The salsa instructor counted off beats as about 20 people stepped forward and backward Sunday afternoon to support hurricane recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.
About 150 people attended The Fiesta and Concierto para Puerto Rico hosted by Plenitud PR, a Puerto Rican-based nonprofit, at Heartwood Soundstage located on South Main Street. Sarah Ingley, an event organizer with Plenitud PR, said the primary motivator for the fundraising efforts was the devastation after Hurricane Maria.
“The fundraiser here is to help Plenitud PR do what they do — to give to those in immediate need but also to set in place more long-term water and food means,” the 39-year-old said.
The event raised about $2,000 from the $10 ticket and merchandise sales, said Naina Ramrakhani, a member of the board of directors at Plenitud PR. The money will go toward the organization’s next workshop on rainwater harvesting and emergency water filtration at their sustainable farm in Puerto Rico.
Some of Plenitud PR’s past work includes bringing about 1,200 water filters to northwest Puerto Rico to help provide safe drinking water after the hurricane, Ingley said.
Olga Rivera-Cruz, a Gainesville resident, smiled and watched as people filled the dancefloor as the band Latino Sound Machine, which headlined, covered songs like “Oye Como Va” by Tito Puente.
The 50-year-old said she was born and raised in Puerto Rico and had family affected by the hurricane. She had to make travel arrangements to get her parents out of the island but had to work urgently because of her father who is in a wheelchair.
She said post-hurricane fundraising efforts are important because Puerto Ricans don’t have all the resources they need.
“It was very traumatic,” Cruz said. “So this is my only way to say ‘I’m here — you all still matter.’”