at the Culinary Institute of America and moved from New York City to Puerto Rico in 2014. He serves his food out of a parked Airstream trailer parked at the Lote 23, a food-truck park near to a traffic light that hasn't been fixed since the hurricane hit in 2017.

"Maria hit, and then of course the whole island was kind of put on hold for almost a year," he said. "All of the infrastructure was affected."

The chef, who dreams of opening his own restaurant, believes Hurricane Maria proved Puerto Ricans are resilient. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló agrees. He said he has a new plan for this hurricane season to spread distribution centers across the island instead of having them all in San Juan. 

Rosselló is still waiting for the funding he needs to set up the nine resource and distribution centers.

"A lot of the funds that are still held up are going to go towards that new infrastructure," Rosselló said. 

Congress is deadlocked. President Donald Trump claims Puerto Rico received $91 billion for hurricane relief, but Rosselló said it's really about $11 billion that were mostly used to repair the energy system. Trump accused leaders in Puerto Rico of corruption, but Rosselló said that is not the problem and he is working with FEMA and HUD leadership . 

Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, who did not accept Local 10 News' request for an interview, announced she will be running for his job. She will also be the co-chair of Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign. Rosselló said this isn't a concern of his. He said he is more focused on getting the help that Puerto Ricans need. 

There are many Puerto Ricans who are still relying on people like Oprah Winfrey who pledged to donate $2 million for the recovery efforts. Half of that money will go toward the Hispanic Federation's Disaster Relief Fund and the other half to the Flamboyant Arts Fund. 

 

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