The good people of Mexico and Puerto Rico have suffered tremendously during the month of September, and the people of Philadelphia are organizing to help in any way they can.
For the island of Puerto Rico, September meant having to endure the destruction of Hurricane Irma followed by Hurricane Maria. For Mexico, September meant two major earthquakes in just a couple of weeks. For the Puerto Rican and Mexican communities in Philadelphia, September meant setting aside civic and cultural pride celebrations for the purpose of reaching out to those who need help in this time of desperation.
The Mexican Independence Day and the annual Puerto Rican Week activities in Philadelphia were celebrated quietly and with a focus on raising funds and allocating resources from the significant Latin American communities in the city. The goal is to provide much needed help to the people of Mexico and Puerto Rico, who have been left reeling by natural disasters. Aside from Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans living in Philadelphia, organizers have also reached out to Dominicans, Cubans, Central and South American residents across the city, and leaders from the Unidos PA’ Puerto Rico and from the Red Cross have expressed their satisfaction with the efforts thus far.
In Camden, Norristown and South Philly, people gathered at churches to learn more about how they can help. The Archdiocese is collecting funds that will be destined towards relief efforts. Students from the University of Pennsylvania have thus far collected $18,000 through online donations.
The Unidos PA’ Puerto Rico organization is coordinating a trip to the island so that volunteers can join members of the Salvation Army on the ground. In Philadelphia, the Puerto Rican community is estimated to be more than 120,000.
At the Mexican Consulate, diplomats have been engaged in helping residents learn about the fate of their loved ones back home. As of September 22, officials in Mexico had counted more than 100 lives lost due to the two earthquakes.
The response from the business community has also been strong. Mexican restaurants and Puerto Rican bodegas have become gathering places for people who want to share news about the situation in their respective homelands. In both Mexico and Puerto Rico, officials have commented that the recovery process will take several months; economic losses are being tallied in the billions of dollars, and there are fears about contagious diseases becoming widespread before the weather turns cooler.