Things That Matter

Puerto Rico Is Completely Flooded And Could Go Months Without Electricity. Here’s How People In The U.S. Are Uniting Beautifully To Help

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Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico on Wednesday, inundating its towns with mudslides and floods and leaving the entire island without electricity. With poles and lines collapsed over many of the island’s streets, it could take half a year to restore power to its 3.5 million inhabitants, and that’s for those whose homes weren’t completely destroyed. Photos and videos keep pouring into social media of demolished residencies, roofless homes and windowless apartments. At least one person has been reported dead.

At 155 miles per hour, the category 4 hurricane was the worst to hit the country in more than 80 years, and it came as the Caribbean island is grappling with its years-long debt crisis. “The San Juan that we knew yesterday is no longer there,” an emotional Carmen Yulín Cruz, mayor of San Juan, told NBC. With trees toppled, roads flooded and buildings shattered, the same can be said of most of “La Isla del Encanto.”

The people of Puerto Rico, the same ones who after getting slammed by Hurricane Irma earlier this month aided other Caribbean islands in need, are in dire need of our help. For those who are able, we urge you to donate money, goods or even blood to the folks of El Borikén. Below, we’ve listed funds, drives and events occurring on the island and across the country where you can help out.

Puerto Rico

To best serve the people of Puerto Rico, it’s crucial to support and donate to the organizations and funds doing work on the ground. Donations to Hurricane Maria Community Recovery Fund will go to people on the frontlines, those supporting low-income communities of color that are often hit hardest yet see the slowest recovery. There’s also ConPRmetidos, a nonprofit based on the island, that started the Puerto Rico Real-Time Recovery Fund. They are hoping to raise $150,000 to provide immediate needs like food, water and shelter to the people as well as assist in long-term recovery efforts. Also, Fondos Unidos de Puerto Rico is a nonprofit organization with a history of providing direct services to the people of Puerto Rico. They don’t currently have an online fundraiser but donations can be sent via mail at: Fondos Unidos de Puerto Rico ​P.O. Box 191914 San Juan, PR 00919.

New York

In New York, Defend Puerto Rico is partnering with two local organizations on the island, Nuestra Escuela and Taller Salud, for a LOIZA Hurricane Relief Fundraiser. The Bombazo-style event, which takes place at the Julia de Burgos Art Center in East Harlem on Thursday, Sept. 21 (today) from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., will include music, dance and art. There’s a $5 suggested donation fee, with all of the funds going to the two Puerto Rico-based organizations. If you can’t make the event, but still want to donate, you can do so at its YouCaring campaign.

Also in Nueva York, Barrio Poetix will host a hurricane relief event on Tuesday, Sept. 26 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. The evening, hosted by Puerto Rican poet Mariposa, will include several poetry and musical performances. Organizers are asking for a $10 suggested donation.

For those in the city who can’t attend events but want to send items to Puerto Rico, El Maestro, located at 1300 Southard Blvd. Bronx, New York 10459, and Casabe Senior Houses, at 150 East 121 Street in East Harlem, are taking clothing, non-perishable foods, personal hygiene items, baby supplies, first aid kits and batteries between the hours of 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. from Thursday (today) until Sept. 23.

Florida

Throughout Florida, there are several events and donation drop-offs. Starting Sept. 21 (today), there will be donation drives in Orlando, Greenacres and Tampa. Similar drives will also commence on Friday in Miami and Sept. 29 in West Palm Beach.

For those in Central Florida, the Lake Nona Run Club will host a Re-Building Puerto Rico 5K in Orlando on Saturday, Sept. 30. There’s a suggested donation of $10, with all funds going to assistance on the island. Also in Orlando, Centro Borinqueño, located at 1865 N. Econlockhatchee Tr., Orlando, Florida 32817, will have a blood drive on Saturday, Sept. 23, and Sunday, Sept. 24. On Oct. 1 in Lakeland, instructor Rosa Garcia will host a 90-minute Zumba session dedicated to Puerto Rico relief.

