A new Issue of Alternautas is now available!

A new Issue of Alternautas is now available!

Beyond Puerto Rico, what kind of alternative Caribbean futures are being imagined and enacted in the wake of the 2017 hurricane season, and how are these entangled with a sense of greater infrastructural, relief or racial justice-- both local and regional? This special issue addresses the disaster conditions, responses and consequences not only in Puerto Rico but also in the impacted neighbouring islands of Barbuda, Dominica and Cuba. We expect this to be the beginning of a number of critical social research examining the Dominica, Haïti, Turks & Caicos, Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, St Kitts & Nevis, St. Martin the Dominican Republic, and the rest of Caribbean countries who encounters natural and not-so-natural disasters.
You can download here the journal issue in PDF. We forward to see this volume shared far and wide.

Happy reading!

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The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists by Naomi Klein (Haymarket Books, 2018)

The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists by Naomi Klein (Haymarket Books, 2018)

BOOK REVIEW By Sarah Molinari

The one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria calls into question the temporality of disaster, both in terms of lived experience and analysis. It was difficult for Puerto Ricans to mark the first anniversary while so many still live Maria’s daily effects physically, emotionally, and financially. Failing institutions and disaster recovery initiatives have too often deepened vulnerability in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, thus augmenting the confused sense of pre- and post-disaster. During a September Rutgers University symposium on the “Aftershocks of Disaster: Puerto Rico a Year after Maria,” anthropologist Yarimar Bonilla suggested that perhaps Hurricane Maria was the “aftershock” itself, the culmination of over a century of colonial-capitalist exploitation and layered traumas. If Hurricane Maria was the aftershock, how can we think about disaster and disaster capitalism? Naomi Klein’s The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists (2018) is a helpful starting point.

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The Politics of Survival in Puerto Rico: The Balance of Forces in the Wake of Hurricane María

The Politics of Survival in Puerto Rico: The Balance of Forces in the Wake of Hurricane María

By FERNANDO TORMOS

Puerto Rico’s left-wing forces have long tried to unify, a goal that has proven difficult to reach and even harder to sustain. At its strongest, the Left has faced intense repression from both the United States and the island’s colonial government. Yet, activists and left-wing intellectuals agree that deeper differences account for the collective inability to build unity. Historically, left-wing forces in Puerto Rico have split over the national question. Pro-independence groups, arguably the largest sector, have prioritized decolonization while socialists, feminists, and environmentalists have proposed a broader anti-oppressive praxis centered on social and economic issues. Other groups, such as the Movimiento Socialista de Trabajadores, do not see these struggles as mutually exclusive, calling for the formation of a socialist republic in Puerto Rico.

Today a new wave of Leftist organizing is emerging, one free from traditional Marxist or nationalist dogmas. This new Puerto Rican Left is organizing for economic justice and against colonialism while putting a greater emphasis on gender, sexuality, and race. It aims to foster young leadership, articulate new solidarities, and revive the practice of community organizing. It is learning from the errors of the past while picking up the sediments of previous struggles. Yet, if the Left wants to remain relevant, it must collaborate with the youth, student, community, feminist, farmer, and environmental justice groups that are bringing new energy to the island. This essay contextualizes the Puerto Rican Left in relation to the island’s political economy, identifies the forces in the Puerto Rican Left, reviews their differences and recent history, and presents a brief analysis of their political influence in Puerto Rican and US politics.

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Rewiring Puerto Rico: Power and Empowerment after Hurricane Maria

Rewiring Puerto Rico: Power and Empowerment after Hurricane Maria

By Lily Bui

Disasters unravel--infrastructures, institutions, societies, and assumptions. The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season brought forth multiple storms that not only stripped trees bare and dismounted roofs, but it also caught the Caribbean and Gulf Coast unprepared for the magnitude of destruction that such storms could bring, despite the best efforts of the messengers. Nearly half a year after the last hurricane season and half a year away from the onset of the next one, stories about the damage that Hurricane Irma and Maria caused have become hauntingly familiar. The stories less often told, though, are those about the long-term recovery efforts that have inevitably followed since the seas have calmed and the winds have died down.

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Cuba, Irma, and ongoing exceptionalism in the Caribbean

