Author (Your Name)

Caitlin BrackenFollow

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Global Studies Program


Dr. Nicolás Ramos Flores

Second Advisor

Dr. Nadia El-Shaarawi


Through a combination of research and interviews, this paper unpacks the policies that expose colonialist realities and how Puerto Rican mutual aid societies engaged with those policies in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Policies and decisions such as cabotage law under the Jones Act; the quality of Puerto Rican bonds being triple-tax exempt; the inability to refinance or default on debt; the Insular Cases and other Supreme Court cases; and PROMESA, have established a colonial relationship with significant material and political consequences for Puerto Rico. These consequences were brought to light after Hurricane Maria, where the U.S.’s inadequate response resulted in an unprecedented loss of lives. Following the hurricane, Puerto Rico experienced a surge of mutual aid societies and non-profit organizations that were crucial in providing disaster relief as they supplemented many gaps left by federal disaster relief. By interviewing some mutual aid societies, I excavate their perspective on the sharp growth of the third sector and analyze their short-term work providing disaster relief as well as long-term efforts towards the recovery, rebuilding, and resiliency planning of the island. These mutual aid societies underscore Puerto Rico’s new agency, providing unique insights into the ways colonial policies restrict the island’s self-determination while simultaneously providing a model for decolonizing at the root. I hope this project helps delineate the colonial policies that informed or exacerbated the federal response but also recognizes the growth of mutual aid networks as a source of material gain and hope.


Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico, Colonialism, Disaster Relief, Mutual Aid, Disaster Capitalism