Since December 28, 2019, Puerto Rico has been hit by close to 1,300 earthquakes, with more than two dozen of magnitude 4.5 or greater. The strongest of these was a 6.4 magnitude earthquake on January 7. This was the strongest quake to ever hit the island in over 100 years, dating back to October 1918 when a 7.3-magnitude quake struck the island’s northwest coast, causing a tsunami that killed 116 people.
With Puerto Rico still in recovery and healing from the trauma of Hurricanes Irma and María, Chicago’s Puerto Rican diaspora is taking the lead in earthquake relief efforts to help avoid history repeating itself from both 2017 hurricanes and the 1918 earthquake.
This past Friday, on the historic Paseo Boricua in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, the Puerto Rican Agenda gathered to announce their plans to provide relief efforts for Puerto Rico as a series of earthquakes continue to hit the island. The latest, a 5.9 earthquake, occurred as recently as this past Saturday.
The PR Agenda has reactivated its 3Rs (Rescue, Relief, and Rebuild) Campaign for Puerto Rico. According to their website, this campaign “provides immediate relief and meaningful rebuilding efforts for those affected by natural disasters in Puerto Rico since 2017.” This campaign initially began in response to the effects of Irma and María, raising nearly $500,000 in supplies and micro-grants to directly assist 40 different municipalities in Puerto Rico. Within 48 hours, the agenda was able to assess immediate needs with their contacts in Puerto Rico, assembled pallets of supplies, and loaded the first cargo plane from the diaspora to the island.
Now the agenda is hoping to continue the work needed to rescue, bring relief, and rebuild Puerto Rico by assessing the data of the hardest-hit areas, such as Guánica, Guayanilla, Ponce, Peñuelas and Yauco, as well as contacting organizations and municipal leadership on the ground to best determine where the most support is needed.
At the press conference announcing the relaunch of the 3Rs Campaign, members of the agenda stated the importance of sending supplies. More importantly, they emphasized that any funds should go directly to the municipalities and community organizations because the municipalities will have a better understanding of what they need than the central government of Puerto Rico.
As Cristina Pacione-Zayas, Co-Chair of the Puerto Rican Agenda Chicago, stated at the press conference, “…the second piece that we are asking for is that all resources that come from the federal government and any other channels, go directly to the municipalities. They go directly to the community-based organizations.”
“The central government does not have the capacity to deal with this type of situation. In fact, it was the governor [Wanda Vázquez Garced] who admitted there is no plan for earthquakes,” Pacione-Zayas added.
In just a couple of days, the PR Agenda was able to deliver tents and tarps for an improvised medical clinic in Guayanilla and support Chef Vivoni in Ponce, who is operating a community kitchen and providing artistic relief for children.
This is just the beginning. With your help, this completely volunteer-run effort can help thousands of people. To learn more and donate to the Puerto Rican Agenda’s 3Rs Campaign for earthquake relief efforts, visit puertoricanchicago.org.