Pa’lante Puerto Rico!


CROM’s Salsa Night Fundraiser to Support Earthquake-Stricken Island

 These are again difficult times in Puerto Rico, and the folks at CROM Physical Culture are back at it again to help, this time fundraising a disaster relief effort after repeated earthquakes and powerful aftershocks crippled the Caribbean island starting December 28. So this Saturday, February 15, get your dancing shoes on and bring your family and friends for a special salsa night, where you’ll not only learn and prune your salsa moves with NYC-based expert instructors, celebrate Puerto Rican culture, but also help CROM—pa’lante (translated as move forward)—in helping the people on the island, many locals affectionately refer to as “Rockaway South” or “hogar lejos del hogar,” (“home away from home”). Classes are $30 per person and proceeds go toward San Juan-based nonprofit, With Love, Puerto Rico.

After barely recovering from Hurricane Maria, which decimated the island just less than three years ago, more than 1,280 earthquakes have hit the southern region of Puerto Rico since December 28, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Among them was a 6.4 magnitude quake that hit on January 7, killing one person, injuring nine others, and knocking out power and causing water shortages to virtually the entire island of more than three million people, driving thousands to shelters, and some even determinedly living in tents outdoors. According to The Associated Press, more than four thousand people are still living in makeshift shelters, many afraid to return to what’s left of their homes for fear of another earthquake. Also, just two weeks ago on January 25, a 5.9 magnitude aftershock occurred, causing further damage and embedding more fear.

According to With Love, Puerto Rico Executive Director Marcia Pierluisi, recovery is not just difficult with infrastructure damages, but many are afraid to return to their homes and are mentally traumatized. “People don’t feel safe inside their homes. They’re sleeping outside in tents or in their cars because they're afraid that another earthquake may strike, and it might be a bigger one. They don't want to get stuck under a roof. People are having panic attacks, anxiety and related issues. So, we’re also working on putting together a team of mental health professionals who can help people work through their fear, and start building their minds and hearts towards hope,” Pierluisi said.

According to With Love, Puerto Rico’s Facebook page, the organization was established in 2014, “to promote community and volunteer service through the engagement and contribution of all the volunteers in order to develop initiatives that allow us to provide and cover for various sectors that are in need of basic and social necessities. Our main focus is based in our philosophy that love is all we need, and this love is what drives us. We hope to continue implementing numerous projects of social and community development that will help us contribute to forge a better Puerto Rico for coming generations.”

Pierluisi said when the organization was first launched, their focus was in helping foster children and other displaced individuals gain access to much-needed resources. Then when Hurricane Maria hit, the organization immediately focused on disaster relief efforts by supplying food, hygiene supplies and other essential items. “Many locals on the island lost faith in the government to help them, especially when resources were not funneled to people displaced and truly in need,” she said.

Then last year just after Christmas, when the sudden surge in earthquakes and tremors injected another fear amongst locals, the organization saw the need to inject faith and love, especially in the south regions most affected—Guanica, Guayanilla, Ponce, Yauco, Sabana Grande and San German.

Pierluisi said, “Since the beginning of January, we have been collecting donations whether monetary or supplies. With monetary donations we obtain specific necessities to distribute in municipalities with families that need them the most. People who lost their homes don't know what they're going to do. It’s like starting over from scratch. Just two years ago, we had Hurricane Maria, when a lot of these southern communities were very affected and had to start from zero. And now they're facing that situation again.”

The idea for a salsa night was inspired by CROM’s own members. “We play salsa music in the gym on ‘Salsa Saturdays,’ while people are grinding away in SHRED and Muay Thai (which helps with the footwork for our boxers),” CROM co-owner Sarah Romulo said. “One day, some of the fighters started breaking out their best version of salsa dancing, and the idea popped in my head—let’s have a salsa night in the gym, where the community could learn how to dance from some legit experts, and help out our friends in Puerto Rico at the same time.”

For the Romulos, who have held other fundraisers for Puerto Rico, the island holds big importance. “We have a special place in our hearts for Puerto Rico. We’ve always received so much love when we visit. Living through Hurricane Sandy in Rockaway, which pales in comparison to what PR has gone through over the last couple of years, makes us want to give back with love and support. We did a big collection in our gym after Hurricane Maria collecting diapers, formula, canned food and more from members of our generous Rockaway community. Then about six months later, we started going down a few times a year to volunteer with their Muay Thai Federation giving seminars to help rebuild the sport on the island. We weren't sure how to help this time, but we figured making a donation to a reputable nonprofit, For Love, Puerto Rico, that’s on the ground doing the work would be the best way. And hey, maybe we'll put these salsa skills to work on our next trip to PR!”

CROM’s Salsa Night is this Saturday, February 15, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the gym (217 Beach 92nd Street). Classes are $30 per person. People of all ages are welcome, including children. CROM’s goal for the fundraiser is $1,200.

So locals—consider helping CROM and For Love, Puerto Rico help pa’lante—keep faith and rebuild. If you can’t attend this Saturday’s event, visit For Love, Puerto Rico’s online fundraising site: Plus for more info, visit Facebook page: With Love, Puerto Rico Corp.

 By Kami-Leigh Agard