Aftershocks of Disaster- Yarimar Bonilla and Marisol LeBrón

In their anthology Aftershocks of Disaster, professors,  scholars, and public intellectuals, Yarimar Bonilla and Marisol LeBrón engage in a conversation about colonialism and coloniality and how current climate and governmental disasters, and recent Puerto Rican migration waves are connected to more than 122 years of US imperialism in Puerto Rico.

In a recent interview, Yarimar Bonilla argues that the 2020 earthquake “swarm” in Puerto Rico pushed us to expand their framework of the Aftershock.

“In an earthquake swarm, there is no sense of a “main event” with smaller precursors and successors. Instead, you have a jumble of seismic events of disordered magnitudes, depths, epicenters, and consequences.

I’ve thus started to think that what Puerto Rico and many of its neighbors are experiencing might best be understood as a “disaster swarm,” with hurricanes, earthquakes, debt crisis, migratory crisis, imperial violence, austerity governance, and other forms of structural and systemic violence all acting as a disordered jumble upon a collective body that cannot distinguish a main event or a discrete set of impacts.”


Aftershocks (of Hurricane María): an examination of not “just the effects of the wind or rain but also what followed [and preceded it]: state failure, social abandonment, capitalization on human misery, and the collective trauma produced by the botched response.” (2)

Aftershocks happen “every time systemic failures are revealed, death and damages are denied, aid is refused, profiteering is discovered, and officials who were not elected by local residents make drastic decisions about the island’s future (3).”

Building from the premise that Hurricane Maria is not a singular event, Bonilla, LeBrón, and the contributors of the anthology defend that Puerto Rico endured coloniality of disaster, that is, “the way  the structures and enduring legacies of colonialism set the stage for María’s impact and its aftermath (11).” The particular trauma experienced in Puerto Rico after María is deeply tied to a longer preexisting colonial trauma (12).”

Group Discussion

For those with family members or friends on the archipelago of Puerto Rico, how Hurricane Maria and/or the earthquakes particularly affected your loved ones?



Oral/slide presentations

Cancel, Caitlin

Cepeda, Liliana

Concise Writing Exercise

Engage in a 5-minute brainstorm/writing session based on the essay and your own analysis.

Write a concise response in the chat based on this prompt:

How writers, journalists, artists, activists, and organizers offer us ways to understand the disaster and imagine futures for Puerto Rico?  (Pages 10-16)