Celebrating Caribbean American Heritage Month: Voices of Caribbean Resource Managers

Playa Sardinera, Isla de Mona, Puerto Rico Image: Alan Cressler

In recognition of Caribbean American Heritage Month, we are highlighting the Caribbean oral history project conducted by a team including 2021-2022 Global Change Fellow Melody Hunter-Pillion in 2018. Along with others at the Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center and the U.S. Geological Survey, Melody recorded oral histories from resource managers attending the U.S. Caribbean drought workshop in San Juan, Puerto Rico about their experiences with drought and Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. According to Melody, conducting oral history projects provides invaluable nuance about the feelings that occur by having gone through a climatic event, adding to the knowledge that physical observations provide.

The project captured oral histories from nine resource managers from Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands: Vanessa Forbes, Soledad Gaztambide, Felix Aponte-Gonzalez, Kristen Wilson-Grimes, Greg Guannel, Pablo Mendez Lazaro, Arthur Petersen, Marianela Torres Rodriguez, and Brenda Torres.

These interviews recount personal experiences about what it was like in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which created extreme amounts of flooding and devastation, as well as individual experiences with more chronic issues such as drought. As Dr. Pablo Mendez Lazaro pointed out, water management should be approached from a holistic perspective not only thinking about the quantity of water in certain regions but also equity surrounding the distribution of water resources. Climate workshops, such as the one in Puerto Rico, allow for resource managers and community members to come together to brainstorm solutions and adaptations to extreme events, climate change, and ecosystem impacts. These efforts are made stronger, however, when done in conjunction with understanding an individual community’s experience with a climatic event through oral history projects.

The archive of the Caribbean oral history project includes video interviews and transcripts in English and Spanish.

Watch a video describing climate issues in the Caribbean:

Explore the Caribbean oral history project.