Stronger Together: Remembering Hurricane Maria

Puerto Rico in Mourning Mural
Angel López Gavillán, Staffing Coordinator for All StarZ Staffing

Angel López Gavillán

Marketing Coordinator

September 28, 2022

It’s Hispanic Heritage Month, and for me, as a Hispanic individual born and raised in Puerto Rico, it’s important to celebrate this time. And I enjoy the opportunity to share my experiences and knowledge. For example, did you know that according to the 2020 census 18.7% of the US population is Hispanic/Latinx? That’s about 62.1 million people!

Who Are we?

Growing up in Puerto Rico, I always thought being Hispanic and Latino were the same thing. And in some ways, they are. Being Hispanic means that you are born in a country where the people come from Spanish descent. Basically all Hispanics are Latinx, however not all Latinx are Hispanics… or so I’ve been told.

Something I’ve learned is that we do all share a lot of cultural similarities, like the types of food we use, the type of music we create, and more. For me, the most important is the sense of community we share.

Community hands joined together.

Coming together

As a community, we come together to share moments – many of those are good moments. But there are also times when those have been challenging as well. And it’s those challenging moments that we come together and really shine as a community, helping those in need. I was in Puerto Rico in 2017, during Hurricane Maria, and lived through one of those challenging times. I have many memories of that time, but the ones that stand out the most are how we as a community came together to help, and support each other.

"That sense of coming together even in the worst of times keeps us together, and makes us stronger."

Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Maria was a category 4 hurricane when it hit the island of Puerto Rico. I remember seeing neighbors come together to help each other, even in the middle of the hurricane. One of my neighbors’ roof collapsed, and once we were in the eye of the hurricane, we all rushed as a community to go and pick up and tie down most of the debris to keep it from flying and creating more damage. That sense of coming together even in the worst times keeps us together, and makes us stronger.

After the hurricane had passed, we had much to do. We went out to the surrounding towns and saw all of the damage from the hurricane, and that’s something that will never fade from my memory. But neither will the memory of how people went out of their way to help each other. Even though everyone had just gone through such a catastrophic event, a lot of us just jumped into action to help those who were going through even worse experiences. Even if we didn’t have the resources, we still tried to help each other as best we could – it’s such an impressive thing to witness.

Because we came together as a community, we survived.

Fallen tree from Hurricane Maria in San Juan

There were a lot of things that happened in the aftermath of the hurricane. People lost their lives because they didn’t have the necessities. There were a lot of elderly people with health issues who didn’t have power to use their medical devices, or didn’t have access to medicine. There were a lot of people out there like me, trying to get them help. I had to run out in the middle of the night to find the EMTs and guide them to the house they were looking for, to help one of my elderly neighbors who was having a diabetic collapse. It was frustrating to see that! But to see how communities came together to help those in need was something that gave you hope.

Five years later, and we’re still doing the same.

Hurricane Fiona

It’s been five years since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. But hurricanes are common this time of year, and only a few days before the 5-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico was hit again. This time by a category 1 hurricane called Fiona. Even though I’m far away, I’ve seen how many of my friends and family are coming together again to help our community. Still, 5 years after Hurricane Maria, there are rolling power outages, and there are days with no water. It’s harder now for some of us to go out and help others in need, but the community has still gone out of their way to help one another – whether they’re still living in Puerto Rico, or have moved away from the Island like me.

Puerto Rico - Waiting in line to receive aid

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Looking for a way to help the people of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Fiona? These are the organizations Angel recommends:

Taller Salud

La Fondita de Jesús

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