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October 24, 2017

Hurricane Relief Fundraisers for Puerto Rico and Mexico Aim to ‘Challenge Ignorance’

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Pennies and “Mi Gente” may not be the entire solution for relief efforts for Mexico and Puerto Rico, but at Cornell they may be a start.

To fundraise for relief efforts for Mexicans and Puerto Ricans affected by Hurricanes Irma, Maria and Katia and the 2017 Central Mexico Earthquake, several student organizations are co-hosting a Penny Wars Fundraiser Competition — a competition between organizations in which individuals can add bills or change to containers that will either grant or deduct points from other organizations — and a Mi Gente Remix party — a ticketed event at The Nines.

Despite activism by certain student organizations on campus, Chris Arce ’19, co-president of the Puerto Rican Student Association, remains concerned that the majority of the student body remains unaware of the situations in Puerto Rico and Mexico.

“I think at Cornell, when students are aware of what’s going on they care, but a lot of them really don’t,” Arce said. “I can’t count the number of times I have been asked ‘do I need a passport to go to Puerto Rico, or are you guys U.S. citizens.’”

“I want to challenge this widespread ignorance at Cornell,” he added.

Like Arce, Adriana Herrera ’20, chair of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán de Cornell, is also concerned that there is a particular limited awareness of the disaster’s impact in Mexico on campus.

“[The Hurricane disaster] happened a month ago, and I am not sure if people outside the Hispanic community know,” Herrera said. “For Mexico, its a different country so it’s like ‘oh it’s a different country so they can deal with their own stuff.’”

Cornell’s bureaucracy also presented a significant obstacle for the organization of the Penny Wars fundraiser, Herrera said.

“Cornell’s approval is a big [issue]. I got like 20 different emails saying your project has been approved, but when I check the site for events it says ‘status pending, status pending,’ and still more approvals were needed,” Herrera said.

“It’s literally just putting coins in a jug … and it still took a very long time,” she said.

Onintze Contreras ’19, operations chair of MeCHa de Cornell, also noted that Cornell’s bureaucratic nature made it difficult for students to find a location for the Mi Gente Remix party.

“If the school were to provide us with the resources we wouldn’t need to have a party outside, but because of how funding works and the steps necessary to access those resources are so long, we just don’t have the time to go through that,” Contreras said.

Arce said that while previous fundraising campaigns held last month were successful, there is still a great need for additional donations, which is what prompted the upcoming fundraisers.

“We wanted to do another fundraiser because while we raised several thousand dollars here and in a larger group raised a lot more, that’s only going to make a dent in the impact [the disaster] had on Puerto Rico,” he said.

The money raised by the Penny Wars competition will be split equally between Mexican and Puerto Rican relief efforts. Money delegated to Puerto Rican victims will go to local NGOs rather than government-led relief efforts.

Donations from the Mi Gente Remix party will go toward global giving, “as they have a dual initiative [and] are partaking in both Puerto Rican and Mexican [relief efforts],” said Andrea Fortanel ’18, social chair of MeCHa.

In response to Seth Klarman’s ’79 comments that to absolve Puerto Rico’s debt is amoral, Arce stressed the need to prioritize humanitarian considerations over immediate economic concerns.

“As much as I would love for all of Puerto Rico’s debt to be gone immediately, I recognize that will come with certain ramifications; however I reject the approach that only looks at Puerto Rico from an economic perspective,” Acre said. “I mean just last year, 184 schools were closed down to pay off debt. That’s outrageous.”