Chicago

In Chicago, The Puerto Rican Agenda is hosting an emergency fundraiser on Friday, Sept. 22 at the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center. The event, which will take place from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., will include live performances, a silent auction and more. There’s a $25 donation required to get in.

Philadelphia

In Philadelphia, UnidosPa’PR will host a meeting and press conference on Thursday, Sept. 21 (today) to introduce the group and provide information on how to get involved. The same organization will host a donors reception on Sunday, Sept. 24 at Fairhill Square Park from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Also in “The City of Brotherly Love,” Norris Square Community Alliance, a community development center operated by women, is taking donations on Thursday, Sept. 21 between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. They are collecting water, batteries, candles, bleach, powdered mills, baby formula, diapers and canned goods.

New Jersey

Puertorriquenos Asociados For Community Organization (PACO) is holding a drive in Jersey City. Locals can donate water, bleach, canned goods, batteries and senior/children’s diapers at the drop-off location on 390 Manila Ave. Jersey City, NJ. from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Saturday. On Sept. 29, New Jersey’s DC Social Club will throw a hurricane relief fundraiser from 6 p.m. till closing. A $20 donation will get you indoors for drinks, food and music by Jay La Musica.

Boston

Boston Boricuas are gathering next week on Tuesday, Sept. 26 for a brainstorming session at La Galería, located at 405 Shawmut Ave., from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. The discussion will center on how to better support families and friends en la isla. If you’re Boston-based but can’t make it out that day, you can join the conversation by dialing in to 695-475-4120 (access code: 683*3847).

California

In Oakland, Calif., Taller Bombalele’s monthly Bombazo en la Bahia event will this month help fundraise money for relief efforts in Puerto Rico. The jam session, which will include live music and dance, will be at the AU Lounge (2430 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612) from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 24. There’s a $5-$7 suggested donation. Next month, San Francisco’s Por Una Causa will host a perreo to help the island recover from the disaster. The “reggaetón for a cause” party happens on Saturday, Oct. 7 from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. at El Rio, at 3158 Mission St. San Francisco, CA 94110. The tickets are $10 presale and $15 at the door.

Cali-based folks who can’t attend the events but want to assist in relief efforts can donate money to a GoFundMe put together by the Los Angeles-based group Puerto Ricans in Action. All funds will be donated to the following nonprofits in Puerto Rico: ConPRmetidos, Iniciativa Comunitaria, Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico, United Way of Puerto Rico.

Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.-based Boricuas have organized a DCRicans For Puerto Rico relief event to help aid the island following Hurricane Maria’s devastation. The event, which will take place at the Hawk ‘n’ Dove in Southeast on Friday, Sept. 22, will include live Puerto Rican folk music. All funds raised will go to the United for Puerto Rico fund.

Cleveland

In Cleveland, Ohio, Puerto Ricans started a drive to support their island. Starting on Sept. 21 (today) and going through Sept. 24, donations can be taken to the San Lorenzo Club at 3415 Clark Avenue in Cleveland between noon and 8 p.m. The group is currently accepting canned goods, baby food, clothing, water, non-perishable items, diapers and pet supplies.

Read: 9 Hits To Get You Hype And Proud To Be Puerto Rican

Let us know what relief efforts are taking place in your community in the comments and consider sharing them on this disaster relief Google Doc.

A Homeowners Association Tried To Keep A Boricua Who Fought For Our Country From Flying Her PR Flag

Culture

A Homeowners Association Tried To Keep A Boricua Who Fought For Our Country From Flying Her PR Flag

screenshot taken from Orlando Sentinel

When hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans came together to demand former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to resign following leaked chats that revealed political corruption and a series of sexist and homophobic messages, Frances Santiago wanted to stand in solidarity with her people. Living in Kissimmee, Florida, she wasn’t able to protest with her country folk on the archipelago but she demonstrated symbolically by placing her red, white and blue Puerto Rican flag outside of her home. 

Now, the Central Florida Boricua is facing a battle against her own community leaders. Three weeks after putting up the flag, the homeowner received a letter from the Rolling Hills Estates Homeowners Association requesting her to take it down. 

