who will turn 58 next month, returned to his hometown of
Yabucoa during the first two medical missions and vows to
return later this year to continue to help his friends and
former neighbors. He spent his first 40 years in Puerto Rico
before coming to the U.S. and plans to go back in retirement
once he finishes his career at the BP refinery in Oregon. His
mother still lives on the island territory, along with much of
“For me, it was a shock. I immediately noticed that the
vegetation was brown. Normally you see all the vegetation as
green, everything is green. The last hurricane I had seen there
was George in 1999,” he said. “When I got to Yabucoa, everything
was brown. I was crying because I never saw that before.”
But that was only the beginning of the devastation he would
witness. His hometown is where Hurricane María made landfall, a
community surrounded by mountains in a horseshoe shape.
“We not only went to my hometown, we went to my neighborhood—to
see my family, to see my people. It was impactful for me,” he
said. “They were smiling when we were there, but I know that
they were desperate. On the last day, though, we saw the hope in
Moctesema used his government connections wherever possible to
help the medical missions and his hometown residents. He worked
for the water department there for 16 years before leaving for
the U.S. Many of the patients they saw were suffering diarrhea
and vomiting, symptoms he attributed to tainted water.
“Turned out they were not treating the water, because the pump
kept going out. So I started making calls and visiting people to
fix the problem and we saw the symptoms going down immediately,”
he recalled. “I went to a radio station, one of the few that was
working and advised people to boil the water. Get a piece of
tree, cut it, make a fire, and boil the water. We helped
instruct the people how to survive—and that is a satisfaction
that I can bring back.”
He was also among the teams that treated more than 1,500
patients during the three medical missions in and around Yabucoa,
part of it spent in mountainside camps and clinics.
“We saw people in the hills, people who could not come to the
center. So we took an ambulance up there. We used a chain saw to
get access to the place because there was a lot of trees down,”
he said. “We treated a lot of people who desperately needed it.
Those doctors were amazing. They were angels.”
Moctesema, the teams saw three heart attacks happen and nearly
delivered a baby in a campside clinic. By his estimate, 40
percent of the patients they saw had diabetes-related issues.
That was perhaps what shocked him most.
“I try to pay back what my town gave to me, because I am very
proud of being born and growing up in Yabucoa,” he said. “That
is my place. I love my place here, but that is my hometown.”
“They were supportive of us. They cooked for us. They were there
with us every step of the way,” Ms. González told the crowd of
the Yabucoa residents. “They were sad to see us go the first
time. They were very happy when we came back the second time. On
the third time, they said ‘we’ll see you next month!’”
While the vegetation is starting to return to its normal lush
green state, four months later, Yabucoa still has no
electricity. Moctesema stated only the downtown area has any
power, which is coming from a large generator. He predicted the
remote community would be the last on the island to see its
lights come back—possibly a year after the hurricane.
Moctesema was unable to join the third medical mission because
he ran out of vacation time at work. He plans to return during
the summer, so he can use his local government experience to
help the community leaders there plan their rebuilding effort.
He hopes electricity will mostly be restored by then.
He flew an aunt to the U.S. for medical treatment and monitoring
for a condition where she faints. She is currently living in New
York state with other relatives “because she cannot be left
alone in that condition,” according to Moctesema. But other
family will remain on the island.
“I think that they are going to survive,” he said, but he’ll
remain in constant contact to be sure.
The Three Kings Day celebration dinner and dance was held at
Sylvania Area Family Services, 5440 Marshall Rd., Sylvania.
The celebration included a children’s play, raffles, and a D.J.
The proceeds from the event will go toward future medical
missions in Puerto Rico.
“I think it’s important to continue helping the island. In spite
of all the help that has gone down there, there is still a lot
of work to do,” said Moctesema.
“It is going to take years—for the infrastructure, to rebuild
the houses, and the problems compiling because of the debris
everywhere,” said Ms. González. “That is creating another
situation with rats, all kinds of insects, roaches. We treated a
lot of infections from open sores and cuts because of the poor