This Friday, the Laurentian Singers will be hosting a Benefit Concert for victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The concert is at 7:30 p.m. in the Gunnison Memorial Chapel and will feature performances by the SLU Gospel Choir, the Singing Saints, the Up Beats, SLU Funk, and the Laurentian Singers.
The Laurentian Singers have a strong connection with Puerto Rico, having toured there on five times over the past fifteen year, including last spring. They feel that it is important to bring attention to the challenges facing the island as it rebuilds post Maria.
While admission is free, there is a suggested donation of two dollars, which can be placed in baskets at the doors to the chapel. These donations will be in addition to the over $700 the Laurentian Singers have already raised during their family weekend concerts. All of the funds collected will go to Unidos por Puerto Rico, a 501(c)(3) non-profit started by Beatriz Rossello, the First Lady of Puerto Rico.
While it has been over a month since Maria hit, Puerto Rico is still reeling with as many as two-thirds of all 3.5 million residents lacking power.
Furthermore, the island is on the verge of a major health crisis, as it lacks the funding to continue to cover Medicaid for the 900,000 Puerto Rican Americans who use it. The weather radar is down, which makes it difficult to predict future storms, while many hospitals are running on generators and operating over capacity.
Quinn Audsley ’20, a member of Laurentian Singers, has family on the island and has expressed concern over the fact that many people in the United States are unaware that Puerto Ricans are American citizens. She explains the plight of these citizens by stating, “they [Puerto Ricans] are disenfranchised from the start, and the reason a lot of destruction has been happening is because even though they pay similar taxes as states in the country, they receive little to no comparable help infrastructurally or institutionally as states.”
Much federal aid to Puerto Rico and other American territories is capped while states generally receive most of their demonstrated need. Part of this is due to the fact that, while Puerto Rico does have representatives in congress, they are not voting members and have little real power.
While disaster relief efforts are well under way, the enormity of the task facing aid workers is staggering. Puerto Rican roads and infrastructure, already weakened by years of underfunding, have been demolished, making it difficult to reach many people in need of help.
The territorial government has an anemic budget and faces crippling debt, limiting what it is able to do. Moody’s Analytics has suggested that the cost of rebuilding could be between 45 billion and 90 billion dollars.
Puerto Rican Americans, our fellow citizens, need help, and the Laurentian Singers are hoping that the SLU community can be part of the solution.