Sobreviviendo la Tormenta
A fallen tree was painted with the colors of the Puerto Rican flag in the tourist district of Old San Juan. Across the island, there are still fallen trees, road signs and light poles in public spaces – visible signs of the government’s delayed recovery efforts.
A food aid distribution line in Aguada, Puerto Rico on February 7, 2018. Five months after Hurricane María, residents still depended on supplies from FEMA, which were handed out by local authorities and volunteers every Wednesday. But according to locals, the amount they receive varies week-to-week: sometimes they receive a case of bottled water, sometimes just a few bottles.
Workers pass bags of concrete in a human chain from a park road to a zip line platform further down the hill in El Yunque National Forest. The concrete and other supplies are then loaded onto a cargo sled and sent down the hill to another crew working to restore park facilities so that it can be opened to visitors.
A view of the Caribbean from El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico in February, 2018. Normally, thick vegetation blocks the view of the sea, but Hurricane María stripped the island bare. Five months after the storm, the forest was just beginning to grow back.
A worker in a road construction crew tasked with fixing a massive landslide in El Yunque National Forest. The forest includes mountain peaks where various government agencies have installed essential communication towers, but the hurricane made the road nearly impassable in several sections.
An abandoned car in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. In February 2018, five months after Hurricane María made landfall, infrastructure was still damaged and thousands of residents had left the island for the mainland US, leaving damaged homes and idle cars behind.
Elías is an Air Force veteran who lives in Punta Santiago, Puerto Rico, on the eastern side of the island. He says that during Hurricane María, flood waters were up to his chest.
A line worker from Sacramento Municipal Utility District works on electrical lines in Río Grande, Puerto Rico. Crews from around the mainland US volunteered to help with reconstruction efforts after Hurricane María left the entire island without power.
Nathan Damigo, founder of the white nationalist group Identity Evropa, at a right wing rally in Berkeley on April 15, 2017. The protest, which became known as the "Battle of Berkeley," was a daylong fight between the far right and far left that presaged the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Damigo was filmed punching a female counter-protester, an assault that raised his profile in the movement and was used as online propaganda.
Damigo would later help organize the violent "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville that left three people dead. The experience he gained in Berkeley was instrumental, teaching him and his allies how far they could push the limits of protest.
These images are part of a series of articles and radio reports I published with John Sepulvado, host of KQED's The California Report, that detailed some of the methods and goals of the modern white supremacist movement.
On February 1, 2017, a large demonstration at UC Berkeley shut down a speaking event featuring Milo Yiannopoulos. Images of the protest were broadcast around the country, including footage of a militant black bloc that fought police and damaged university property.
Leftists considered Yiannopoulos, a former editor at the far right website Breitbart and white nationalist sympathizer, to be a threat to undocumented students on campus. Conservatives around the country claimed law enforcement hadn't done enough to protect freedom of speech and public safety.
Masked protesters toppled a mobile light trailer and set it on fire during the demonstration against Yiannopoulos. His event was cancelled after demonstrators removed police barricades and occupied Sproul Plaza.
In the following months, conservatives and right wing groups held a series of provocative demonstrations in Berkeley in the name of free speech, including the "Battle of Berkeley" that propelled Nathan Damigo to viral fame.
Protesters burned a "Make America Great Again" hat they snatched away from a Trump supporter during the demonstration against Milo Yiannopoulos at UC Berkeley.
Right wing activists battle counter-protesters in downtown Berkeley on April 15, 2017. Although police had the rally cordoned off early in the day, they withdrew after tensions escalated into violence, allowing both sides to engage in a running street battle.
Other right wing figures achieved viral fame for participating in the violence in Berkeley, like Kyle "Based Stick Man" Chapman, who was filmed hitting a leftist counter-protester on the head with a wooden rod.
