Toldos Pa’ Mi Gente – Tarps for the People

Toldos Pa’ Mi Gente is a Puerto Rican organization that provided tarps to their neighbors without roofs when they noticed that a month after Maria – many were still waiting on FEMA and the local government to provide them. They pointed to the fact that a year later a space was found with abandoned tarps that never made it to those that needed it most.

As the anniversary of Hurricane Maria quickly approaches, many of us can reflect on those first efforts the Diaspora and Puerto Ricans on the island made to help the people. Especially when it became horrifyingly clear that we were not going to be receiving the same treatment as other Americans who suffered a natural disaster. With the almost 3 thousand deaths and climbing… this week I wanted to share the work one group did to show their neighbors that they were not alone. That’s what makes me proud to be #Boricua. For all those that provided meals, water, abrazos/hugs, and the blue tarps that their neighbors needed for shelter…. You have my deepest admiration and respect. Your work saved lives, and your commitment gave us a vision for a Puerto Rico made by Puerto Ricans. Thank you for giving us this important reminder of who we really are.

 

I interviewed Amarilis from Toldos Pa’ Mi Gente and she provided a much needed look into what it was like after the Hurricane and still today.

Amarilis started off by saying that the hurricane uncovered the poverty that was there, that they were only able to see after the trees were laid bare. She said it was so frustrating to see people living in fragile conditions. Seeing older people take out their clothes every day to dry.

So she decided to put up a facebook post that she wished she had tarps to help put them and they received their first tarp from Australia. And 2 months later they had almost 100 tarps. She was worried she would receive more than she could put up.

She and the neighbors got together to organize and at least 30 volunteers showed up the first day.

They did a needs assessment because someone had skills is social work. And from there they grew but she pointed something out that was very important.

Tarps are temporary – they are not meant to be on there for more than 3 months. So they decided to move on to the next phase of actually putting up roofs instead of tarps for long term solutions.

She mentions that soon they will have a donate button on their page but what they are most in need of at the moment is a Truck or large vehicle to transport materials and people around.

But in terms of the fragile conditions in PR she speaks about one woman they are helping who has gotten so tired of scooping out the water that gets into her house that she just lives with it up to her knees. She refuses to leave and refuses to do any more work pushing water out.

It’s a clear example of the extremely frustrating and mentally draining day to day that happens among those caught up in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

She also pointed out the fact that even if someone receives electricity in their home, it does not resolve the most important issue – that they don’t have a roof. What good is electricity if you are living in those conditions?

I hope you will donate to this important organization and will consider volunteering as well, next time you are in Puerto Rico.

This is their facebook Page:

https://www.facebook.com/toldospamigente.pr

Reach out to them to donate! They are currently looking for a vehicle to help transport materials for building roofs for those without one!

 

My Dad, the Janitor: An interview with Otoniel on PR and Labor Unions

As a kid, the one question I often dreaded was – “What does your dad do for a living?” because people’s perception of me would immediately be written on their face. The quick dismissal. I grew up though, and thankfully learned that there’s no shame in what you do for a living. I feel proud of my dad for the fact that he worked so very hard to provide for his family and give his daughters love and joy. For the janitors out there, and their daughters and sons… you matter and your voice also deserves a seat at the table.

This Labor day weekend – it worked out that my interview with a Labor Union advocate would be released. This one is a critical episode in understanding why Puerto Rico got into debt, what we in the diaspora can do, and importantly for me as well – we talk about Class.

It’s often seemed a missing piece of the conversation about equity and Justice. I hope you all enjoy the episode and as always – below are the links to the topics discussed.

80Grados article about the Course:

https://www.80grados.net/listening-to-puerto-rico-curso-en-linea-para-concientizar-al-mundo-sobre-la-isla/

Listening to Puerto Rico Course:

https://www.coursera.org/learn/listeningtopuertorico/

 

The new Death Toll and an interview about Poverty, Taxes, and Government

This week I share an interview with Victor Ramirez Garcia about many of the issues affecting Puerto Rico covered in the essay he published  and we talk about housing, parking and decentralizing the government. Victor studied software engineering and later urban planning. I’m very glad I got the chance to know him and speak with him!

