El Club Puertorriqueño de San Francisco glowed with candlelight Thursday, as the oldest Latino organization in the United States held a vigil to remember the victims of Hurricane Maria one year after the hurricane devastated the island.
“Puerto Rico still needs help, a lot of help,” said club president Jose Solis at the vigil held outside their headquarters at 3249a Mission Street, near 29th Street. “One day they got water, the next day they don’t. Electricity is on and off.”
The vigil was part of “Remembering Maria,” a statewide event organized by Los Angeles-based nonprofit Puerto Ricans in Action. Seven cities participated, from Los Angeles to San Francisco.
At El Club Puertorriqueño, participants sang the “La Borinqueña,” observed a moment of silence, and passed an open mic, with many voicing frustrations over limited support from the US government.
“There are still people who need to rebuild their homes,” said Nancy Braña of San Francisco. “And it’s hurricane season in Puerto Rico; it’s not over.”
Dafne Campos of San Lorenzo said the government’s minimal action was frustrating, “especially since Puerto Rico is American land.”
Puerto Rican officials initially reported 16 deaths due to the storm. The number grew to 64 in the subsequent months, and a study published by Harvard researchers in July estimated that 4,645 Puerto Ricans died due to hurricane-related conditions — including loss of electricity, water and access to necessary medication.
President Trump disputed this estimate on Twitter last week, tweeting that the death toll was “anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths,” and that higher counts were a Democratic attempt “to make me look as bad as possible.”
“It’s infuriating that situations like mine have been dismissed,” said Coral Figueroa, of San Mateo, whose grandfather passed because he couldn’t get needed medications after the storm.
This hurricane season, North and South Carolina have been hit hard. Since Hurricane Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, earlier this month, 36 people have died.
Solis said he is glad to see the Carolinas getting attention and aid, and that he hopes government efforts to assist his homeland continue.
“Every Puerto Rican I know,” said club supervisor Margarita Gallagher Huertas, “has been affected or knows someone who’s been affected by Maria.”