NU community supports Mexico, Puerto Rico following natural disasters


(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

A jet takes off in downtown San Juan, Puerto Rico, where palm trees stand on Oct. 2.. NU student groups are currently fundraising to support Puerto Rico and Mexico following natural disasters.

Ally Mauch, Assistant Campus Editor

After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico last month, second-year graduate student and Puerto Rico native Zorimar Rivera Montes said she went a week before hearing from her family.

“I wasn’t able to contact them to know if they were OK or alive,” Rivera Montes said. “For me, it’s been a very distressing situation.”

Weeks after the storm, Rivera Montes said communications are still “inconsistent and erratic,” adding that her family — along with many others in Puerto Rico — is without electricity or running water.

In order to alleviate the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria and the recent earthquakes in Mexico, student group MEChA de Northwestern is organizing various fundraising and educational efforts next week, MEChA member April Navarro said.

The week will include two teach-ins, one focused on the history of Puerto Rico and the other on the Mexican state Chiapas, which Navarro said was hit particularly hard by the earthquake.

“What we wanted to do was not just fundraise, but also raise awareness of the politics behind both Puerto Rico and Mexico,” the SESP junior said.

The teach-in on Puerto Rico will be led by Rivera Montes and Prof. Frances Aparicio, director of the Latina and Latino Studies program. Aparicio said the teach-in will educate the NU community about how the hurricane was not just a financial crisis, but also exacerbated the political climate in Puerto Rico.

“Beyond the natural disaster, it’s a political problem with much larger consequences,” Rivera Montes said. “Puerto Rico was also in a deep economic crisis before this hurricane happened and I think the hurricane makes more extreme the economic and political conditions there.”

Navarro said they will accept money and supplies at the teach-ins, including water, water filters, solar powered lanterns, food, baby wipes, diapers and hand sanitizer.

MEChA will also partner with the Luso-Brazilian Association, Sigma Lambda Gamma, Multicultural Student Affairs and Alianza — NU’s Hispanic/Latinx student alliance — on fundraising efforts. However, she said MEChA has not planned any other specific events other than the teach-ins.

Sigma Lambda Gamma is planning donation drives for Puerto Rico and Mexico in Technological Institute and Norris University Center on Oct. 16. The sorority will also have donation boxes in the Multicultural Center, the Latina and Latino Studies program house and the Black House throughout the week, chapter president Genesis Garcia said.

“As a community it’s really important that we all come together to see how powerful we can be and how much we can help, (and) to recognize the privilege we have and use it to help others,” the Communication senior said.

The Latina and Latino Studies program also developed a list of organizations to which community members can donate money, supplies or time to help Puerto Rico and Mexico. Aparicio said one of Puerto Rico’s biggest problems is distributing supplies.

“We were trying to identify organizations that are working directly with people and not going through the bureaucratic levels that don’t get the supplies to the people who need them,” Aparicio said. “The more people who know about it, the more people can donate and the more of a difference we can make.”

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