When it comes to an abundance of Puerto Rican culture in other parts of America, people may think of Florida and New York City as two places that stand out.
Add Central Texas to that list.
Zera Thompson recently moved to the Killeen area, and is the former vice president of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center in Austin. She said that she’s hearing from several people within the Puerto Rican community that cities such as Killeen, San Marcos and Austin could be destinations for those who needed to evacuate the island after Hurricane Maria.
“It is a grand opportunity for Puerto Ricans to stay here and rebuild,” Thompson said. “But you can’t ever say that to a Puerto Rican, because everybody wants to go back.”
The cultural center has gotten a flurry of calls from people wanting to know more about the area. Everything from possible shelters and homes to job opportunities. Thompson said that those involved with the cultural center are working on finding hotels that will rent by the week so evacuees can have somewhere to stay before moving on to more permanent housing. The group is in the process of updating its website to include information on all of this.
You can find that information at http://prfdance.org.
“It’s a different type of evacuee situation,” Thompson said, referring to the fact that Puerto Rico is an island. “Everyone’s spoken so heavily about giving help. People are coming, so what can we do?”
Killeen is bursting with Puerto Rican culture, Thompson said, much of it because of the number of soldiers brought here by Fort Hood. By her count, there are four or five Puerto Rican restaurants in the area.
“A lot of times, it’s a slower life to live here,” she said. “But at the same time, there’s so many people coming here for an education ... and a lot of Puerto Ricans have come to the area, and they just make it home. It’s just a feeling that it’s a home away from home. You don’t have to go to New York or Florida.”
It’s unclear how many Puerto Rico residents will make it to Killeen, but local efforts to help the hurricane-torn island continue locally.
A fundraising event for Puerto Rico and earthquake victims in Mexico is being planned by the Hispanic American Chamber of Commerce Central Texas on Oct. 21. The event will feature music, dance groups, restaurants and food trucks. The event is expected to begin at 11 a.m. at the Killeen Special Events Center, 3301 S. W.S. Young Drive. All proceeds will be donated to those working directly with the communities affected.
The fundraiser is being called “Together for a Cause Fundraising Event.”
For more information, go to www.facebook.com/pages/Killeen-Special-Events-Center/167726466597802 or www.haccctx.org.
The Killeen-based Sociedad Cultural Hispanoamericana organization is continuing to raise donations and supplies for Puerto Rico, this time partnering with an organization called HelpingPuertoRico.org located in Georgetown. Drop-off points for donations in the Killeen area are:
• First National Texas Bank, 4304 E. Central Texas Expressway.
• First National Texas Bank, 201 E. Central Texas Expressway.
• Blessed Cuts, 810 N. W.S. Young Drive, Suite 108.
• U-Haul Moving & Storage of Twin Creek, 1507 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Sociedad Cultural Hispanoamericana organizer Nelson Santiago said Thursday the two organizations are meeting to do inventory and discuss another trip to Puerto Rico. He expected this load of supplies to be flown to the island.