MAUNABO, Puerto Rico — The vibrant, colorful, and music-filled island of Puerto Rico is an easy place to enjoy.
Although the capital San Juan is fast, fun, and full of life, the progress in recovery following Hurricane Maria is best observed in the small, seaside municipality of Maunabo.
- Nydia Greo, Hector Ortiz struggling to rebuild home
- Hurricane Maria turned house into a construction zone
- Couple said work hard to complete; only income source is social security
- More Puerto Rico coverage
In Maunabo, the windy shores harmonize with the hammers wielded by men whose wrinkled hands shouldn't have to hold them.
“I am 73 years old," yelled one man from his roof, whose home is in pieces all around him. "And the only help I have is God.”
Across the street, there is another couple in their 70s. Nydia Greo and Hector Ortiz had planned to live out their days in their home. But while taking a step inside, that dreams seems very far away.
“My bedroom is back here, but we have to close this, because the water was coming down," said Nydia walking down one of her halls.
Hector is 74 years old, while Nydia is 70 years old. Hurricane Maria turned their home into a construction zone.
"When I am going to mix concrete and something like that, before when I was younger, I could mix about three or four bags. Now I can do only one," Hector said.
It’s heartbreaking and defeating to start over at 74.
“I did cry," Hector said with tears in his eyes. "But I didn’t want her to see me cry, and my son. I try to look strong. So I started cleaning.”
For the last 19 months, the couple has cleaned and worked to fix their home. But almost all the rooms can still use a great deal of work.
They admit with only social security as a source of income, the work is hard to complete. Hiring workers and buying supplies are very expensive.
"Little by little, little by little, little by little," said Hector on their progress.
The same phrase is also uttered by his neighbor too.
“A little, by little, I do it by myself. No one is going to help," said his neighbor.
Neighbors rely on neighbors, and Nydia and Hector look to each other.
"I got a strong wife anyways," Hector said. "And she is always talking, giving me nice words, nice words, talking to me. ‘You can do it, you can do it. Don’t worry you can do it.’”
Their strong hands hold onto to each other and to the hope that help will soon come.
“My husband and I want to have our last years in our house," said Nydia.
They have also reached out to local faith organizations, but unless someone steps up, starting over at 70 will remain their reality.