HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Hispanic Heritage Month is usually a time of unique celebrations and flag-waving, especially in North Alabama for local Puerto Ricans, or Boricuas, but an all too familiar natural disaster situation still plagues many on the commonwealth island.
Hurricane Fiona left at least 16 dead in its destruction in September. For barber Paul Ramos of Fade Zone on Oakwood Avenue, the images of Fiona’s aftermath brought back painful memories of Hurricane Maria back in 2017.
“It’s made me mad because I think if we are [in] the same country, I think we’ve got to help each other, you know? And I don’t think they’ve been doing that with Puerto Ricans,” Ramos said of government response after significant storms.
Ramos said he regularly sends money to and visits family in his hometown of Yabucoa, located on the southeast side of the main island.
“I was there like a month ago,” he said. I just go there and help my family. My family doesn’t have electricity right now. They were scared because it was a lot of like strong air and all that stuff. This time it’s not that much damage in my area, but in other places in Puerto Rico it’s pretty bad.”
It also literally hits home for Rey Almodóvar, who’s well-known in Cummings Research Park as CEO of Intuitive Technology & Research Corporation, a sponsor of News 19.
“I have never ever forgotten where I came from,” Almodóvar said. “I never have taken anything that I have for granted. I never have been able to just move away from the island and just forget my roots.”
Almodóvar flew to Puerto Rico on September 28 to help deliver and transport needed supplies to those without road access, power, or drinking water, as well as ensure his mother was safe.
“I’ve been in contact with The Red Cross because we did a major fundraiser during Maria. But nothing beats talking to people and doing direct impact: donations, families of your neighbors, and so on.”
Whether that support includes donating, getting a haircut, or tasting local Boricua flavors in north Alabama, Ramos and Almodóvar hope their north Alabama neighbors will support their fellow Americans’ recovery.
“Ever since the 1400s when the island was discovered [by Europeans], we’ve been in a survival mode,” Almodóvar said. “So we’re going to survive. But we’re going to need a lot of prayers, a lot of support, a lot of help, and we’re gonna be fine.”
Only about 10% of the unincorporated U.S. territory of Puerto Rico remains without electricity as of Saturday, according to LUMA.