Trump supporters and counter-protesters fight on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley on April 15, when police arrested at least 21 people in connection with the protests. The clashes in Berkeley drew a huge variety of protesters and counter-protesters, including Trump voters, libertarians, white nationalists, democratic socialists, anarchists and mainstream liberals and conservatives. In this confusing milieu, Damigo and his white nationalist allies picked fights, recruited new members and created propaganda through memes and viral videos.
Many people were hurt during the fighting, with police reporting at least 11 injured on April 15 alone. Trisha, who declined to state her last name after she received online threats for her participation in a previous protest, bandages Rudy McKay's head after he was injured in a clash between far right and far left protesters in Berkeley.
As the spring wore on, divisions between allied groups began to form, as moderates on the left and the right voiced their opposition to violence. On the right, an additional schism developed between groups like the Oathkeepers, a paramilitary group whose members are often former service members, and white nationalists like Nathan Damigo.
Videos of different right wing groups confronting each other circulated online as energy from the election of Donald Trump dissipated and the country recoiled from the murder of two men in a Portland streetcar by an avowed white supremacist. The "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, planned for August, was an effort build a lasting alliance between white nationalists and other right wing groups.
A volunteer medic washes a protester's face with milk after he was exposed to pepper spray in Berkeley.
After the violent rally in Charlottesville left three people dead, Damigo remained defiant and predicted the event would bring more recruits to his organization. “I think there's going to be a lot of people who are going to, for the first time, realize that they're not getting the full story,” he said.
Dungeness crab, an iconic Northern California delicacy, has a season that normally starts in the fall and is scheduled to be open through June, but by the end of the first month fishermen estimate that 80 percent of the population has already been harvested.
This early-season rush is called a "derby" and it's driven by large boats that dock further north, which sell their catch to giant seafood processors that ship the crab elsewhere — even to China – much of it frozen and packaged for consumers in other states and nations.
This photo essay originally ran with the feature "Shell Shocked," by Luke Tsai, in the East Bay Express.
The derby also deprives restaurants such as Camino in Oakland from serving fresh crab in April, May, and June.
San Francisco's Pier 45, located next to Fisherman's Wharf, is still an important stop for commercial crab vessels like this one.
Half Moon Bay-based fisherman Marc Alley on the Ronna Lynn. His craft, which he built himself, is almost certainly the tiniest crab boat that docks at Pillar Point. It's a 23-foot-long blue and white skiff — shallow, flat-bottomed, completely open to the air.
Alley says the advantage of his boat's size is increased speed and maneuverability, which allows him to fish in worse weather than larger boats. Here, his deckhand watches for buoys that mark the location of pots.
The cold coastal waters of Northern California pose a challenge during crab season, which brings rough weather to the region. On days when swells are high, fewer fishermen go out to check their crab pots.
A seafood wholesaler unloads the day's catch at Pier 45.
Dungeness crab's popularity is justly deserved, but the industry has relatively few regulations and its fame comes at the price of artificially limited availability.
Here's the way the fishing works: Alley steers the boat out toward the buoys that are attached to his traps, each one a reddish-orange capsule bobbing in the sea. Once we're in position, the deckhand starts up the boat's winch system, tugging on a pull-cord like you'd do with a lawnmower until it comes sputtering to life. Alley lifts the buoy out of the water and hooks it onto the winch, which pulls 300 feet of rope up in a matter of seconds, until the trap appears.
Alley pulls a crab trap aboard. Only a month into the season, catches have dwindled and most of the crabs are undersized, female, or of the wrong species (rock crabs, mostly, which require a different permit). Alley and other small boat fishermen would benefit from a longer crab season.
The traps also have a kind of "self-destruct" function, so that if one of them gets lost, a section of rope disintegrates in the water after a couple of months, allowing any crabs trapped inside to escape.
Wholesale facilities, like this one owned by Monterey Market at Pier 33, have large seawater tanks for crab storage. Each of these can hold 1,000 pounds of crab and there are three onsite.
