Today marks six months since Hurricane Maria made landfall and ripped through Puerto Rico, lashing the island with winds well above 155 miles per hour and devastating the homes and communities of many of its 3.4 million residents. Many people forget that three weeks before Maria, Hurricane Irma passed just north, causing $1 billion in damages, killing several, and knocking power out to nearly half of the island. Maria’s follow-up hit on the island was even more brutal: direct, passing in a diagonal line from the southeast to the northwest, sparing nothing. 

Eduardo Meléndez, a Puerto Rican photojournalist, has spent the last six months documenting life on the island. From the weeks-long cleanup to lines for gas and ice to protests to lack of electricity to this day, he’s tried to capture what he sees. I asked him what it’s been like to watch and to live through:

“Draining. Hopeless. You have a government who instead of helping the country is helping itself to whatever is left. We have seen thousands of people in dire need of help and resources while the government is spending thousands upon thousands on contracts for their friends.”

Here’s a selection of Meléndez’s work from the last six months. 

Manatí: A day after the storm people from communities near the highway gather to begin the removal of debris from the highway they were not waiting for the government.

Ciales: Entrance to the community of Residencial Dos Rios. September 30, 2017.

Yauco: A survivor cleans up. September 26, 2017.

San Juan: A line to enter Walmart. After the storm, hour-long waits outside grocery stores and pharmacies were common. September 23, 2017.

Guaynabo: Puerto Ricans queueing for gasoline. September 24, 2017.

Toa Baja: Thousands endure hourlong lines to buy ice, mostly needed to preserve loved ones’ medicine. Sales were limited to two bags per family. September 27, 2017.

Lares: This girl was temporarily living in a shelter established in a school classroom. October 11, 2017.

Las Marias: These two men lived with their parents in a home high in the hills of central Puerto Rico. They’re standing in what was once their living room. October 11, 2017.

San Juan: Protesters march through Old San Juan toward La Fortaleza, the governor’s residence, to demand electricity restoration. Many had endured four to five months without power at this point. January 20, 2018.

Old San Juan: Electricity protest. Sign says “Power for Caguas,” a city located in inland Puerto Rico. January 20, 2018.

A group of teachers in the mountain town of Orocovis talked to us about the pressures of working without electricity for the last six months, and amidst worries that their school would be closed. March 16, 2018.

Yabucoa: The inside of a beachside chinchorro lays in ruins, near where the eye of the storm passed through six months earlier. March 14, 2018.

Las Piedras: For six months, Beatriz Santana has had to care for her father, Guillermo Santana, without power. March 18, 2018.

Beatriz Santana shows how she feeds her father through a tube every two hours. March 18, 2018.

After Beatriz posted to Facebook about her father’s condition and their lack of electricity, someone donated a solar panel to power a small refrigerator and other essential needs for Guillermo. March 18, 2018.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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