SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) — This week ends Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month.
In recent weeks, a brutal hurricane season has once again thrust Puerto Rico into the global spotlight.
Locally, a group is working to support people who are still suffering while championing local Puerto Rican culture here in the Bay Area.
Maria Acevedo Campbell has been working hard for weeks to lead local efforts, sending relief to those suffering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico in September. Although more devastation has since been wrought in other areas by Hurricane Ian, many Puerto Ricans are still suffering.
RELATED: At least 25 deaths in Puerto Rico could be linked to Hurricane Fiona, island’s health department says
Acevedo Campbell and his team were able to coordinate the aid within weeks from South Bay, thousands of miles away.
“We were able to bring food, we brought water, we brought generators, we brought Luci lamps,” she said of the group’s work, “We brought a lot of volunteers, we brought gifts for the children”.
And the work just keeps going, the non-profit behind it all is the Puerto Rican Civic Club of San Jose, a key local force behind relief efforts five years ago when Hurricane Maria nearly leveled the island. The lessons learned from this disaster still serve them today.
“We’ve been working from Maria, so when (Hurricane Fiona) hit, we were ready, organized and ready to mobilize all the units we have in Puerto Rico,” Acevedo Campbell said, “And since then we’ve formed a coalition with other nonprofit organizations, we were able to touch the heart of Puerto Rico.”
RELATED: How to Help Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic During Hurricane Fiona
The club itself has a rich history in the South Bay, Acevedo Campbell is now its president, she moved to the bay as a teenager, eventually discovering the San Jose Puerto Rican Civic Club.
“I was so excited because I didn’t fit in anywhere, I didn’t understand Mexican lingo, or South American lingo, or their Spanish was a little different,” she explained, “I don’t didn’t fit in with the American people, because my English was broken, so there was no place for me and when I found the Dia de San Juan festival, I found home.”
She explained the unique challenges that she says have led so many in the Bay Area’s Puerto Rican community to become as tight-knit as they are.
“We are part of the community and the essence of California,” she said. “The problem with Puerto Ricans is that we don’t fit in with the American people, because we’re not American enough, and we don’t fit in with the Latino community because we have American citizenship, and sometimes we have been discriminated against on both sides.”
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But through unity, the club has left its mark on the Bay Area and beyond.
“One person can make a difference,” said Acevedo Campbell. “It’s just a matter of knowing the right people and being at the right time, and thinking about the future and what that future holds for our island.”
This Hispanic and Latin American Heritage Month, Acevedo Campbell shares this reminder.
“We make a difference in the sauce of the United States, we are part of the condiments and bring a lot to this country and we should be included in everything and everyone should be treated equally.”
The nonprofit Puerto Rican Civic Club of San Jose says any donation helps and you can find ways to help with the ongoing efforts here.
More stories about Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month here.
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