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Co-host of the Episode Party podcast, author of Storm Static Sleep: A Pathway Through Post-rock, editor at ATTN:Magazine.
"It's still not like it used to be," says Tony Ayala, co-owner of Aqui Se Puede bar in Old San Juan. It's difficult to forget the images of the physical destruction caused by the worst natural disaster on record to hit Puerto Rico. Yet there is another side to Hurricane Maria's path of devastation — one that fails to appear in those photographs of crumbling infrastructure and rising flood waters, but one that a podcast like Racist Sandwich is uniquely able to document.
Host Juan Ramirez has first-hand experience of the impact of hurricanes. Having grown up in Mexico, he witnessed the chaos caused by Hurricane Pauline in 1997. He was also in New York during 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, and while his particular district was physically unaffected, he was nonetheless prepared for the worst.
For his takeover episode on The Racist Sandwich Podcast — a show about food, race, class and gender — he travels to Puerto Rico to talk to business owners about their experiences as hurricane survivors. Coffee plantation owner Ruben Ramos discusses losing most of his harvest and having to use bleach and laundry detergent to protect the remaining crop. Café owners Karla Quiñones and Abner Roldán talk about the degraded quality of their specialty coffee offering — a seemingly minor impact, perhaps, but one that acts as a consistent, bitter reminder of the hurricane itself.
Most alarming of all is the extended conversation with Tony Ayala, who describes the hysteria that, even now, grips Puerto Rico in the event of a power cut. Even as the infrastructural recovery of the territory continues, there is an emotional unrest that resides in the minds of survivors, with threads of memory running all the way back to the event itself.