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Life After Hurricane Maria — In Search of Firsthand Stories


As Shelby Castillo ’19 interviews residents of Puerto Rico about the devastating impact of Hurricane Maria, she’s been struck by their strength of spirit. Castillo is working as a research intern in Puerto Rico, gathering firsthand perspectives related to the hurricane.

“In a place where it seems like all hope should be lost, the majority of Puerto Rican people are very resilient,” Castillo says. “They have made a way where it seemed like there wasn’t one. The stories that I am collecting are sometimes hard to hear and scary to think about, but they also demonstrate the strong spirit that Puerto Rican people have, and I think that is profound.”

about Shelby Castillo '19

Major: Psychology

Hometown: New York City

High School: Fashion Industries High School

More student internship stories

As part of her research Castillo is seeking Puerto Ricans’ opinions about U.S. control of their island and how the control affects their cultural resilience. She’s looking, too, at migratory patterns before and after the hurricane. “More specifically, I am gathering Puerto Rican people’s experiences and using them to observe how the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, and the United States’ inadequate response, has accelerated migration from Puerto Rico, inadvertently threatening Puerto Rico culture,” she explains.

Castillo, a psychology major, became interested in the identity of the Puerto Rican people in large measure because she was looking for answers about her own identity as a Puerto Rican. She’s working with a former visiting assistant professor at Hamilton, Reynaldo Ortiz, who is now at Brooklyn College, in the Hamilton-funded internship.

After she graduates, Castillo wants to spend a year researching culture and migration or enter a graduate program in clinical psychology.

“I’d eventually like to become a therapist. They seem like completely different routes, but both involve research and people and both put me on the path to helping others, which is what I am ultimately interested in,” Castillo says.

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