In November, the artist and writer Molly Crabapple spent a week in Puerto Rico documenting grassroots efforts by communities to rebuild after Hurricane Maria. Here are excerpts from her sketchbook.
On November 4, a little over a month after the hurricane, five bike punks arrived at La Loma, the hilltop community center in Mariana, the barrio where my friend Christine Nieves lives. They hung their hammocks between the beams of the ruined playground, lit some cigarettes, and got to work. Cooze, Greg, Angie, Jerry, and Bennie had come from Charlotte, North Carolina. A decade ago, they founded Ride or Destroy, a bike club known for its tricked out cycles and death-courting stunts—they refer to it as a gang, tongue half in cheek. The anarchism came later. In 2016, members took part in the anti-police-violence protests that broke out in Charlotte after police officers killed Keith L. Scott, a forty-three-year-old black man.
After Maria hit, the friends formed DABS, or Direct Action Bike Squad, then crowdfunded money to come to Puerto Rico in order to distribute supplies to mountain barrios. They first spent a week in Luquillo looking for work that needed doing, then, through a facebook page run by a network of Puerto Rican mutual aid centers, they found the mutual aid project started by the community in Mariana.