Colonial Abandonment and Hurricane María: Puerto Rican Material Poetics as Survivance




Hurricane María, Puerto Rico, survivance, material poetics, poiesis, poetry, tropical materialism, colonialism


In the wake of Hurricane María, Puerto Ricans in the tropical archipelago and the diaspora engaged in various forms of community organizing to confront governmental and social abandonment. Building on long-term ethnographic research and poetic analysis focused on the work of Puerto Rican poet Ana Portnoy Brimmer, I analyze poets’ critical and creative material practices that confronted histories of colonialism and engaged in forms of survivance post María (Vizenor, 2008). I argue that survivance is poiesis – a creative engagement in and with the world.  Through writing and performing poems, Puerto Ricans contested state narratives about the effects of the hurricane, documented their material and diasporic suffering, and made their lives more livable through accessing necessities, such as food and water, building and reconnecting with community, and bearing witness to each other’s lived experiences. Puerto Rican life and experiences are always entangled with their environment and material world. Thus, for Puerto Ricans, survivance as poiesis is a continuous affirmation of life in the face of ongoing disasters and death through material poetic practices.

Author Biography

Melinda González, Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice at Rutgers University, USA

Dr Melinda González, born in Newark, New Jersey with ancestral home in Moca, Puerto Rico, is an Afro-Indigenous scholar-activist-poet of Puerto Rican descent and a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice at Rutgers University, USA. González conducts research on community organizing and displacement as responses to climate catastrophe and environmental contamination in Puerto Rico, New York, and New Jersey. González is a socio-cultural anthropologist, focused on environmental anthropology, whose work maps how disaster is differentially distributed across race, class, and gender, and she brings decolonial and indigenous research methods to the study of new media technologies in environmental justice studies.


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How to Cite

González, M. (2022). Colonial Abandonment and Hurricane María: Puerto Rican Material Poetics as Survivance. ETropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 21(2), 140–161.