Some Puerto Ricans Call SWFL Home After Hurricane Maria

Feb 2, 2018

Since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, hundreds of families fled to the mainland. Most of them have settled in Florida.

Here in Southwest Florida, Lee County saw almost 200 students join school; only a few have withdrawn to return to Puerto Rico since the island slowly started to recover.

One family we introduced you to shortly after the hurricane faced a similar decision — return to Puerto Rico or stay here.  Some went back, while others stayed.

RELATED: Puerto Ricans Arrive In Southwest Florida After Hurricane Maria

In a home in Lehigh Acres, Nicole Reyes was feeding her 2-month-old son Nehemiah. Reyes is from Coamo, Puerto Rico — a town heavily damaged during Hurricane Maria. Nehemiah was born right here in Lehigh.

Reyes said when she left Puerto Rico, she lost everything. But, since she’s been here, she said she’s been blessed.

“Things have been good. We’ve gotten a lot of donations," Reyes said in Spanish. "I have more now than what I’ve ever had in Puerto Rico.”

When Reyes came here in October, she came with her mother-in-law, Ana Gonzalez, and they stayed with Reyes' uncle, Ariel Rivera. Gonzalez went back to the island two weeks ago. Nicole now has her own apartment.

Rivera, Reyes' uncle, said things are getting back to normal on the island. That’s why Gonzalez went back.

“She’s doing good," Rivera said about Gonzalez. "They got light and water running where she is in Coamo. Everything is good. She’s happy she’s back in her island."

About two-thirds of Puerto Rico’s power is restored. Reyes is heading back to Puerto Rico to finish up her bachelor’s degree and plans to come back to Florida in May.

She said she named her son after the Biblical figure who’s known for helping rebuild Jerusalem. Reyes said she hopes Nehemiah can go to Puerto Rico someday and make it a stronger place.