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Benefit concert raises money for Puerto Rico, Mexico, U.S. Virgin Islands


Cellists from the studio of Emilio Colón play "Suite del ángel" by Astor Piazzolla at the De Pueblo a Pueblo benefit concert Monday at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. Colón also spoke about his travels to Puerto Rico to donate food and help families affected by Hurricane Maria.  Ty Vinson Buy Photos

As a band performed at Monday’s concert, audience members started to leave their seats to move to a space in front of the stage. As a woman sung energetic tunes in Spanish, couples twirled and groups of friends showed off their dance moves in the orchestra pit at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater.

Soon, the space was filled with dancers as more and more people joined in during the band Orquesta Escuela Vieja’s performance.

The concert was the kickoff event for De Pueblo a Pueblo, a volunteer-based initiative in Bloomington that raises funds for sustainable community projects in areas affected by natural disasters. It is focused on providing funding to grassroots organizations in these areas that provide short-term and long-term solutions.

The proceeds from the benefit concert will go to communities in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Mexico that are recovering from Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria and recent earthquakes.

The concert included a mixture of Latin American and Caribbean music. The musicians ranged from a cello ensemble to dance bands.

The dance band Soneros de la Caliza, singer Emma Dederick and percussionist Michael Spiro concluded the concert with Puerto Rican music.

IU freshman Miranda Perez said she is from a Hispanic background, and the music brought back memories of dancing with her family during Christmas.

“It was really exciting for me to hear music that was from my culture,” she said.

The event also featured speakers, including Mayor John Hamilton. He addressed the devastation of this year’s hurricane season.

“This has been a hard few months for some of our friends and neighbors in our hemisphere,” he said.

He also briefly mentioned the role of climate change in causing more intense storms.

“Tonight is not a night for politics — but I am a politician,” Hamilton said. “I was in the farmers market the other day, and I got a button that I liked. It says, ‘science is not a liberal conspiracy.’”

Some of the speakers detailed their personal experiences of witnessing the destruction in Puerto Rico.

Cellist and Jacobs School of Music professor Emilio Colón spoke to the audience before his performance. He has lived in Bloomington for 31 years, but he was born and raised in Puerto Rico. He recently visited the territory for 10 days to provide relief, and he saw the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria.

Colón emphasized the need to get to the root of the problem through efforts like rebuilding. He described seeing a home where water was falling on the crib of a six-month-old child, who was also surrounded by mosquitos.

“What we need to do as human beings is to make it our job to help one another,” he said.

Colón discussed his decision to perform “Suite de angél” by Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla. He played the three-part piece with cellist Cara Colón and an ensemble of cellists from his studio.

“I chose this piece because it is about the death and resurrection of an angel,” he said. “I know that Puerto Rico will come up strong and resurrect itself.”

Speaker Gloria Colom discussed her experiences in Hurricane Maria, where she found herself “in the eye of the storm” when she was staying with her in-laws in Puerto Rico.

She said she was in the direct path of Hurricane Maria. Streets she said had known for decades were covered in fallen trees, she had limited communication, and she experienced seemingly endless lines for food, water and gas.

Colom said she does not know if people have enough food or water, and she is worried about friends dying from lack of access to medical care.

Communities are trying to rebuild, and Puerto Ricans are helping each other, she said.

“I left Puerto Rico, but Puerto Rico hasn’t left me,” Colom said. 

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