Puerto Ricans Forced Out by the Hurricane Find Refuge in a Central Massachusetts City

By Amaris Castillo

Krysthia Gauthier and her daughter Krysthina Ortiz outside her new school in Worcester, Massachusetts (Photo: Amaris Castillo)

Krysthina Ortiz refused to get up from a chair outside her school’s main office. Tears streamed down the 9-year-old’s face as she looked up at her mother, Krysthia Gauthier.

No quiero ir (I don’t want to go)! No quiero ir!,” cried Krysthina in Spanish, begging her mother not to make her go to class. It was only her second day of school, but she met it with dread.

Gauthier, 29, leaned forward and wiped her daughter’s face with her right hand. “I’ll accompany you to class,” she told Krysthina in a gentle voice. “I’m going to pick you up later.”

It was early Friday morning at Woodland Academy in Worcester, Massachusetts, and while most students knew their way around the school, the large brick building was new terrain for Krysthina. She and her mother had arrived in the city just three days earlier to stay with Gauthier’s sister, after fleeing hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

Krysthina clutched the straps of her colorful backpack and, in a trembling voice, told her mother that she doesn’t have as many friends here as she did on the island.

Gauthier’s brows furrowed with concern, but then her face softened. “That’s not so bad,” she said in Spanish, trying to convince her daughter. “You will make new friends.”

To read the complete story, visit Feet in 2 Worlds here.

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This story is part of Fi2W’s new series on migration from Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. 

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