Across U.S., Mainland Puerto Ricans Rally, Mobilize to Help Island’s Hurricane Victims

 In World
WASHINGTON — When Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico, its punches were felt by Puerto Ricans on the mainland, even if they weren’t there. And with their numbers growing significantly in recent years, boricuas across the states are using their increasing clout and deep ties to the island to rally and mobilize money and supplies in support of families and friends.

Some of the efforts are well-publicized: Lin-Manuel Miranda has a new song to raise funds for Puerto Rico and Jennifer López, Marc Anthony and other high-profile celebrities have pledged millions in help and delivered crucial items to the island.

But many more are working in the shadows of anonymity with 5K races, bake sales, lemonade stands, pizza parties and even pig roasts, trying to help the beleaguered U.S. territory recuperate from the worst hurricane in a century. More than two weeks after Maria, most of the island is still in the dark with no electricity and many sectors without running water.

Puerto Rico native Rose Figueroa, an engineering consultant in Ann Arbor, MI, started a local chapter of Puerto Rico Rises, a Florida-based group that is collecting and sending supplies to the island.

“You feel kind of helpless at first and then you realize that you are the best tool people have on the island,” said Figueroa, who is coordinating collections in five cities throughout Michigan. She and several other engineers and technical professionals are planning on traveling to Puerto Rico soon to help with rebuilding efforts on the ground.

Margarita Bauzá is a native of the small southern town of Guayama in the island and is currently living in Detroit. “A lot people don’t know how to help and they want to, but it’s not like you can drive a truck down to Puerto Rico.” So she has taken to social media to help connect the dots and post links to organizations coordinating aid and she has also organized fundraisers.

“Our customers care about what’s happening in the world,” said Jennifer Stark, co-owner of Amici’s Pizza & Living Room, a Detroit-area business that recently donated 10 percent of its sales over three days for Puerto Rico hurricane relief efforts and plans to continue fundraising efforts. “Doing right by the people is the right thing to do. And I’ve been watching the mayor of San Juan on TV and it’s been very moving to me,” said Stark. “People want to help and the outpouring has been great.”

Image: An aerial view shows trees and buildings damaged by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico

An aerial view shows trees and buildings damaged by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, Oct. 5, 2017.