Blue, plastic FEMA tarps form a checkerboard pattern, visible from the top of the Martín Peña Bridge. Each square signifies a roofless home.

Below, in eight of the most impoverished communities in San Juan, Puerto Rico, tarps offer a thin layer of protection from the wind and the rain. Approximately 1,200 families in these low-lying communities rely on the tarps since Hurricane Maria slammed into the island six months ago on Sept. 20, 2017.

In an imagined future, drawn by architects in close concert with people who live near Caño Martín Peña, there are no blue tarps. There is, instead, a winding channel of clean water, 3.75 miles in length, that connects the San Juan Bay to the San José Lagoon. There is a thicket of mangrove trees and a boardwalk to stroll.

Since Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, advancing this future for Caño Martín Peña seems more urgent — and more possible — than before. The effort has recently been featured in news outlets from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette to Mother Jones to Rolling Stone.

“The community is finally taking its place as the protagonist of its future. People are not waiting for someone else to make decisions for them,” said Mario Núñez Mercado, who was born and raised near the channel and is now part of the ENLACE Project, a community-led initiative to transform it.

Read the full article about communities in Puerto Rico banding together by Marlena Hartz at GlobalGiving.