A memorial honoring Hurricane Maria victims opens in New York City

March 29, 2021

Photos courtesy of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office on Flickr

A memorial honoring the thousands of victims of Hurricane Maria, which struck Puerto Rico in 2017, opened in Battery Park City last week. Designed by Puerto Rico-based architect Segundo Cardona and artist Antonio Martorell, the memorial, “My Cry Into the World,” features an ascending glass spiral that evokes both a hurricane and a shell, symbolizing protection for “living organisms against a hostile environment.” The memorial is located at the overlook near Chambers Street.

The design allows visitors to step inside of the memorial, surrounded by glass panels painted by Martorell that depict the spiral and whipping winds of the hurricane that “damaged but could not destroy” the island, as the memorial’s dedicated website describes. There are benches inside the piece as well, allowing for moments of reflection.

A star reflecting the Puerto Rican flag sits on top supported by translucent, colored glass, which includes the poem written by Julia de Burgos titled Farewell from Welfare Island. According to the state, the poem was written by de Burgos when she was living in New York City and is the only work she ever wrote in English.

“Our proposal for the creation of a memorial in New York City to remember the victims of the hurricane arose from a shared vision that one can always transform the sad memory of adverse circumstances into something positive and poetic that can bring solace to all,” Cardona and Martorell said in a joint statement.

“The poem Farewell from Welfare Island, by one of Puerto Rico’s greatest poets, Julia de Burgos, is interpreted as organic shapes of calligraphy resulting in a boisterous expression of color, letters, and shapes. Its message, both timeless and specific, is sensitive to New Yorkers and to the Puerto Rican community of any gender and age. A message intended to involve passersby, invite curiosity, provoke thought and invoke contemplation.”

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September 2017, New York sent supplies and thousands of volunteers to help rebuild and repair the power system. The state also dedicated about $13 million to support 11,000 displaced hurricane victims living in New York City.

Cuomo announced plans for the project one year after Hurricane Maria’s landfall. He established a commission to solicit designs for a memorial honoring the victims and to stand as an international symbol of the resilience of the Puerto Rican community. According to the governor, 120 designs were submitted.

“New York was proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters when they needed our help the most, and we will never forget the victims who tragically lost their lives to Hurricane Maria,” Cuomo said.

“We committed to have a Memorial symbolizing the spirit and perseverance of the Puerto Rican people completed in one year’s time, and today we deliver on that promise. New York continues to stand with Puerto Rico, and this monument will serve as testament to that enduring partnership today, tomorrow, and always.”

Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published on March 9, 2020, and has since been updated. 


Images courtesy of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office

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