Cuba, Irma, and ongoing exceptionalism in the Caribbean

BY ROBERT COATES

In this post I review disaster risk/reduction in Cuba, particularly in light of the devastating 2017 hurricane season. The year after Irma is, for a number of reasons, an appropriate time to revisit the practices, meanings, and politics of disaster risk in this most interesting of cases. While Puerto Rico is negotiating temporary housing, an insufficient budget for critical services, and a disruptive political dispute over the post-disaster privatisation of education, the signs from Cuba are of significant recovery and business-as-usual as it enters the next hurricane season. Further intrigue is added by the fact that Raúl Castro stepped down as Cuban leader in April 2018, ending 59 years of Castro rule. The recent thaw in relations with the US under the Obama administration—and only partially refrozen by Trump—leads us to think through what the future might hold for disaster risk in a state widely considered to be in a process of opening to global influences and markets. I should add that I have as my primary target here an understanding of disaster risk rather than political ideology. Yet, as I will show, viewing the two separately proves impossible, given the clear links between societal form and top-down planning. Viewing them in tandem helps us to consider the mutually reinforcing connections between ideology, political-institutional legitimacy, and the triumph of societal organisation over not-so-natural disasters. As Cuba moves into the post-Castro era, its approach to hurricane exposure remains emphatically exceptional to what’s become a sad Caribbean norm of destitution, debt, blame shifting, and global political ineptness. Clues in dealing with the presence of natural hazards going forward must surely be found in independent analysis, as far as is possible free from twentieth century ideological conjecture.

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Entering the Contact Zone? Between Colonialism, Neoliberal Resilience and the Possibility of Emancipatory Politics in Puerto Rico’s Post-Maria

Entering the Contact Zone? Between Colonialism, Neoliberal Resilience and the Possibility of Emancipatory Politics in  Puerto Rico’s Post-Maria

By César J. Pérez-Lizasuain

Undoubtedly, the colonial and neoliberal regime in Puerto Rico precedes the scourge of Hurricane Maria on September 20, 2017. Therefore, when evaluating the “responses” that followed this atmospheric disaster, it is important to consider that the political, legal and economic base for such “answers” have been articulated from a long-standing colonial-neoliberal complex in the island. In this article, the author identifies this complex with what he calls the degenerative evolution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, established in 1952.

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The Plantation’s role in enhancing hurricane vulnerability in the nineteenth-century British Caribbean

The Plantation’s role in enhancing hurricane vulnerability in the nineteenth-century British Caribbean

By Oscar Webber

Hurricanes are the hazard most synonymous with the Caribbean and have, consequently, received the most attention from historians. Yet, they have tended to be considered exogenous phenomena. There has been little attention paid to the role endogenous factors have played in exacerbating the potential for loss from hurricane impacts. Through a comparison of the impacts of the Barbadian hurricane of 1831 and the Dominican hurricane of 1834 this article seeks to advance the existing literature by examining the role the plantation played in exacerbating hurricane vulnerability. In revealing the significantly contrasting amount of damage these islands sustained, this article shows that, at least in this case, the more expansive plantation agriculture of Barbados exposed its habitants to far greater human, economic and environmental losses.

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Resilience and community pride after a hurricane: counter-narratives from rural water systems in Puerto Rico

Resilience and community pride after a hurricane: counter-narratives from rural water systems in Puerto Rico

By Javier A. Arce-Nazario

When Hurricane María stripped Puerto Rico of its characteristic verdant foliage, it revealed complex layers of hidden geographies. The media coverage in the United States presented the destruction through visual and textual references to developing and “third-world” landscapes, while the accompanying headlines reminded us that its residents are “Americans”. This provocative juxtaposition was supported by several photographic themes, such as residents surveying debris or floods engulfing vehicles and neighborhoods. This article explores narratives of post-María experiences from non-PRASA communities. It is based on mixed-method interviews with non-PRASA community residents about conditions after the hurricane, in phone interviews conducted between September 2017 and January 2018, and in in-person interviews carried out in December 2017. Patterns are evident in these narratives that highlight the different experiences of consumers depending on their water source and access technology, and also highlight the contrasts that these residents drew with neighboring, PRASA-served communities. The experiences related below reveal how non-PRASA communities contribute to the overall Puerto Rican waterscape. They also illuminate issues around the discourses of sustainability and agency, development, society and technology, and colonialism.

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Introduction to the Special Issue: ‘The Making of Caribbean Not-so-Natural Disasters’

Introduction to the Special Issue: ‘The Making of Caribbean Not-so-Natural Disasters’

By Gibrán Cruz-Martínez, Melissa Fernández Arrigoitia, Janialy Ortiz Camacho & Patria Román-Velazquez

Hurricanes are not a novelty in the Caribbean. However, 2017 left several shocking facts for history books regarding intensity and frequency. Two Category 4 and two Category 5 hurricanes – the strongest category on the Saffir-Simpson scale – hit the Caribbean in a month's-time. Despite the label ‘natural disaster’, colonialism and human-induced factors are behind the high levels of inequality, climate change and incomplete recoveries in the Caribbean region, which increase the region's vulnerability to disaster. This special issue addresses the disaster conditions, responses and consequences not only in Puerto Rico but also in the impacted neighbouring islands of Barbuda and Cuba. We expect this to be the beginning of a number of critical social research examining the Dominica, Haïti, Turks & Caicos, Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, St Kitts & Nevis, St. Martin the Dominican Republic, and the rest of Caribbean countries who encounters natural and not-so-natural disasters.

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