(CBS Local)–It’s been two years since Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico and took the lives of thousands of people.
Bronx native Nadia Hallgren takes a look back at the devastating hurricane and followed Puerto Rican families that were forced to live in FEMA hotels in her new Netflix documentary “After Maria.” The project was deeply emotional and personal for Hallgren.
“In many ways this reminded me of my own grandma’s migration from Puerto Rico to the Bronx,” said Hallgren in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “It was under different circumstances, but it was similar with no economic opportunity and a situation that looked dire. You go from living in the mountains of this tropical island to living in the Bronx. It’s concrete, it’s loud, it’s noisy and there’s so much happening.”
Hallgren says there was a huge amount of cultural shock for families arriving in the Bronx from Puerto Rico. The filmmaker wanted to use her documentary to explore Puerto Rican identity and the emotional and physical toll Hurricane Maria had on an entire island.
“Going into this film, we knew there would be an expiration date on the government assistance for these families,” said Hallgren. “It was a very emotional experience. The trauma and the post traumatic stress that comes out of living through a natural disaster like this from the elderly to children is tremendous. There was no support for families after going through that. They came and were dealing with the trauma from memories the storm and this crisis of where do we go next. There was never any system put into place to help them cope with this.”
While Hallgren focuses on many different parts of this story, the one that still sticks out in her mind the most is how the response to Hurricane Maria was handled.
“The storm itself was only one part of the story. The aftermath is where we had most of the casualties,” said Hallgren. “Over 3,000 people died and people watched their neighbors die because they couldn’t get insulin. There was no water and families were sharing one bottle of water and had no access to food. People died of dehydration and starvation. These were things that could’ve been prevented.”
“After Maria” is on Netflix now.