For thousands in Chicago, Puerto Rico's humanitarian crisis hits close to home

Michelle Gallardo Image
Monday, February 24, 2020
In Chicago, Puerto Rico's humanitarian crisis hits close to home
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First Hurricane Maria, then a series of earthquakes. Puerto Rico has been hit with a series of disasters that have left thousands of people homeless.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Puerto Rico has been hit with a series of earthquakes that have left thousands of people homeless and in the dark.

For Jessie Fuentes, and thousands of others in Chicago, the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico is personal. You can hear it in her voice.

"I'm Puerto Rican," said Jessie Fuentes, of the Puerto Rican Agenda of Chicago. "I have family that live in Puerto Rico."

Devastated first by Hurricane Maria and most recently by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake in early January, the island has struggled to get back up on its feet. Hampered by a lack of federal aid, that's why grassroots efforts to help people on the ground have taken on such importance. Fuentes was part of a delegation that recently came back from a five-day trip to Puerto Rico, distributing over $30,000 in funds.

"The amount of resilience the families of Puerto Rico showed, the amount of strength they were able to exhibit despite being in the worst circumstance of their life, they were able to be grateful, they were able to be strong and I think that for me made the biggest impact," Fuentes said.

According to FEMA, only $15 billion of the nearly $45 billion allocated to Puerto Rico disaster relief has been allocated. Following last month's earthquake, the House of Representatives passed an additional emergency aid bill that White House has already said it will veto, saying on February 7: "Neither Puerto Ricans nor the American taxpayers benefit when emergency aid is misallocated, lost, or stolen through waste, fraud, and abuse."

"The excuse of corruption just doesn't hold up," said Rep. Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, D-Illinois. "This is totally inhumane."

"We have a responsibility to Puerto Rico," said State Rep. Delia Ramirez, who represents the 4th District of Illinois. "How criminal if feels for us. An island that has been colonized by the United States, receiving little to no support and left abandoned."

According to the last census, more than 100,000 people of Puerto Rican descent live in Chicago. That's close to 4% of the city's total population, and why there are so many people here that have such a deep interest in what happens on the island and are continuing to raise awareness and funds wherever they can.