Integrating Spatial and Ethnographic Methods for Resilience Research: A Thick Mapping Approach for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico

Thomaz Carvalhaes, Vivaldi Rinaldi, Zhen Goh, Shams Azad, Juanita Uribe, Masoud Ghandehari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hurricane Maria left unprecedented impacts on Puerto Rican communities, leaving some without infrastructure services and unable to communicate with family for several months. To understand the forms of community-level resilience that emerged while hard infrastructure systems took time recover, this article (1) abductively explores resilience as an emergent phenomenon of complex adaptive systems; (2) identifies subsequent forms of social capital, local adaptive capacities, and manifestations of quantifiable variables, such as infrastructure performance, in community experiences; and (3) demonstrates a framework to integrate disparate methodologies for resilience assessments via a multiplicity of mappings of space and place. We combine ethnographic and geospatial methods into an interactive GeoApp for analysis using participant-coded narratives and a series of geospatial indicators as a thick map. Thick mapping facilitates quantitative and qualitative data analysis at several scales, while enabling qualitative query of collected narratives. Results highlight local innovation, community bonding and bridging, and nuances in the role of public institutions as emergent elements of resilience. The thick map shows how top-down assessments can be augmented by thick data and how multiple framings can be anchored in the same system or place. These findings are important to inform and integrate community-oriented and technocentric solutions toward resilience-enhancing measures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2413-2435
Number of pages23
JournalAnnals of the American Association of Geographers
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2022


  • complexity, Hurricane Maria, mixed methods, resilience, thick mapping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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