Discover Puerto Rico

“We want to show everyone how far we’ve come.”

By Mary Tomlinson

Many powerful images came out of Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, a category 4 storm that killed thousands, caused $94 billion in damage, and left the island without electricity for months. The “S.O.S” painted onto the asphalt in hard-hit Humacao went viral a few days after the storm hit, devastating in its simplicity. But the community responsible for the image is back with a new message.

Here, in a video from Discover Puerto Rico, Humacao residents reflect on the origin of the unconventional call for help.

“Being on the island and completely disconnected, we didn’t realize how far our picture had traveled,” says Janet Gonzalez, a resident of Humacao, in a press release from Discover Puerto Rico. “We’re thankful it did.”

As the island approaches the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria, that cry for help has transitioned to a message of hope and revitalization—especially for the tourism industry.

Related: Puerto Rico Just Opened Its First New Hotel Since the Hurricanes

“There’s a lot to celebrate and we don’t want the one-year anniversary to set us back,” says Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico. “We’re taking this moment to encourage all audiences to help us spotlight our tourism recovery and invite travelers to visit us, as tourism is a vital contributor to the economy.”

Discover Puerto Rico

After power washing the stark and simple S.O.S. away, a welcoming message rendered in chalk replaces it. Pink, blue, and yellow lettering spelling out “Puerto Rico Awaits“ and “Always Positive” in Spanish swirl around the central message: Bienvenidos and #CovertheProgress.

Humacao’s community spirit isn’t the only thing that’s back on the Caribbean island: air travel is poised to make a full turnaround to 2017 levels, cruise passengers received on the island this past May is up 12.9 percent from the previous year, and the investment in new hotel developments equates to $1.9 billion.

For more updates on what’s back in Puerto Rico, visit Discover Puerto Rico’s website and follow #CovertheProgress on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And stay tuned for Coastal Living's November issue, an all-Caribbean issue covering the islands' new and returning hotels, restaurants, and attractions and the myriad ways you can help with recovery, on stands October 12.