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San Antonio's Puerto Rican Heritage Society says help is needed now in the wake of Hurricane Fiona

The coastal communities of Salinas near the Rio Nigua experienced massive flooding during Hurricane Fiona.
Gabriella N. Báez for NPR
The coastal communities of Salinas near the Rio Nigua experienced massive flooding during Hurricane Fiona.

Puerto Rico is still struggling from the blow of Hurricane Fiona that struck on Sept. 18. A local Puerto Rican organization is asking the community for help. Liliana McKenzie, president of the Puerto Rican Heritage Society in San Antonio, explained how San Antonio residents can step up.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Jerry Clayton: give us a brief overview of the Puerto Rican Heritage Society here in San Antonio.

Liliana McKenzie: We're a nonprofit organization founded here in 1984. We promote our culture and the diversity that we bring to the city of San Antonio. Our main purpose for existing is to fund our scholarship program that benefits minorities and Hispanics in the city. And we hold these cultural events to support and to fund those scholarships.

Clayton: What are you hearing about what's going on now on the ground in Puerto Rico?

McKenzie: It’s a community that is traumatized because of what happened just five years ago with Hurricane Maria. They are still experiencing pitch black darkness at night. The majority of the island is without energy at this point. And we just had heat advisories (warning) that it's going to be extremely hot.

Clayton: How does this situation that's going on now compare to Hurricane Maria, and what kind of challenges did they face since 2017?

McKenzie: Puerto Rico has been recovering. We felt that everything was getting back to pretty much normal, and then this hurricane was devastating, and it flooded so many parts of the island. It decimated crops. It destroyed whole communities and homes where people lost everything, including their furniture, their appliances, their businesses, their crops. It's going to be a long road to recovery again.

It is different in that we have communications because the winds were not as strong. We were able to communicate and find out how things are and where people are. So that that does give a little bit of consolation to us that are able to find out how to help the community over there, our family and our friends.

Clayton: For those who may want to help out, what is the best way to get donation dollars directly into the hands of people who need it the most?

McKenzie: I have worked closely with an organization in Puerto Rico called Fundacion Mochileando. They have boots on the ground. They are able to purchase the things that people need locally and deliver it to the areas that are hardest hit right now. So I would encourage anyone that wants to help to find them online and please help out because the quicker that we get help to them, the better. Time is of the essence right now.

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Jerry Clayton can be reached at jerry@tpr.org or on Twitter at @jerryclayton.