On September 20th, 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall on the island of Puerto Rico causing devastating results. An Island with a history of decades of economic recession, inadequate infrastructure, and a negative effect of a century of colonial rule by the United States, Hurricane Maria unquestionably intensified the catastrophic circumstances in Puerto Rico. (Cons 2017; Torres 2018; Gay et al 2019). The aftermath of Hurricane Maria left thousands homeless and without basic resources in the Island. The study examines the effects of disparate social factors on individual responses to trauma before, during, and after the disaster and illuminates the circumstances affecting migratory decisions and displacement to Central Florida. To accomplish this, I analyzed 16 in-depth interviews about individuals' experiences with Hurricane Maria and subsequent displacement to Central Florida immediately following the storm. First, consistent with the fundamental premise of the Model of Conservation of Resources (COR), the individual's aim to retain, protect, and build resources after a natural disaster significantly affected trauma responses by Hurricane Maria survivors. The storm had a major impact on the individual's ability to preserve, safeguard, and restore critical resources after the storm. Second, individuals use narratives to create meaning, alleviate stress, and increase group identification as coping mechanisms after the traumatic event. Finally, experience with discrimination and prejudice and difficulties with English language proficiency once in the US, affected individual responses to trauma. Overall, pre-disaster social inequalities had a significant effect on trauma responses during and after the storm.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Vergara, Angela, "Puerto Rico After Hurricane Maria: Responses to Trauma and Constructing a New Life in Central Florida" (2020). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 624.