By Morgan Smith
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Meet the two amazing women who are using art to change the lives of hurricane victims in Puerto Rico.
On Sept. 20, when Category 5 Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, Erica Sanchez panicked. In the two weeks before Sanchez heard from her sister Tanya, the panic grew.
Tanya finally called Erica while she and her close friend, Janice Aponte, were buying supplies for their families at Target. Both Sanchez and Aponte have relatives in Puerto Rico, and they wanted to be ready to send emergency supplies if needed.
“I had waited so long just to hear her voice … I felt a wave of relief,” Erica Sanchez says. Aponte and Sanchez rejoiced over the small victory in the checkout line. But they knew other Puerto Ricans weren’t as lucky, and wanted to help more than just their relatives.
It was then, Aponte says, that the women decided to turn their distress into action. The Puerto Rican women from Humboldt Park began an organization that has raised over $18,000 to benefit victims of Hurricane Maria.
At work Aponte and Sanchez would weep at the barrage of graphic news reports from Puerto Rico: gas line fires, displaced people wandering the streets without access to clean water or electricity. Their weeping became so routine that someone from human resources called a meeting with the women to check in on them.
Aponte and Sanchez were disappointed to hear how aid appeared to be “dripping in” from larger organizations such as the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Sanchez says. “If we just write a check to a larger organization, then that’s the end,” Sanchez says. “You don’t really know where it’s going,” Aponte adds.
An artist-in-residence at Workshop 4200 in Kelvyn Park, Aponte turned to her art for inspiration. She and Sanchez decided to start an art-driven nonprofit organization that could collect donations and provide art-based relief to victims of Hurricane Maria, and Arte al Rescate (“Art to the Rescue” in Spanish) was born.