Hurricane Maria slammed onto the island of Puerto Rico, an unincorporated U.S. territory, in September of 2017. Following the storm, many residents left Puerto Rico for the U.S. mainland. According to Science News, estimates made from Facebook data suggest that approximately one-third, about 65,400 people, came to Florida. Twenty months later, the U.S. citizens who live on the island still struggle from the impact of the storm.
Safety Harbor resident and poet Carlos “Chino” Rolon decided he had to do something. Rolon says that many of the island’s homeowners live in houses that have been in their families for generations. “They can’t prove ownership,” he said, and so can’t meet FEMA requirements for aide. Rolon noted that there are many families with children or people with disabilities who have simply not been able to get adequate help.
Rolon organized a fundraiser at the Safety Harbor Art and Music Center (SHAMC) to assist Boricuas de Corazón, a non-profit organization based in Brandon, in raising money for roofs, windows and front doors for families on the island. The original goal, Rolon said, was to raise funds for sixty homes.
On May 5th, locals and friends gathered at SHAMC to show support, raise additional funds and recognize community members and organizations who have contributed to the effort. Tampa band The Katz was on hand to provide entertainment.
Boricuas de Corazón, founded by Linda Perez Davila, also provides support for people who have settled in Florida after leaving Puerto Rico. For more information, Boricuas de Corazón can be contacted through Facebook, Facebook Messenger, or at (954) 496-1463.