This is one of the saddest Hispanic Heritage months (Sept. 15-Oct. 15) that I have experienced since I came to live in Pennsylvania. Celebration is not the same since we heard about Puerto Rico being hit by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and also the devastating earthquake in Mexico.
Despite the challenges of being away from loved ones living in in those places, we can use this celebration time to call for a united front of rendering help and offering prayers for victims and survivors. The heritage of our cultures, traditions, customs and language is important. But more important than that is the celebration of our characteristic unity, love, care and solidarity with one another, especially but not only, when catastrophes strike.
I hope that during September and October we shift from celebrating just our traditional Hispanic Heritage Month to also celebrate Hispanic Provision and Care Month. Let’s take care of one another as the Body of Christ. Let us live what we learn in 1 Corinthians 12: 25b-26: that members should share the same care for one another. “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”
Since 1901 there have been 12 hurricanes and storms that hit Puerto Rico in the month of September. You might recognize some of their names…or maybe just a few: San Vicente, San Hipolito, San Felipe, San Nicolas, San Siprian, Betsy, Frederick, Hugo, Hortensia, Georges, Irma, and María.
These storms caused damages, cost lives, and left despair in their wake. Hurricane Irma’s pass on the north side of the island left the people in expectancy of what could go wrong with a direct hit. Then, not even two weeks later, Hurricane Maria struck with devastation.
People were a little more ready and they were hoping for not so much damage. But the island suffered a giant smash as “if a bomb struck.” I am sure that the islanders were seeing the news and felt hopeless about what they could do.
I know. I lived through Hurricane Hugo in 1989. But Puerto Ricans are resilient and will reconstruct.
On the another hand, those of us living in the U.S. during Hurricane Maria were in despair. Communications were lost, and the only way we knew anything was through constant news reports.
We felt hopeless, as we made countless phone call attempts. Anguish increased with each news report on the devastation. As daylight slowly arrived, so did more news, as we started hearing updates from third parties.
Many people still don’t know about their loves ones, especially those living in the middle of the island and up in the mountains. We tend to think the worst. The only things we can do are pray and believe, and this is easier to say than to do.
After almost seven days I finally got in contact with my mother. She had fallen while trying to cover a window broken by the wind and debris during the hurricane. I did not know how she was. But thank God for good neighbors, as they united in the crisis and shared their resources. Now the luxury of slowly cell phone communications has returned.
Like me, there are many still waiting for words of assurance. But we have to remind ourselves of what Proverbs 3:5 says: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.”