Five years after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, leaders in Chicago’s Puerto Rican community are once again raising funds to help residents recover from another powerful hurricane.
As of Tuesday, Hurricane Fiona has dumped more than 25 inches of rain in some parts of Puerto Rico, where more than 3,000 homes remain damaged from 2017’s Hurricane Maria, leaving residents without running water or electricity, according to the Associated Press.
In Chicago, Puerto Rican leaders mobilized at Humboldt Park near one of the towering steel Puerto Rican flags to announce plans to raise funds that will go directly to local communities hit hardest by the hurricane.
Jessie Fuentes, of the Puerto Rican Agenda of Chicago, said the organizations have already received some funds, and they are aiming to raise at least $100,000 through a PayPal account. Fuentes said the groups want the funds to reach Puerto Rico within the next couple of weeks.
“We’re going to do it in some micro grants, those micro grants do not have a comprehensive process,” Fuentes said. “It’s just merely a proposal of how much and where the money should be dedicated to in partnership with folks that we have been working with in the last five years.”
As many did in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Fuentes said she expects that some people from Puerto Rico may come to live in Chicago until conditions improve.
“We need to start having real conversations about climate refugees, because that’s what Puerto Ricans are,” Fuentes said. “We expect Puerto Ricans to — without any real decision making — be forced to come here. And we will be ready with an infrastructure to welcome them.”
Many at Tuesday’s gathering urged an investigation into LUMA Energy, a private company that is contracted to oversee Puerto Rico’s power grid.
Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez, of the 33rd Ward, grew up in Puerto Rico and said that even as residents there are angry and exhausted, they are already working to recover from Hurricane Fiona. She and others urged residents to look more closely at the role colonialism has played in the island’s history.
“Puerto Rico not only needs a new grid, it needs a new grid and a new power structure that is going to sustain itself and going to be resilient,” Rodriguez-Sanchez said.
Elvia Malagón’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.