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Featured January 2020 Earthquake

Puerto Ricans living in Va. raise $4,500 for island earthquake victims

Ashburn, Va. – A throng of Puerto Ricans living in the Washington, D.C., area held their own version of SanSe over the weekend, drinking and dancing to “bomba y plena,” eating “piononos” and opening their wallets to benefit earthquake relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

One of several earthquake awareness events carried out by Puerto Ricans in the region over the past two weeks, this fundraiser took place about 35 miles west of Washington at House 6 Brewing Co. Co-owners Marian Arcelay and her husband, Rolando Rivera, teamed up with Taíno Foods USA owner, Coral Brun, for a fiestón they say pulled in some $4,500.

The money raised at the Jan. 17 event will be donated to Instituto de Desarollo Integral para el Individuo, la Familia y la Comunidad, known as Idiifco, a social services provider in Guánica, with the help of United Way of Puerto Rico, whose president said that “money is still coming in through our website.”

“Tomorrow morning, we will be depositing $25,000 directly into Idiifco’s bank account, and that includes 100% of the money raised [in Virginia],” Samuel González, president of United Way of Puerto Rico, said in a phone interview on Jan. 21.

Packed with about double the number of people the brewery typically sees on a Friday night, the crowd swayed shoulder-to-shoulder to the sounds of home, headlined by the Richmond, Va.-based Kadencia bomba y plena band, and the party goers shelled out money for food, beer, commemorative beer glasses, silent auction items and a raffle. Also performing were local Puerto Rican musical groups Madre Tierra, Semilla Cultural and Hijo e’ Plena.

Fighting back tears, Arcelay, an animal scientist from Mayagüez, surveyed the crowd, remarking that many of the people were there to do what they could for those so far away.

“We’re talking about family and trying to figure out what to do. This gives people a way to help,” she said.

She and Rivera, a computer scientist from Bayamón, who is also a volunteer firefighter in Ashburn, opened their brewery in July 2018 after several years in the U.S. It quickly became a place for Puerto Ricans in the region to meet, bringing the clacking sounds of dominos and the blare of salsa music to a suburban enclave.

Brun, a former auditor for the federal government who grew up in Guaynabo, established Taíno Foods in Lorton, Va., in November 2018. She said she has seen the number of Puerto Ricans in the DMV—as the District-Maryland-Virginia area is known—skyrocket since Hurricane María in 2017.

It was especially evident on Jan. 5, she said, when she and the Arcelay-Rivera team co-hosted a Three Kings Day party that included a whole lechon asado (roasted pig). “It was a big crowd and we saw the potential for a fundraiser” when the biggest earthquake caught the world’s attention two days later, she said. More earthquake fundraisers are in the planning, she said.

Direct donations are still being accepted on behalf of the DC-area supporters at https://unitedwaypr.org/earthquakes/ using the company name DIASPORA DMV.

Author Details
Author and journalist with more than 25 years of experience writing for online and print daily, weekly and monthly publications in Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. After a career in radio at WOSO in San Juan, she wrote for the San Juan Star and later for Military Times covering the U.S. Army and Marine Corps in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world. Her book, “Sniper: American Single-Shot Warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan,” was published in 2010.

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