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Benefit concert Monday to help Puerto Rico, Mexico, U.S. Virgin Islands bounce back from natural disasters


Nearly one week after hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico, residents were still trying to get the basics of food, water, gas and money from banks. The benefit concert in Bloomington on Nov.5 will support those in Puerto Rico.  Tribune News Service Buy Photos

Community members will be able to listen to Latin American music and dance in an orchestra pit Monday while making a difference.

De Pueblo a Pueblo, a new organization launched to support Puerto Rico, Mexico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of recent natural disasters, organized a benefit concert with the goal of collecting $35,000 in aid. The concert, which will take place at 7 p.m. Monday at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, will be free, but donations are encouraged.

“It’s a way for people locally to get involved,” Arlene Diaz, IU associate history professor, said. “It’s to look at this problem that seems so big but work together to help. It’s hope."

Diaz said she has worked with IU faculty members, including music professor Javier Leon, language sciences professor Raquel Anderson, IU librarian Luis Gonzalez and IU research associate Luis Hernandez, who all have ties to affected areas.

Gonzalez said the team worked hard to identify areas that had not received aid from governmental or non-governmental organizations already. He said the organizers spoke to people they knew in these regions and combed through newspapers to find overlooked places.

“It was a complicated process,” he said.

The process also involved listening to the needs of the people, rather than making assumptions about what type of aid is needed.

“We want to be respectful about what they say they need,” he said. “We need to listen, not impose what we think.”

After listening to the people in these areas, Diaz said they’re looking to build houses in Loiza, Puerto Rico or send mosquito nets as one of their many sub-projects.

While attendees will be able to donate at the concert, Diaz said they will also plan many other events through January and leave their donation box open on their website.

“Now is when news coverage is dying down and people are starting to shift their attention elsewhere,” Diaz said. “But it’s when we need to be trying to help the most, when they need us most.”

Hernandez said it is also especially important for Bloomington residents to step up and make a difference because he said the U.S. government failed to respond efficiently to the devastation in these regions.

“It is now our responsibility,” he said. “We have to serve the challenges they have and stand in solidarity with them.”

Diaz said the concert can serve as a teaching moment to show others the problems people in these areas continue to face and why governments continue to fail them. She said she is excited to bring these issues to the forefront of people’s minds.

Leon said planning the concert required a lot of work but support from the community, including the Narra Foundation and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, made it possible.

He said it has been great to see the Latin American community and Bloomington community unite once again behind a common goal.

“Everyone was on the same wavelength,” he said. “We all saw a problem and decided that we needed to do something.”

Anderson said they chose to unite behind a benefit concert because music brings people together. She said it is a common language that transcends borders.

“It’s people helping people,” she said. “That’s what De Pueblo a Pueblo is all about.”

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