Santiago, an Army veteran who served 14 years as a medic, including two tours in Iraq, says she refuses to remove the flag.

“I fought for this, to be able to do this. So, I don’t see a problem with flying my flag here,” the woman told Orlando-area news station WFTV.

According to HOA bylaws, all flags are outlawed. However, the board made an exception for US flags, sports flags and flags used to honor first responders and fallen officers. Considering these edicts, Santiago is unsure why the group is asking her to remove the flag, as Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States.

“Puerto Rico is part of America. What’s the big issue with us having our flag there,” she said.

HOA president Norma McNerney told  WFTV that she’s not asking the Santiago family to remove the flag because it’s from Puerto Rico; however, she did not comment on the island being the colonial property of the US and, thus, meeting the association’s criterion. 

“We treat all owners the same. If you travel through our community, you will see the only flags are those regulated by the state,” McNerney said.

Puerto Ricans have historically been banned from displaying their flag. 

While many tease that Boricuas exhibit their bandera on anything and everything, from their cars and house goods to their clothes and accessories, owning a Puerto Rican flag wasn’t legal until 1957. Nine years prior, on June 10, 1948, la Ley de La Mordaza, better known as the gag law, made it a crime to own or display a Puerto Rican flag, sing a patriotic song or speak or write of independence. The legislation, signed into law by Jesús T. Piñero, the United States-appointed governor, aimed at suppressing the growing movement to liberate Puerto Rico from its colonial ties to the United States. Anyone accused and found guilty of disobeying the law could be sentenced to ten years in prison, be fined $10,000 or both.

Additionally, in Kissimmee, which locals nicknamed “Little Puerto Rico” because of its vast Puerto Rican population, there has been pushback from community members who are not pleased with the demographic changes. City-Data forums warn people interested in moving to Central Florida to beware of Puerto Ricans, who commenters refer to as “roaches,” “criminals,” and the N-word, while news of attacks against Boricuas has become more common. Florida is home to more Puerto Ricans in the contiguous US than any other state. Most of the population resides in the Orlando-Kissimmee area. The region has been the top destination for Puerto Ricans escaping the financial crisis since 2008 and displacement following Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. But it is also the prime journey stop for diasporic Puerto Ricans from New York, Chicago, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Massachusetts. The area is among the largest and fastest-growing Puerto Rican communities in the country.

As such, Central Florida Boricuas have rallied around Santiago. An online petition created by the Florida Puerto Rican group Alianza for Progress is asking the HOA to cease their discriminatory practices against Santiago and is already close to meeting its goal of 1,600 signatures. At the time of writing, it is short just 51 names.

Santiago and her husband Efrain have insisted that they have no intention of bringing the flag down.

“[The flag] will stay there and we’ll deal with it; we’ll exhaust every avenue possible,” Efrain said. “We have our house, you see, up to standards. We’re not doing anything wrong. We’re not doing anything to our neighbors by flying our flag.”

While the Santiagos haven’t presently been issued any fines for the violation, they said they do have a lawyer and are prepared to take this fight to protect their freedom further. “I’m proud of my roots, who I am, [where] I come from. We’re not offending anyone. None of the neighbors were offended with us putting the flag there,” Efrain said.

Read: The Governor Of Puerto Rico Was Caught In A Chat Using Grotesque Homophobic And Sexist Language And The Entire Island Is Calling Him To Resign In Massive Protests

The Drama Continues: Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court Says New Governor’s Oath Was Unconstitutional

Things That Matter

The Drama Continues: Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court Says New Governor’s Oath Was Unconstitutional

@rafernandezlaw / Twitter

It’s been five days since former Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló resigned following massive protests against scandalous and incriminating chats, and the archipelago still does not have a lawfully recognized successor in La Fortaleza, the governor’s mansion.

Upon stepping down on Friday, August 2, the embattled politico nominated Pedro Pierluisi.

