Puerto Rican group in Chicago calls for action after Hurricane Fiona cut power to the island. “It feels like Groundhog Day,” said the alderman.

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With the backdrop of a 19-foot-tall Puerto Rican flag made of steel in the Paseo Boricua in Humboldt Park, local elected officials and community leaders called for action on Tuesday after Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico, making landfall this weekend — shortly after the fifth. birthday of Hurricane Maria.

In 2017, the Puerto Rican Agenda of Chicago led relief efforts for the island, landed a plane carrying essential supplies in Puerto Rico, opened a shelter for displaced families and provided $600,000 in microgrants to more than 50 Puerto Rican cities, according to co-chair Jessie Fuentes.

“The Puerto Rican Agenda is ready to act again,” Fuentes told a crowd of community members, some of whom were from Puerto Rico or had relatives there, under the blazing late morning sun, as they cheered and clapped as they watched little Puerto Rican friends. flags.

“Many of us won’t be able to remove the image of the bridge in Utuado that was just built after Hurricane Maria was torn from its roots by a landslide,” Fuentes added. “The people of Puerto Rico need our support, they need our solidarity. But more importantly, they need the money. And I cannot emphasize that enough.”

The call came as many criticized the lack of media coverage of the natural disaster that left many on the island without power or running water.

“Visibility is important. (Monday) we learned more about Queen Elizabeth’s funeral than we all want to know,” Fuentes said. “We need to fully understand what’s happening to Puerto Rico. We need to create that visibility so we can demand recovery and demand resources.”

Former Congressman Luis Gutierrez said that when his plane took off from Puerto Rico on Saturday, the sky was clear and the sun was shining. Less than 12 hours later, a tropical storm that hit the island became Hurricane Fiona at the last minute.

“We need to understand that global warming is real. It affects the world. And we’re seeing the impact of global warming on Puerto Rico,” Gutierrez said.

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ald. Roberto Maldonado, 26, spoke to the unity demonstrating the Puerto Rican people when disaster strikes.

“Even with our own deep, internal political differences, in times like these we come together for the greater good,” Maldonado said. “So, political differences aside, we are here to do the right thing for our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico.”

Many speakers referred to LUMA, the private company responsible for power distribution in Puerto Rico, expressing disbelief at what they termed an inability to build a resilient electrical grid for the island. They also called on the US government to investigate the company.

“Yes, we need to see what’s going on with the privatization of our energy system. But we also need to look at why nearly a billion dollars is sitting uselessly in the United States’ coffers and not being sent to the people of Puerto Rico,” Gutierrez said, referring to money for aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. .

In Spanish, Gutierrez also called on local and state governments to show solidarity with Puerto Rico, as they did when Hurricane Maria struck.

“There is nothing more dear to my heart than the people of Puerto Rico, the island that saw my wife Soraida born, my grandparents born, and all my predecessors: my mother and father. I carry that island here in my heart,” he said, placing a hand on his chest. “And I ask all of you who are proud to be Puerto Rican – as they should be – to donate and contribute in this time of need.”

Government JB Pritzker released a statement Monday in solidarity with Puerto Ricans on the island and in Chicago.

“We all need to do more to recognize our duty to the people of Puerto Rico; to draw attention to these crises not only because they are tragic, but also because all too often Puerto Ricans are not allowed to speak for themselves,” the statement read. “We must deeply recognize that their unequal place in this nation will push them aside. We stand with you.”

“Illinois has a large and vibrant community of Puerto Rican people, and I know that many of these people today worry about family and friends hundreds of miles away. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”

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Pritzker also said the state will provide all necessary assistance to hurricane victims, noting the recent reception of asylum seekers and migrants coming to Illinois from the southern US border.

“Illinois is not turning away those in need, and we will continue to welcome these travelers and all Puerto Rican climate refugees seeking a safe place to land with all our available resources,” he said.

At the press conference, Chicago’s Chief Procurement Officer Aileen Velazquez, on behalf of Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her colleagues, expressed her grief for those affected by Category 3 Fiona.

“The city has a strong long-term relationship with the Puerto Rican communities and we are committed to working together,” she said.

ald. Rossana Rodriguez, 33rd, and Chicago State Democrats Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas and State Representative Delia Ramirez, who is running for the new 3rd congressional district, spoke of the recurrence of natural disasters on the island and what they called a lack of response to the demands of Puerto Ricans.

“One of my mentors here, from this community, has always said that history does not repeat itself, but that historical problems urgently need to be solved,” Pacione-Zayas said. “It’s a shame that five years later, practically to this day, we’re here, talking about the same things and making the same demands. It was once said that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. That’s what we’re experiencing now.”

Pacione-Zayas said Hurricane Fiona isn’t the only disaster the island, which she called a modern American colony, is currently experiencing.

“The people of Puerto Rico have never been able to define themselves. All their structures must be run through the federal government,” she said. “And it’s been more than two decades since (that) we’ve experienced a fiscal crisis that has robbed us of our ability to properly plan and effectively implement a strategy to address what we know to be true and that climate change is real.” .”

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The state senator also mentioned the displacement of thousands of people after Hurricane Maria.

“This is a humanitarian crisis,” Pacione-Zayas said. “And this is a mockery that we have to keep organizing our dollars, our people and our messages to get this information out and to do what the people of Puerto Rico are entitled to, which is to preserve their humanity and dignity . ”

Rodriguez, who grew up in Puerto Rico, remembers protesting the lack of access to water when she was only 6 years old. People are used to being without power and no access to clean water on the island, Rodriguez and Pacione-Zayas said.

“I have a message for everyone from the people of Puerto Rico, from my family, from my neighbors: they are exhausted. It feels like Groundhog Day,” Rodriguez said.

Puerto Ricans now help each other by feeding neighbors sancocho or beef stew, she added. “They are there for each other,” she says. “And I think one of the most important things we can do right now is to support them as they do that because they know exactly what they’re doing.”

Sol Cordero, who has lived in Humboldt Park since childhood, has a sister and nieces who live on the island. They are safe, but communication was inconsistent due to the power outage, she told the Tribune.

‘They’re doing well. But they have no light. They have no water. And they’re just trying to stay united,” Cordero said. “They all live together in the same neighbourhood or in the same city. So they’re all trying to stick together and help each other.”

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During Hurricane Maria, she said, she was unable to contact her sister for the first few days.

“I think that one was a bit worse because we couldn’t hear from them for a few days,” Cordero said. “So, as soon as I got the call from her, I started crying. And it makes me emotional now because it’s coming back.”

The National Museum of Puerto Rican Art and Culture and the Puerto Rican Cultural Center will also coordinate fundraising with the Puerto Rican Agenda.

“We cannot duplicate our efforts. We should all be on the same page on this. So we’re going to meet the immediate needs,” said Billy Ocasio, director of the museum.

For more information about donations, visit the Puerto Rican Agenda website at puertoricanchicago.org

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