“Students were the ones whose social lives were mangled, whose academic lives were mangled, who had their goals upturned, because of those policies,” Queriot explained. “That’s where it started.” To him, the arrest of Keleher was the beginning of the movement to oust Gov. Ricardo Roselló.
Not long afterward, the Center for Investigative Journalism released hundreds of text messages from Roselló and his inner circle, including a joke from his former chief finance officer about the bodies that had piled up in morgues in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Hundreds of thousands of people poured into the streets for two weeks until Roselló stepped down.
Two years to the day after Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, Queriot will join the international climate strike on Friday, skipping school to rally in front of Puerto Rico’s capitol building in San Juan with students from numerous high schools, universities, and elementary schools, alongside adult allies. The global day of action centers around the experience of the first generation to come of age at a time when the impacts of the climate crisis are undeniable.
The climate strike movement may have been inspired by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, but the most powerful youth-led climate movement of the moment may actually be in Puerto Rico. In the island territory, the climate strike generation has a name: “la generación del ‘yo no me dejo,’” or “the generation of ‘I’m not going to let you do this to me.’” They’ve also been called the “Maria Generation.” They’re part of a subset of the climate strikers whose way of seeing the world will be forever shaped by their early experiences of a climate-driven disaster.
The storm, said Queriot’s 17-year-old classmate, Fernando Ramírez, “gave us not only a sense of what’s in us, but also a reality check telling us that climate change is real — to tell us that we need to fight.”
In New York, 13-year-old Marisol Rivera, who will also be striking Friday, has had her entire life shaped by the impacts of disasters. She was 5 years old when her home in Brooklyn was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. “I don’t remember a lot of Sandy, but what I do remember is me waking up to my mom telling me that we can’t stay at the house anymore,” she said. She got out of bed and looked behind her. “The ceiling had collapsed on my bed that I was laying on seconds ago.”