Peirluisi was to fill the secretary of state vacancy left by Luis G. Rivera Marín, who resigned last month for his own part in the leaked messages. As secretary of state, Pierluisi would have been next in line to become governor. However, Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Wednesday that part of the law used by Rosselló to name Pierluisi his successor is unconstitutional.

But the Supreme Court ruled against that part of the law Rosselló used to appoint Pierluisi was unconstitutional.

“The governor’s oath of office was unconstitutional,” Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court said, as reported by NBC News. “Therefore, Hon. Pedro R. Pierluisi Urrutia can’t continue his work as Governor after this Opinion and Sentence becomes effective.”

The decision, which takes effect at 5 p.m. EST, follows a lawsuit filed by Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz on Monday. In the litigation, Rivera Schatz asked the courts to immediately remove Pierluisi from the position because his governorship was unlawful according to Puerto Rico’s constitution. 

While the social codes do say that the island’s secretary of state should be the new governor if the position is vacant, it requires the person nominated to the post to be confirmed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. However, Pierluisi had only been confirmed as secretary of state by the House when he took his oath as governor on Friday.

“It’s unconstitutional to allow a Secretary of State to become Governor without having been confirmed by both legislative chambers,” the Supreme Court said in a press release.

The Senate postponed its vote for this week, days after Rosselló’s resignation became official, meaning that Pierluisi’s governorship was unofficial and that the Caribbean island hasn’t yet filled the top seat. 

This week, instead of voting on the matter, Rivera Schatz went to the courts to argue that Pierluisi did not “occupy the position of secretary of state in property” because he wasn’t confirmed by both Houses.

In response, Pierluisi contended this wasn’t the only way that the secretary of state could be ratified, citing the law of succession of 2005, which included a recommendation by Puerto Rico’s Department of Justice to waive a secretary of state’s confirmation requirement in case of an emergency.

He is expected to be making a comment later today.

Puerto Ricans are celebrating the ruling.

Since Rosselló nominated Pierluisi as secretary of state, many have taken to the streets for “¡Pierluisi, renuncia!” demonstrations. Opponents have several issues with Pierluisi, a former resident commissioner and an attorney, but predominantly condemn his ties to the unelected fiscal control board, known on the archipelago as “la junta.” 

In the historic protests that removed Rosselló, demonstrators called for both his resignation and the disbanding of the largely-loathed Obama-appointed board that has slashed needed public services on the island. “Ricky renuncia, y llévate a la junta,” went one of the most popular chants of the rallies. Pierluisi has a long history with the board, representing Puerto Rico in Congress when the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, or PROMESA, was passed, which created la junta; his brother-in-law is the chair of the board; and Pierluisi has been working for the law firm that does consulting for the board — a post he resigned from to take on the role as governor.

But the drama isn’t over yet since the woman next in-line still doesn’t want the island’s top job and Puerto Ricans don’t want her.

According to the Puerto Rican constitution, next in line to fill the governorship seat is Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez, who has said repeatedly that she is not interested in the job. Puerto Rican media are reporting that Vazquez, who has also faced public disapproval for her defense of the leaked chats and her own problematic history as an attorney, will nominate Jenniffer Gonzalez, the U.S. territory’s representative in Congress, as secretary of state, who would then takeover as governor if Vazquez steps down.

When questioned about this scenario, González told local newspaper El Nuevo Día, “that is decided by the bodies and the governor. I will support whomever they choose. That has been my position since day one.”

Even more, Puerto Rico Sen. Zoe Laboy told Central Florida cable news outlet Spectrum News 13 that should Gonzalez be nominated as secretary of state by Vazquez, then she hopes both the House and Senate would have the chance to ratify the nomination.

This would pose an even greater challenge for Puerto Ricans fighting for a just and free future for their island, as Gonzalez is not only a member of the same pro-statehood party of the Rosselló administration but is also a Trump-supporting Republican.

Vázquez is expected to be sworn in as Puerto Rico’s new governor on Wednesday at 5 p.m. EST.

Read: The Governor Of Puerto Rico Was Caught In A Chat Using Grotesque Homophobic And Sexist Language And The Entire Island Is Calling Him To Resign In Massive Protests

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