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After Maria, an ‘Earthship’ Rises in Puerto Rico

In western Puerto Rico, families and volunteers are building a low-tech, resilient haven out of earth, tires, and trash.
Mario Atunez. He and his wife Lauralina Melendez first had the idea to build an Earthship in Puerto Rico.
Mario Atunez. He and his wife Lauralina Melendez first had the idea to build an Earthship in Puerto Rico.Jayme Gershen

A few years ago, Lauralina Melendez returned to her native Puerto Rico with her Venezuelan husband, Mario Atunez, and their two kids. They’d been living in San Francisco, and decided they wanted to connect to Melendez’s culture and live closer to nature.

So they moved to Aguadilla, on the west coast of the island. The family was settling into life there when last year’s hurricane season began. During Hurricane Maria, they took shelter with a friend who had a concrete house in their town. Downed trees and power lines prevented them from making it back to their house for more than a week after the storm, and they returned to find part of their roof had caved in.