This story is part of The Trump 45, a special package about Trump’s impact on individual lives.
Two days after Hurricane María made landfall in Puerto Rico, Crystal Díaz expected to find impassable roads to the small bed and breakfast she’d recently opened in the mountains of Cayey. She feared the wood-frame house had been destroyed in the Category 4 cyclone, and she felt anxious to assess the damage.
Instead, her drive home was clear. Residents had pulled together whatever tools they had, from chainsaws to diggers, to clear the debris themselves. “They didn’t expect the municipality, the state government, much less the federal government to come help,” she said.
It turned out that they had reason to be skeptical. The federal relief effort was notoriously slow, even after Hurricane María wiped out much of an already fragile infrastructure. President Donald Trump drew criticism for failing to respond with troops and aid as rapidly as he had for similar disasters on the U.S. mainland. And as the death toll from María reached nearly 3,000 in Puerto Rico, crucial water and food supplies from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) took weeks to reach isolated communities.
Díaz, who also runs a local agriculture delivery service called PRoduce, saw her industry hit especially hard. Nearly 80% of Puerto Rico’s food supply was destroyed in the storm. While farmers struggled to get their harvests to market, closed ports prevented food imports from reaching the island. FEMA meals instead consisted largely of junk food including chips, candy, and sugary fruit cups.
Díaz estimates it will be five years before coffee is ready for harvest in Puerto Rico. Her company helps locals buy fruits and vegetables from the island’s farmers, but they couldn’t reach growers for three months thanks to downed cellphone towers and blocked roads. Electricity in Cayey wasn’t restored until May 30, 2018 — eight months after María made landfall. Díaz reopened El Pretexto, her bed and breakfast, last June shortly after service was restored.