If you can, imagine the aftermath of a hurricane on a small island. I’m sure you’ll think of boats, grounded far inland, houses and work places blown over, wreckage and trees lying everywhere, basically a scene of total devastation. All these things are completely true but the one thing that you probably wouldn’t consider is that hurricanes can also have a more subtle cultural effect.
Destructive force of nature
Take Puerto Rico which was ravaged by Hurricane Maria last year. It tore apart the infrastructure of the island and there is still over 15% of the population without power. In the immediate aftermath one of the odd things was that everyone was forced immmediately to wear their hair naturally. The lack of power and water meant that previous hair routines were simply not possible. As one resident said after attending church after the hurricane “I think I just saw everyone’s real hair for the first time in my life”.
The lack of power meant that the only tools available to style hair were scissors. Blow drying and flat ironing were completely impossible, along with being able to clean the hair frequently. Some women adopted very short styles almost immediately whilst some took to wearing huge amounts of gel to get that “just out of the shower” look. Others wore tight buns and even caps to disguise their hair.
A lot to be said for wearing it au naturale
Now four months later the islanders have moved from a previously straightened long hair style to shorter haircuts with waves of natural curls. Whilst the change wasn’t exactly out of choice it now seems to have become accepted and probably isn’t a bad thing. Constant styling and heat damage can be a cause of permanent hair damage. There’s a lot to be said for wearing it au naturale.
Whatever the hairstyle Puerto Ricans have shown an indomitable spirit in the face of a great natural disaster and hopefully it won’t be long before the hurricane becomes a fading memory.