Amanda Scopelliti ’20
The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is an archipelago located about 1,000 miles from Miami, Florida. Although Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, there are many cultural differences between Americans living in the United States and Puerto Ricans.
In Puerto Rico, Spanish is considered the predominant language over English, and Puerto Ricans have their own rich culture of diverse traditions, customs, and dishes.
There is a large number of Puerto Ricans currently living in the United States, and a 2012 census puts the number at over 5 million. Hartford, Connecticut has the eighth largest Puerto Rican population nationwide with over 100,000 residing in Hartford, East Hartford, and West Hartford combined.
Puerto Rican culture is prevalent throughout the greater Hartford area, and the neighborhoods surrounding Trinity College are no exception.
There are a variety of restaurants in Hartford that serve traditional Puerto Rican foods such as mofongo, a dish that consists of deep fried plantains mashed with salt, garlic, and oil, served with chicken broth soup or braised meat. Each June, the city puts on the Greater Hartford Puerto Rican Day Parade and Festival del Coqui. Community members gather in Bushnell Park to watch the parade and partake in this special day dedicated to celebrating Puerto Rican culture.
Furthermore, Puerto Rican culture is celebrated right here at Trinity, and the college community has displayed great commitment to supporting the island, especially in the wake of the category four hurricane that struck Puerto Rico in September 2017. Nearly 3,000 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria which is now considered one of the deadliest storms in U.S. history. The devastating hurricane caused billions of dollars in damages, left millions of people without power, and destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Trinity was among several mainland colleges to offer spots to Puerto Rican students, and Trinity’s student-run La Voz Latina organization held fundraisers to help Puerto Rico recover. In May 2018, eighteen Trinity students visited thirteen different cities and towns in Puerto Rico to observe the impact of Hurricane Maria and support recovery. In addition, Trinity hosted visiting scholars from Puerto Rico during the Spring 2018 semester in yet another effort to aid the island in the aftermath of the hurricane. The list of scholars included photojournalist Erika P. Rodríguez who hosted a public talk about the wrath of Hurricane Maria and Rosa Luisa Márquez, a professor and director from the University of Puerto Rico who put on a performance in addition to theatre workshops for students.
Unfortunately, Puerto Rico is still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria despite the fact that over a year has passed since the storm hit. Although major cities and tourist destinations such as San Juan are recovered, barely any progress has been made in a handful of smaller towns and villages.
Trinity students can continue to aid in Puerto Rico’s recovery by volunteering for one of the organizations located on the island, visiting as a tourist to support the economy, or by donating to a group that is working towards providing relief from the hurricane. Furthermore, the Trinity community can continue to experience and celebrate Puerto Rico’s rich culture by trying some of the Puerto Rican cuisine offered here in Hartford or by getting involved in cultural events hosted both on Trinity’s campus and out in the Hartford community.