Every day is frightening for Damasero Lopez, who works at Walmart’s Covid store in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Not only is he one of the 500,000 people who still have no power on the island, he is also a co-worker of Jose Limon, who died last week after one of Walmart’s delivery trucks plowed into a fence.
Lopez, who often toils for long hours at the store, spoke with Business Insider while Limon’s family identified him in a local paper. The two men were “knight brothers”, a common moniker in Puerto Rico’s small Northern Spanish-speaking communities, where different races often refer to themselves as “kings.”
Lopez and his co-workers describe another nightmare: Limon’s death has left them struggling to find enough salt to sell to customers in Puerto Rico.
“How can I sell salt? Everybody knows we don’t have any salt,” Lopez said.
Puerto Rico is among the most impoverished places in the US, and in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, many people have been struggling to get enough to eat. Living on the island’s fertile coastlines with no access to refrigeration, salt became the staple food that a growing number of people were supplementing with in the weeks after the storm.
“I did not understand. We are so spoiled. We always get everything we need from the store,” said Martin Arroyo, Lopez’s supervisor. “This store was a priority. Things were going to be bought for Christmas.”
Along with other things, like water, salt became a symbol of the loss of the everyday comforts in a place struggling to recover from a devastating natural disaster. Only the peninsula north of San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital, was spared the wrath of Maria.
While Hurricane Florence paralyzed parts of the Carolinas, many Americans have become accustomed to hurricanes’ power, even thankful that they did not cause the same destruction that unfolded in Puerto Rico last year.
“Of course we are careful and we watch what we are doing all day,” Arroyo said. “We are not asking for anybody’s pity.”
Antonio Moya has worked at Covid since it opened.
“When things don’t go exactly how we like them to, everything we do at that store becomes as important as what we are doing at home,” Moya said. “We work together, we laugh together, we cry together. Everything and anyone, even when we are late for work, is our responsibility.”