Optimism fills Puerto Rico as recovery post-Maria continues

AGUADILLA, Puerto Rico (WSVN) – Puerto Rico continues to recover months after Hurricane Maria destroyed the island, but the optimism of Puerto Ricans has yet to be destroyed.

On Sunday, Operation Gift Lift brought thousands of toys to families in Aguadilla. Many have yet to make a full recovery since the hurricane, but those like resident Doris Lassalle remain positive.

“We are blessed and we are lucky for being alive,” said Lassalle.

Sixty people have died so far as a result of Irma, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency said total damage will exceed $1 billion.

“You still have people with no power,” said taxi driver Humberto Letriz. “If you go central of the island, that’s very bad up there in the mountains. No power, probably no water.”

Letriz drove 7News through parts of Aguadilla. One of the best beaches in Puerto Rico, Crashboat Beach, was battered by the storm. “This was one of the top 10 beaches in the world,” said Letriz. “We lost this beach.”

Even though the beach remains in shambles, there are signs that things may return to normal. Alredo Romano, who has been selling coconuts at the beach since he was 11 years old, is back at work. Now he just needs customers.

Translating for Romano, Letriz said, “He said, yeah, he would like the tourists to come back. Obviously, it’s bad right now, but it will get better in the future.”

Further down the road from the beach, fisherman Raymond “Muncho” Bass is also eager to return to work and do what he does best: catch fish. “Mahi, we got tuna, red snapper, yellowtail snapper, grouper,” said Bass.

“Muncho” said he expects to return to the sea next week.

Downed power lines still riddle the streets and landmarks around the island, however. “This is where Christopher Columbus discovered Puerto Rico,” said Letriz.

While destruction is easy to spot, it’s even easier to find those who are ready to return to their normal lives on the island. “This just takes a while, you know?” said Letriz. “This is a slow process, and every day we’ll get better.”

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