La Reserva Ecológica Mache-Chindul, Ecuador
The Mache-Chindul Ecological Reserve is an ecological park on the northern coast, which represents some of the last old-growth rainforest in the region — only 5% of the original habitat remains, in what was one of the most biodiverse areas in the world.* In theory protected by the government, the reserve is being rapidly deforested by illegal logging with the complicity of local authorities.
Non-indigenous villages were established in forests across Ecuador following agrarian reform in the 1960’s and 70’s, which encouraged the landless poor to colonize “vacant” wilderness and develop agriculture. After the government recognized the need to protect biodiversity, it declared these communities illegal and refused to provide social services to their inhabitants, who by then had lived in the forest for a generation or more.
The lack of services, intergenerational poverty and remoteness of forest communities forces people to clearcut old growth trees to survive, continuing the process of environmental degradation.
This image is a partial double exposure of Kodak Tri-X 400 film.
*Jefferson Mecham, “Causes and consequences of deforestation in Ecuador,” 2001
A farmer from Mono Bravo (“Wild Monkey”), a remote village inside the reserve, walks among his cacao trees. Cacao pods are traditionally harvested with hand tools like machetes and long poles tipped with sharpened hooks, which are used to cut the stems of fruit growing on high branches.
Cacao en baba (cacao in pulp). Cacao is an important export crop grown by farmers who live inside the Mache-Chindul reserve. Farmers are often victimized by middlemen in larger towns outside of the reserve, who pay as little as possible for the raw beans and then sell them to processing facilities at a profit.
Conservation groups believe cacao, which is traditionally shade-grown, can bring higher incomes to the region while preserving the forest canopy. But to do that, local farmers need their own processing facilities and relationships with chocolate exporters instead of the local middlemen who exploit their labor.
A chain from a chainsaw. Residents of the Mache-Chindul reserve are easily recruited to clearcut old growth forests on their land by middlemen working for large timber interests because the returns on their cacao crops are pitifully small.
Timber merchants offer cash advances so the farmers can rent mules, pay a crew and buy fuel for their chainsaws to harvest trees, but the profits from logging are usually just enough to cover the upfront costs, leaving the farmers perpetually beholden to the merchants who hire them to destroy their own forests.
Cesar Castillo Estupiñan (center) speaks with community members of Guayacán, a farming community deep in the Mache-Chindul reserve. Castillo, who comes from another village in the reserve, was hired as a community liaison by Forest For A Living, a pilot conservation program. It was designed to give cacao farmers greater returns on their crop by building local processing facilities and direct relationships with exporters. The hope was that better livelihoods would remove the need for clearcut logging.
A young farmer from Mono Bravo visits the center of the village.
Esmeraldas Province, where Mache-Chindul is located, is the historical homeland of the Afro-Ecuadorian community. The first African residents of the region escaped from a slave ship that wrecked off the coast here in 1553 and mixed with the indigenous population. By the end of the sixteenth century, they had established villages of zambos, or those who were descended from mixed African and indigenous heritage. These autonomous communities continued to attract escaped slaves, until slavery was abolished in the nineteenth century. Their combination of indigenous and African cultures can be seen in Ecuadorian literature, like the poetry of Nelson Estupiñán Bass, and the regional music called marimba.
A woman from Mono Bravo comforts her sick child. Clinics are rare inside the reserve, since the government does not provide services to its residents, and it can take hours to reach a town large enough to have a health center.
Junior, from Mono Bravo, perches on the windowsill of his family’s house. Education in coastal Ecuador is not free and many families can’t afford to send their children to school. In addition to the cost of enrollment, most schools are far from the rural communities of the reserve and children who attend them often have to live with relatives in faraway towns and cities.
The view from a hilltop farm in Guayacán. The reserve includes a low, but steep, coastal mountain range that serves as an important watershed in the region. Widespread deforestation in the Esmeraldas province has destabilized the local environment, leading to flooding and desertification as the trees that hold the soil in place on steep hillsides are removed.
A woman from Guayacán rests on her family’s porch. In rural Ecuadorian villages, women normally work on the farms nearly as much as men do, while also raising children and cooking. Some women also help with logging and hauling timber out of the reserve, which involves several days of backbreaking work and camping in the forest.
