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Help Us Heal Puerto Rico!

The Hurricane That Stole Christmas

a letter by LWA's Director Haydee Zambrana 

Christmas is celebrated in many ways around the world, but in my opinion there is no place that celebrates Christmas as they do in Puerto Rico. For Puerto Ricans, the holiday season starts very early with the caroling and (posadas) (reading of scriptures) from house to house by those who are Catholic. Then comes what we call “aguinaldos or parrandas”. It begins in November, before Thanksgiving, they celebrate Noche Buena (Christmas) and New Year, then the Three Kings (wise men) on January 6th and from there the Octavitas (which is just an extension of the festivities) that end after January 20th.

I wonder, what those hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans will do to enjoy Christmas, if they have no electricity this December. You can already hear the parrandas. Some are about how Hurricane Maria has not stopped Puerto Ricans. However, hope for those who live in the hills and mountains is agonizing.  

I have just returned from Puerto Rico and I want to share this anecdote. My brother-in-law, (Miguel) who spends Christmas time caroling, was very sad because they still have no electricity and had nowhere to go to accompany groups in the (parrandas) or sing Aguinaldos. On Saturday, he had several beers and started talking about how somber it would be if they didn’t get electricity before Christmas. An hour later his friend Nelson (who is a Deacon) arrived. They started talking about what holiday activities there were, and since there is no electricity, there was nothing to celebrate. Miguel got up, went to his bedroom and returned with a guitar. He said to Nelson, look, my friend is going to teach me to play the guitar.  Nelson, took the guitar, opened his iPhone, and searched the internet for instructions on adjustment of guitar strings. They talked while adjusting the guitar and once it was adjusted, Nelson started playing the guitar.  Miguel started singing Aguinaldos.  His face lit up, he seemed as if life had returned to his soul.  After singing five Aguinaldos, he stopped and they hugged.  It seems as if Miguel’s anxiety and depression and one simple act of playing the guitar, brought faith again to this man. Just like Miguel, the hundreds of thousands, of Puerto Ricans are depressed because of the Hurricane and the lack of government action. This will impact  the Puerto Rican families from enjoying the most important festivities of their lives.

So, what can we do to help Puerto Ricans this Christmas?  

  • Governor Cuomo who has been so generous by traveling to P. Rico and siding with our people to spend a few thousand dollars to get some Christmas activities  in P Rico
  • Ditto for Mayor DeBlasio and all elected officials sympathetic to Puerto Rico’s plight.
  • The media, in the mainland as in P.R, Hollywood celebrities--travel to the towns of P. Rico and go to some places with no electricity and bring them joy with some parrandas.
  • Reach out to each of the mayors of the 78 municipalities in P. Rico and suggest that in order to maintain the mental health of its people, they should reach out to the different groups that are willing to go sing at parrandas and pay the small fees that they charge.  By doing this, they will save many people from entering into depression or their depression from getting worse.
  • Some non-profit organizations reach out to Toys for Tots and ask them to save toys to take to P. Rico for Three Kings Day, January 6th 2018.

This is a difficult task but one that needs to be done in order to bring peace and keep the mental sanity of my people. Unfortunately, we do not have funding to do what is needed.

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