The Rebirth of One Puerto Rican Bar After Hurricane Maria
The evening after Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico in September 2017, Stephen Hoppe drove to La Penultima, the bar he and his brother, Christopher, had opened 11 months earlier. It was normally a short hop from Old San Juan to the Santurce neighborhood a few miles east, but it took a while longer that night. Like in a real-life video game, he had to double back every so often to avoid downed power lines and toppled trees, and looters he saw emptying a furniture store.
When he arrived, he was relieved—the place had survived mostly intact, save for a toppled passion fruit tree in their courtyard. The tall buildings surrounding the bar apparently funneled the Category 4 winds such that their building escaped the brunt of the damage.
They’d purchased a small, 8,000-watt generator earlier to use during construction. One of the first things Stephen did was to pull it out and power it up to keep refrigerators going and put on some lights, switching out plugs every so often so as to not overtax the power source. “We had to be strategic about what we were running,” Stephen said.