Project staff of Forest For A Living travel up a riverbed to Guayacán. There are few roads inside the reserve, so rivers serve as the main access to remote villages. Community members buy or rent horses to carry goods in and out when they can afford to, because the terrain is too rough for motor vehicles. The remoteness of forest communities also makes it difficult for farmers to get produce to buyers outside the reserve.
Dr. Amy Rogers, director of Forest For A Living. The pilot project was not adequately funded andafter it closed, the villages it worked with were contracted by Original Beans, a conservation-oriented Swiss chocolate company.
During the wet season, canoes are a common way to get between rural villages and the larger towns outside the reserve. Local residents often navigate the shallow river with poles like this, but some canoe owners operate their boats as water taxis, using off board motors to move people and goods in and out of Mache-Chindul. During the dry season the river is too low to navigate, so people must walk or travel on horseback.
Rubber boots are the footwear of choice in coastal Ecuador, since tropical rainstorms create deep mud and paved roads don’t reach most of the smaller villages. Officially, the government does not recognize the villages within the reserve, so these communities don’t receive municipal resources like electricity or transportation without paying for them directly.
Men sit near their motorcycles in a town on the edge of the reserve, waiting for customers. Motorcycles serve as taxis in the larger villages, carrying passengers back and forth from the main road. Pickup truck drivers entering the reserve often rent space for rides, too, charging around one dollar per person.
Coconut shells spill down the river bank from a house to the water, where the family’s canoes are tied up. While individual farms are often located deep inside the forest, most villages in the reserve are centered on the river. Homes like this are located on the banks to make it easier for residents to travel outside the reserve and ship their produce to market towns on the main road along the coast.
Farmers gather palm fronds to thatch a roof in Palma Real, a village located in the Mache-Chindul reserve.
Photo shot on Fuji Superia color film.
Palma Real is miles from the main road, but people make the difficult trip every day to sell produce from the village in towns outside the reserve, and products from outside to the village's residents. These fish were harvested downriver and brought to the village by the children of the fishery's owner. They rode in a truck for some of the distance, but when the road became impassible they had to hand-carry the heavy buckets.
Local children take a well-deserved break from the ceaseless work of farming in a jungle. In villages inside the reserve, children often work the family farm along with their parents. Although the village is small and only made up of a few families, it boasts its own school, which can be seen in the background.
Most of the crops in Palma Real's plots are shade-grown, mixing among the bamboo and other species normally found in the forest. Cacao is the main export, but oranges, grapefruit, mango and papaya are also crucial to the village economy.
Puerto Lopez, Ecuador
Located on Ecuador's central coast, Puerto Lopez is close to productive fishing grounds, which have always been the backbone of the local economy.
Shark fishing is illegal in Ecuador, but a certain amount of by-catch is allowed. This is because net fishing, the preferred method among local fishermen, is by nature imprecise. Because of the high international demand for shark fin soup, the law is widely flouted.
Equilibrio Azul, a nonprofit which studies marine environmental health, has begun tracking the numbers and ages of sharks that are sold in Puerto Lopez to document the effects of the trade. Internationally, shark finning has been found to massively reduce breeding populations.
Beacon Light SDA Church, Richmond
A parishioner of Beacon Light SDA Church in Richmond, Ca. follows the day's lesson. Beacon Light has been part of the community for generations and its congregation has weathered many storms, including the refinery fire of August 6, 2012, when a meeting of elders had to shelter in place at the church.
One of the church elders takes delight in leading a prayer for the congregation. Despite Richmond's reputation for high crime and poor environmental health, it is also a community with deep roots and an important role in the history of the Bay Area.
Although Richmond has traditionally been a largely African American community, in recent years Latino residents, many of them immigrants, have come to represent more than a quarter of the population. Beacon Light hosts services in Spanish as well as English and the church has members from France, Trinidad, Latin America and all over the US.