Hurricane Maria Landed Her in Texas

The Texas Story Project.

Just days before Hurricane Maria struck the island of Puerto Rico, evacuation orders were issued. The island was in chaos, all while still recovering from Hurricane Irma from two weeks before. More than 2,000 Puerto Ricans hid in one of the 450 shelters that were opened. Many more fled to San Juan and to the mainland US to cities such as Orlando, Miami, New York, and Atlanta. For at least one person, Maria changed the entire direction of her life.

Wilzave Quiles Guzman, from Arecibo, Puerto Rico, had her entire life planned out. She was going into her senior year of high school, and had already committed to study at la Universidad de Puerto Rico en Mayagüez. She had friends, connections, and people who had promised her a position at their company. Life was good, up until the storm made everything fall apart. Wilzave had to start her life over in San Antonio, Texas.

When Wilzave first moved to San Antonio on December 2, 2017, she was supposed to graduate a year after she originally planned to. Schools in Puerto Rico were closed just weeks after starting school, so she was a semester behind in all her classes. When she started school, she could easily understand English and didn’t have a problem understanding her teachers. However, she had difficulty making non-Spanish speaking friends because she had trouble speaking the language. All of the plans for her future that she had made in Puerto Rico were gone, and she wasn’t sure about anything anymore.

However, Wilzave decided to think positive by seeing how blessed she was for the things she received after the storm. “When I got to the apartment, I looked around...everything that I have is because people have given to me because God has blessed my life.” Eventually, she became more accustomed to living in Texas, and started to see God’s plan fall back in place. She got better at speaking English, partly with the help of taking an online English class. Her life was back under control, and she started looking for universities to apply to now that she was graduating on time. Eventually, she decided on St. Mary’s University.

The continent of Africa has seen its struggles, and Wilzave recognized that. “I was praying for Africa and I had a passion towards Africa and I was always looking for information about it,” she mentioned. One day, Wilzave inquired to her friend about churches in the area. She mentioned different churches from different backgrounds, including Mexican churches, Colombian churches, and International churches. Then, her friend mentioned something she couldn’t believe. “She told me that there's a church where the pastor's Puerto Rican and most of the congregation are Africans.” She was amazed to hear this, but didn’t believe it until she saw it herself. Sure enough, when she went the following Sunday, there she was greeted with open arms by a group of African children, extravagant to see her. “I sat there and all the kids came to me touching me and looking at my things and speaking to me in their languages and I felt so much joy so when I went there to that church.” What at first seemed like a curse in leaving her island, ended up turning into some of the best memories she’s ever made.

Antonio Llopart is a first-year engineering student at St. Mary's University. He grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for the first 18 years of his life, and graduated from Seton-La Salle High School in 2019.

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