Executive Director Carlos Hernandez partnered with the American Red Cross and makes PRAA's Chicago For Mexico and Puerto Rico Relief Fund donation to the victims of Hurricane Maria. We are excited that the Red Cross (Celena Roldan) will impact many lives in Puerto Rico with this contribution.

Puerto Rico is US
This past December, I had the opportunity to travel to Puerto Rico to deliver more than $100,000 in donations raised through the Chicago for Mexico and Puerto Rico Relief Fund, a joint effort of the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance (PRAA) and the National Museum of Mexican Art. We created this fund to raise awareness and urgently needed financial resources to assist victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the devastating earthquake in Mexico City.

As founder and executive director of the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance, I traveled to Puerto Rico to donate our portion of the relief funds, as my counterpart, Carlos Tortolero, president of the National Museum of Mexican Art, traveled to Mexico City. The funds I delivered benefited four nonprofit organizations that are doing amazing work for Puerto Rico: the American Red Cross-Puerto Rico Chapter, the Foundation for Puerto Rico, Proyecto Matria, and Enlance. Our donation was announced at an emotional event at El Conservatorio de Musica de Puerto Rico, with a press conference and attendance by more than 50 artists, educational and cultural leaders from throughout Puerto Rico.

As a leader of the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance, Chicago’s premier Puerto Rican cultural institution, I was proud to travel to Puerto Rico to help people who are still struggling without electricity and many without running water. In addition to delivering the funds we had raised in Chicago, I joined a brigade of more than 55 volunteers and National Guard escorts who delivered food and water to a marginalized community named Ingenio in the town of Toa Baja. Ingenio is just one among hundreds of communities where residents’ homes were severely damaged or destroyed by the floods created by Hurricane Maria.
This trip gave me a firsthand look at what more than half of the US citizens in Puerto Rico are still going through. When I first got off the plane, I felt a deceptive sense of calm after the storm. People at the airport were polite but reserved and very focused on picking up their luggage and reuniting with their loved ones. As I drove through the island in my rented car, heading to my board president’s winter home, I was shocked by the enormous damage the hurricane had caused to the landscape. So many trees had been stripped of their previously lush foliage. Little did I know that the worst was yet to come.

As I drove into Urbanisacion Villas del Mar, a gated community located in Coco Beach, Rio Grande, my senses were overwhelmed by the loud rattling of generators. It was nearly impossible to sleep at night with the generators’ noise and fumes. Of course, this challenge was nothing compared to what the rest of the island was facing after Hurricane Maria.
For over 40 years I have travel from Chicago to Puerto Rico multiple times each year. Yet my journey with the volunteer brigade opened my eyes to how many people in Puerto Rico still live in profound poverty. Hurricane Maria just magnified that reality. What I saw as I was delivering food and water to over 3,000 Ingenio residents was their desperation. Many hugged me and told me through tears that I was the first person they had seen from the outside world since Hurricane Maria. To think that the United States is the most powerful country in the world and its citizens are still in dire straits three long months after the hurricane is appalling.

With generous support from our donors and audiences, the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance is launching new initiatives to preserve Puerto Rico’s artistic vitality, providing opportunities for the island’s artists to present their work here in Chicago, sustaining themselves while enriching our city’s diverse cultural landscape. Much more is needed, and we celebrate others’ efforts.
Puerto Rico is US and we have a responsibility to support its recovery and help it achieve long-term growth and sustainability.

Carlos Hernandez Falcon
Founder & Executive Director
Puerto Rican Arts Alliance

Donation for artists affected by Hurricane Maria are welcomed. For more information, please visit www.praachicago.org/chicagoforpr/
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