Latin American and Latino Studies

Letter to Saint Peter’s University Community re: Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the Greater Caribbean

Dear SPU Community Members,

On behalf of the Latinx Studies Program, the Latin American Service Organization, and several other working groups on campus, this message is a plea for all to join us in helping our devastated communities. In lieu of tonight’s scheduled movie, we will hold a planning session on how to respond to crises in Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the greater Caribbean. This meeting will take place in Mc 301, at 8 P.M.

This change comes as we find ourselves trying to make sense of the humanitarian crises that have emerged over the last several weeks. Mexico was hit with multiple severe earthquakes. Cuba, Puerto Rico, and many other Caribbean islands were ravaged by hurricanes Irma and Maria. As you read this message, many are in search of essentials such water, food, and shelter. Meanwhile, millions here in the mainland continue to sort through limited news coverage, and some are still waiting to hear that family members are alive and ok.

We are also concerned by our government’s response to these matters. After all, Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States – a colony, really – and thus has limited capacity to act on its own behalf. Coupled with the absence of mainstream, on-the-ground television media coverage, the lack of communication continues to be a source of immense stress and confusion. On the one hand, we hear that federal resources have been deployed. On the other, our informal networks in places like Puerto Rico continue to tell us that the impact of this assistance is barely visible. Further, we have learned that the administration will not relax compromising laws that impede commerce and make it difficult for nearby nations to help.

Our concern has become particularly acute over the last 72 hours. It is our sense that the President does not understand the legacy of colonial history and does not prioritize the well-being of our Caribbean territories, or our neighbors to the south. We fear what might become of people and these places if residents are not provided with immediate assistance to sustain themselves. There is now talk of an exodus, and of politicians and investors strategizing to accumulate land, and privatize public goods. This would rob many of their homes, livelihoods, communities and ways of life. Historians of Latin America and its cousin, New Orleans, remind us that this would not be unusual.

So we ask that you join us tonight for the first of several strategy sessions, in place of the movie. Following this session, LASO and LALS will join the Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Campus Ministry, TCUS, and others to piece together a broad campaign to collect goods, raise money, and influence policy in ways that can aid our global families. We welcome and encourage any individual or group that is interested in participating. Indeed, your help is integral to our success.
Our efforts will be both immediate and long-term. We will gather as many resources as we can to help now. But noting that the road to recovery will be long, we will establish a program that allows us to contribute to the rebuilding process over time. The range of options may include:

  • Collecting goods that local partners deem most necessary. We will construct a specific list and share it with you as soon as we have met. Goods will be collected at the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity in Henneberry Hall.
  • Lobbying political officials to establish forms of aid, suspend/remove the commerce-impeding Jones Act, and modify other restrictions that negatively limit the options for recovery.
  • Fundraising. Noting that the most critical resource is money, we will partner with respected organizations that can facilitate monetary donations that go to those in need.

Again, we encourage all to join us in this crucial moment. If you cannot make it, but would still like to be involved, please contact us.

Dr. Alex Trillo
Latino Studies Program Director

Nathaly Pichardo
Latin American Service Organization President