Puerto Rico Introspective

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The last few weeks have been met with disaster after disaster and it has truly tested our strength as neighbors and citizens. One that hit especially hard was Hurricane Maria. I was born in Puerto Rico, grew up a little there, and then moved to the United States to start school. While I didn’t spend my entire childhood on the island, I visited my friends and family often and have a special connection to the island, culture, and people.

Hurricane Maria destroyed almost everything on the island and put the people I care about the most in harm's way. Communication has been severely limited creating feelings of fear and worry. I know many of our neighbors here in Central Florida are fellow Boricuas, dealing with the same concerns as my family. Communication with family on the island is slowing becoming more frequent. However, every time we hear from family, no matter who, their message is the same, “We’re safe but we need help.”

Most of my family lives in Ponce and Salinas. Those towns are on the south side of the island. I have so many great memories of Puerto Rico and these beautiful towns. The people there feel forgotten. Little help has reached the south part of the island. I recently spoke to State Senator Victor Torres about his recent trip to Ponce. He confirmed the devastion and the needs firsthand. The Puerto Rico people feel forgotten. Our community in central Florida has done a tremendous amount of work to help our neighbors in the Caribbean, both Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Even within the campaign, the team has organized donation drives and volunteered to help sort and load supplies. And they are consistently asking about my family and offering to help. Despite the outpouring of support stateside, we cannot let the island be forgotten by the news cycle. Over ninety percent of the island still does not have power. Resources running low and are being replenished quickly enough. It’s important that those of us here keep advocating for the those who cannot. Rebuilding will be a long process, we need to continue to volunteer, donate, and speak out for Puerto Rico. Our team encourages you donate your time and treasure as much as possible. Two organizations we recommend are the Hispanic Federation and CASA - Coordinadora de Apoyo, Solidaridad y Ayuda. Both are taking monetary donations and CASA needs volunteers to help sort supplies at their warehouse located at 1602 N. Goldenrod Rd. Orlando, from 10 am until 6 pm daily. Please contact them directly for more details.

Gabriel Atiles

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