Meet the Puerto Rican sisterhood reinventing the island’s future after Maria

For generations, more than half of Puerto Ricans relied on informal construction to build affordable homes and bypass a costly, bureaucratic process. It was these homes that bore the brunt of María. About 300,000 dwellings suffered significant damage and some 70,000 of those were completely destroyed, according to the island’s Housing Department. Without formal property deeds, home owners struggled to get federal aid.

…The answer: shipping containers.

“They are fabricated to withstand the worst atmospheric conditions, in the middle of the ocean, getting hit by waves and typhoons.”

…HiveCube’s basic model is priced at $39,000. It includes two bedrooms, one bathroom and a kitchen-living area. They are compliant with US building codes and are ADA accessible. The entire structure, including the windows, can withstand a Category 5 hurricane with winds up to 175 miles per hour, assuming it is properly anchored to a foundation.

For an additional cost, the homes can be fitted with a solar power microgrid, rainwater collection and a sewage treatment system that doubles as a garden.


…Vilar put out a call for seeds through her nonprofit, Americas for Conservation and the Arts, …[and] working with Rodriguez Besosa, launched the Resilience Fund, a two-year campaign to restore 200 farms destroyed by María.

…Vilar and Rodriguez Besosa are on the front lines of a fast-growing movement to use locally-grown food as a way to decolonize the island. Their mission has evolved from emergency response to creating a lasting food legacy for future generations.

…Rodriguez Besosa, an architect by training, envisions a fundamental shift in the way farms are run — from large, one-crop, corporate strongholds to small-scale, sustainable, locally owned farms.


…With over 80 manufacturing plants and 10,000 skilled workers, Puerto Rico is a garment powerhouse.

…Puerto Rico is a major source of military apparel in the United States, according to a Congressional Report.

…It brought much needed cash flow, but also created a dependency on military contracts.

…In the first three months of operation, Retazo Moda Lab has received ten orders for high-end ready-to-wear fashion, which they’re in the process of delivering. They have an additional 30 clients on a waiting list.

“We want to plant the seeds for a fashion ecosystem to exist on the island,” said Herrero Lugo. “This is about coming together and seeing the potential of being good at multiple things.”


“After a month, it became clear that there were already these amazing service organizations on the island that had the systems, infrastructure and personnel to help people. But they didn’t have power.”

…”We got materials, solar panels, then flew them down there, got crews on the ground,” said Roig-Morris. Resilient Power’s mission quickly evolved from crisis response to building partnerships with community organizations providing critical services to vulnerable groups like the elderly, children and the impoverished.

…”You are choosing a community asset who is providing other services like education, clean water, health clinics.”

Resilient Power has identified about 100 community centers across the island that meet those criteria.

…Long-term, she explained, Resilient Power plans to emphasize training of young people in collaboration with universities on the island, and to promote an alternative-energy industry that creates jobs.

Meet the Puerto Rican sisterhood reinventing the island’s future after Maria – CNN

Very cool!


Castro proposes changes to Constitution, including term limits for president, gay marriage

Raúl Castro is proposing a new constitution that would limit the age of future presidents to 60 at the start of their first terms.

The constitutional reforms, discussed Saturday by the Cuban parliament, also would erase the word “Communism” from the document and open the way for same-sex marriage, according to official TV broadcasts of the gathering.

…The official web page Cubadebate also reported Saturday that the new constitution would define marriage as “the consensual union between two people, regardless of gender.” That’s been one of the demands by LGBTI groups on the island and Raúl Castro’s daughter, Mariela, who heads a sex education center in Havana.

…The president will continue to be elected by parliament and not directly by voters — a change that many Cubans wanted.

And the new constitution will recognize private property but “retains the essential principles of socialist ownership by the people over the basic means of production and central planning as a principal component,” according to the official Granma newspaper.

Castro proposes changes to Constitution, including term limits for president, gay marriage | Miami Herald


Genes of ‘extinct’ Caribbean islanders found in living people

Jorge Estevez grew up in the Dominican Republic and New York City hearing stories about his native Caribbean ancestors from his mother and grandmother. But when he told his teachers that he is Taino, an indigenous Caribbean, they said that was impossible. “According to Spanish accounts, we went extinct 30 years after [European] contact.”

…“These indigenous communities were written out of history,” says Jada Benn Torres, a genetic anthropologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville who studies the Caribbean’s population history and has worked with native groups on several islands. “They are adamant about their continuous existence, that they’ve always been [on these islands],” she says. “So to see it reflected in the ancient DNA, it’s great.”

Genes of ‘extinct’ Caribbean islanders found in living people | Science | AAAS