MAYAGÜEZ, Puerto Rico (PNS) — Reaching remote, mountainous communities in the western part of Puerto Rico can be challenging. Downed trees and power lines along with mudslides have kept many roads closed. But for the narrow roads that are open, there is barely enough room for one car.
The roads are clogged with thousands of twisted and tangled trees downed by Hurricane Maria nearly 60 days ago. Branches are mingled with power lines. But the barren, black and brown trees from a few weeks ago, are beginning to turn green. Vegetation is growing again.
Work to remove debris and repair roads is often hampered by the continued heavy rains that pound the mountain, starting new mudslides and causing newly established utility polls to fall in the over-saturated earth.
A Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) delegation made its way this week into the remote areas of the island, passing through hilltop towns like Las Marias, which stands for “town of sweet oranges.”
“They used to have a lot of orange trees, but they’ve almost all disappeared because of the absence of bees,” said Manuel Silva, chair of the synod’s program division. “But remarkably, Maria brought the bees back.”
The delegation finally made its way to the town of Maricao, described as the poorest town on the island. There is still no electricity in the small mountain town.
“Most of this community’s 5,000 people live up in the mountains. Many are farmers and coffee growers, but lost everything with the hurricane,” said Angel Suarez -Valera, moderator of the Iglesia Presbiteriana congregation. “We also have some people who have migrated from the Dominican Republic. God presents challenges to our church. It is hard for the presbytery to send pastors to work here because it is so difficult to reach.”