We also learned this week about the new death toll released by George Washington University, in which an estimated 3,000 deaths occurred as a result of the Hurricane.

It’s important to remember that these numbers are people, and it’s my stepdad, and someone’s grandfather and another person’s mother who died due to the incompetence and injustice we know exist. The sadness in the hearts of Puerto Ricans this week is heavy….

I wanted to take time to mention that the work done through this podcast is to elevate the voices of Puerto Ricans because in many aspects they are forgotten, pushed aside, and dehumanized. However, we see that Puerto Ricans continue to organize, publish, speak out, and engage those around them to vote. We are warriors in a long struggle and we’re not done fighting.

No study can bring Justice to the tragedy that occurred on our island and to our people, but it’s a start. Only WE can fight for that and only WE will find a resolution to the question of who really deserves to be free.

The next Puerto Rican Diaspora Conference happens September 14-15 in D.C. and I’ll be there – hope you can join us too:

https://www.prdiasporasummit.com/

Below are the links to content mentioned in the podcast. Thank you for listening… until next week.

The Return to Borikén – Contra La Corriente

For years, I’ve looked for ways to connect to my roots/mis raices… and understand who I am. After the Hurricane disconnected me from my family, and after my stepdad died shortly after, my broken heart started to imagine that some day I could come to live among my family and my people…

This week, I want to share my decision to move to Boriken.

I will be a Puertorriquena moving against the current, contra la corriente, back to my patria, as many others who cannot stay, who are forced into exile, have to leave.

After making this decision for myself, I found an article on Repatriating Puerto Rico by a Brooklyn born artist named Yasmin Hernandez, and I knew I needed to reach out to her. In this episode we talk about the migration of Boricuas out of the island, and the local government providing incentives to stay on the island only to non-Boricuas. There’s nothing surprising about that, but there is something we can do to reverse this trend.

We are a people who through oppression, and suffering, have had to find alternatives to survive, and for hundreds of years we adapt, we evolve, and we create spaces to #decolonize our island. I’ll be returning to our island to support the people who are fighting for self-determination, for their rights to live without oppression, and will continue to raise the voices of the Boricuas everywhere.

This is a story that spans centuries – this is the story of a country denied a voice, denied an identity, denied their freedom for hundreds of years.

Who will stand up against the strongest military power in the world, to demand that a people be given the right to self-determination? I stand in solidarity with the people of the island in saying – what is happening in Puerto Rico needs to change. As Yasmin said, there is an “untapped power” that we are now starting to see… And with over 5 million Boricuas in the Diaspora, you can use your votes to push back and demand justice for Puerto Rico.

I hope you enjoy the episode… and I really look forward to joining my sisters and brothers on the island to continue fighting against those that threaten our culture, our identity, and our people.

We are connected you and I #Boricua, and together we’ll move mountains…

#Boriken #Boricua #PuertoRico #PublicHealth #SocialJustice #DeColonizePR

 

 

George Torres, the Urban Jibaro from #NYC

This week we talk to George Torres, to discuss his activism and his community work in Puerto Rico. George is truly an amazing community activist. He shares interesting stories around identity, in the way that Hurricane Maria brought a shift in how Boricuas in Puerto Rico view Boricuas in the US. We also talk about protecting our food supplies, food sustainability, water sovereignty, mental health, and many other issues affecting the people of Boriken.

By using his platform to raise up the issues affecting Puerto Rico, he is showing up for PR. He hopes that by helping to provide opportunities, and bridging people that are helping in the recovery, then we can work to build a better future for PR.

Using a frame of capacity building, George is hoping that he can support a true #JustRecovery for Puerto Rico… one in which Boricuas themselves get to choose their future.

His Advice to the Diaspora: Use your skills and experience to Help Puerto Rico and Adopt a town that needs your support. And importantly: Don’t colonize the recovery efforts by imposing your thoughts or beliefs for how things should go.

If you’re interested in collaborating with him in his work, please reach out to him on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook via @UrbanJibaro

The articles mentioned at the start of the episode can be found below:

  1. Donations found 11 months after they were sent to PR:
  2. Puerto Rico Government acknowledges new death count: