Esperanza Para la Familia de Allyson: Another Chance After Hurricane Maria

The American and Puerto Rican flags

The American and Puerto Rican flags

Bekah Redinger, Co-Editor in Chief

It’s been a little over a year since the landfall of the category 5 hurricane, Maria, in Puerto Rico, causing mass destruction that still shows today. Junior Allyson Silvestriz experienced the hurricane first hand from her hometown in Puerto Rico, and moved because of the damage to Colorado Springs in January of 2018.

After living in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico for 15 years, Allyson’s memories of life before Maria are mostly positive. She said that there, it’s “the same weather always – tropical.” Rio Grande is a municipality located near the United States’s only national forest classified as a tropical climate, El Yunque National Forest. One thing Allyson remembers in particular is an annual celebration called “el dia de la puertorriqueñidad,” or the day that Columbus came to Puerto Rico. “That day is when we basically do some typical food from there,” she explained, “like rice or typical candy, from there.”

Currently, life is hard in Puerto Rico. “The economy is not the best right now, and the schools are shutting down, and prices are coming up, taxes are coming up, and people have no jobs because all the companies have moved up from Puerto Rico again to the US,” she explained. But it wasn’t always hardship when she lived there. “It was pretty nice, because you could go to the beach with no worries, you could go to the mall or pick up your kids from school. No worries at all.”

Allyson described the hurricane and how it affected her, saying there were “strong winds, there was a river behind my house and the whole thing got flooded. You could actually see currents on the water.” She also said that the mango tree behind her house “fell on the roof – actually broke the roof and it was raining inside the house.” Afterwards, she described how “It was really hard to get food because Walmart and all those stores were empty. We didn’t have supplies, and we had to do long trips just to get gas for the car, just to get electricity.”

Because of all the damage after the hurricane, Allyson, her brother, two sisters, mother, and step-dad moved into her grandma’s house. The six of them plus her step-dad’s family moved together to Colorado. Her dad came up to Colorado before the before the rest of the family moved up, in order to find a job and spend Christmas with her uncle, whose family lived here already, and she said that a big part of choosing to move here was that “we like to be near each other. Plus they like it that everything’s like so pretty and clean… and there’s wildlife out there.” The new place was a welcome change from the difficult conditions in Rio Grande, but has been challenging nonetheless.

She laughed when asked about adjusting to life in Colorado Springs, admitting that “it’s not easy. It’s been hard to adapt here, because we don’t even get snow in Puerto Rico!” Issues go further than the weather, though. When they first got to Colorado Springs, they “had to live at my uncle’s house, and there’s a lot of people there,” so they slept in the basement. Allyson has been learning English her entire life, but some of her siblings are still struggling with it, causing more problems. When they moved into an apartment, they slept in camping beds because they “came here with almost no money.” She said that over time, “we started buying furniture, and I think we’re doing good.”

On a smaller scale, adjusting to Coronado has been another feat in itself. “In Puerto Rico we only have this one small building of like three floors for high school. And then you have a bunch of buildings and like, schools and stuff, and I was like, ‘we don’t even have pools.’” Coronado being a bigger school brings many challenges, but it also brings more opportunities. After having the same classes over and over in Puerto Rico, “it’s actually kind of cool to come here and they have different choices and diversity of things I could take,” she said. Now, she has the option to take honors and AP classes, and that’s made a big difference: “I actually felt like ‘hey, maybe I have a better chance to go to college, maybe a better future.’”

There’s more to school life than academics; finding friends can make or break being a new student. Allyson described her first semester here as difficult, because she couldn’t find close friends, but this year, she says she is “finding really nice people” in her classes and around the school.

One year after Maria, Allyson is learning to thrive at Coronado. “I actually never thought I would move out of Puerto Rico,” she admitted. “And then that hurricane, it was devastating, but it gave us another chance.”