The networks of mutual support in Puerto Rico that sprung up like a flower through the concrete after Hurricane Maria, show how mutual aid responses to disasters build power and resilience for future crises, both political and climate-related. These Centros de Apoyo Mutuo (Mutual Aid Centers) served as nuclei for relief efforts to coalesce around after the recent earthquakes in southern Puerto Rico. Actions taken by these mutual aid networks have been potent examples of revolutionary ideas of autonomy and self-governance.
Partnering with Rock Spring United Church of Christ, a justice-focused church out of Virginia who provided significant funding and volunteers for the efforts, along with technical expertise from Footprint Project and Solar Village Project, together we were able to re-wire the first and second floor and install new fans and LED lights at the Centro de Apoyo Mutuo Bucarabones Unidos (CAMBU) in Las Marias, Puerto Rico. Our friends here now plan to launch a computer lab for the community in addition to their other programs in this rural area, all running off of 100% renewable energy.
Rock Spring Church volunteers at CAMBU in Las Marias, Puerto Rico
Nearby, in Lares, an abandoned school is in the process of being transformed into a vibrant mutual aid community space, by Centro de Apoyo Mutuo Lares. Lares has one of the highest displacement rates of any community on the island – lots of people can’t find work here and move to San Juan or leave the island entirely. Folks working on the project told us that, aside from providing emergency housing, a communal kitchen and meeting space, the main purpose will be to share and build skills necessary for people to support themselves and each other and not have to leave Lares to work in San Juan, with a particular focus on food autonomy and agroecology. One organizer in particular emphasized the significance of food autonomy on the island as much of the island still depends on imports for many food staples.
A small photovoltaic system is installed here in Lares for now and we worked to clean & reclaim several rooms. But as their vision for the space grows and more rooms are rescued, we aim to have their back and come back to install a larger, more permanent solar array that can power the legal clinic, agroecology programs, workshops, skillshares, music nights and anything else they are dreaming up.
Volunteer makes connections for rooftop solar in Puerto Rico
Las Carolinas Centro de Apoyo Mutuo is run by all women and has been steadily serving the people since Hurricane Maria, especially elders in the community. Together, we installed solar power for the people here as well, along with newer, more energy efficient lights, fans, and appliances.
Finishing up the wiring at the Las Carolinas Mutual Aid Center in Puerto Rico
These mutual aid centers, and more like them, show a path forward through political, economic, and climate crises. In grounding their vision for revolutionary change in tangible action supporting the people in their community, they are building for the future, one meal, one workshop, one acupuncture treatment, one act of compassion, one act of resistance, at a time. And we are excited to build alongside them, one light switch, one solar panel, one friendship into the future, knowing that whatever may come our way, we know we have each other.