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'Puerto Ricans are suffering': PRIM Committee holds vigil to remember Maria victims amid Fiona

A call to action as Hurricane Fiona poured more rain on Puerto Rico Monday, a day after the storm left most of the island without electricity and drinking water.

MINNEAPOLIS — The event held today outside El Colegio High School in south Minneapolis took place to honor the victims of Hurricane Maria.

Maria Isa Perez-Hedges is an organizer with the Puerto Ricans in Minnesota Committee, also known as PRIM. "I am here, standing with our Boricua and Latinx community in Minnesota to honor the thousands of lives on this fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria," she said.

Back in 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated the island as the second-deadliest U.S. storm in over a century. 

"Yesterday, five years ago, many of us did not hear from our families for two weeks — if you were lucky," said Minnesota State Sen. Melisa López Franzen (SD49). 

"Five years ago today, I was going through the worst hurricane that Puerto Rico has seen in its history," said Ivan Fontanez.

Then, in 2020, "I was in Puerto Rico during the earthquake, and I am grateful for the Minnesota community," said Miguel Ramos

And while still rebuilding from the natural disasters, Hurricane Fiona brought torrential rain and flash flooding, left more than a million people without power, and was the cause of several lives lost Sunday.

"Boricuas are suffering; Puerto Ricans are suffering on the island. We are still trying to get ahold of our family members because there is no power," said Perez-Hedges.

"We know the stories coming from hospitals whose generators failed, which means lives are at risk and many have perished," said Franzen. 

"I cannot believe that we don't have water and electricity in America," said Simon Trautmann, Richfield City Council member.

President Joe Biden declared a federal emergency on the island Sunday, and on Tuesday, FEMA announced it was sending crews to the country to help.

But now, people here are putting out a "call to action" to help save lives. 

"The retraumatization of going through this five years now," said Franzen. 

"Every time I visit my family, there's a blackout and it's unacceptable," she said. "We need the folks here in Minnesota and across the country to see us as your people — to see us as your brother and sister — because we are there screaming for help on the island," said Samantha Diaz.

A fundraiser is being set up at El Colegio High School to help.

Contributions to El Fondo Boricua can be made here. 

Donated funds go to vetted nonprofits that help in medical, emergency aid, development and social services.

For more information, visit the website here.

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