Both Mexico and Puerto Rico have been rocked by devastating natural disasters in the last month. This Saturday, we’re putting on a fundraiser to help. We’ve put in the legwork to find trustworthy charities and organizations who know what they are doing, understand what help the two countries need, and will get this help where it needs to go.

In Puerto Rico, 3 weeks after Hurricane Maria, only 16% of the country has electric power, which means no internet or cell service, meaning many of its residents have little information about what’s happening and how they can seek relief. Food and potable water are scarce and in many cases not reaching the areas that need it most: the rural parts cut off from the rest of the country by flooding and debris on the already treacherous roads. The water that is there is becoming more and more polluted just to be around.

Water floods the street during Hurricane Maria. Photo by Pedro's niece Gabriela

Water floods the street during Hurricane Maria. Photo by Pedro's niece Gabriela

In Mexico, while the initial efforts of finding survivors after the earthquake have passed, the second leg must start: the road to recovery and rebuilding. This means shelter for people who’ve lost their homes, along with funds for cleanup and rebuilding. This requires manpower in the form of volunteers, and they too need supplies.

The threshold to the doorway of Joahna Hernandez's aunt. She can no longer live here because of structural damage to the building. 

The threshold to the doorway of Joahna Hernandez's aunt. She can no longer live here because of structural damage to the building. 

To get more context on what's happening in Mexico, we spoke with our good friend Joahna Hernandez, owner of Manos de Maiz. Joahna was talking with her brother via Skype when the 7.1 earthquake struck Mexico a few weeks ago. Her closest family are doing well, but many friends lost their houses. She told us that she got "really scared when my brother told me that the building next to his house collapsed." Here's what she had to say regarding how you can help:

THE MOST IMPORTANT REASON TO DONATE NOW TO MEXICO IS BECAUSE THERE ARE STILL MANY PEOPLE THAT HAVE LOST THEIR HOUSES AND THEY CONTINUE LIVING IN SHELTERS, AND THEY NEED THE HELP.  THE KEY IS IDENTIFYING ORGANIZATIONS THAT ARE HELPING PEOPLE OUTSIDE OF THE METROPOLITAN AREA WHERE IT IS REALLY DIFFICULT TO GET. ANY KIND OF DONATION HELPS, IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE.
— Joahna Hernandez, Owner of Manos de Maiz and friend of Julio and Pedro's
Julio, Joahna and Pedro together at an event at Grand Cata earlier this year

Julio, Joahna and Pedro together at an event at Grand Cata earlier this year

These tragedies hit particularly close to home for us at Grand Cata. Our co-founder Pedro’s family is in Puerto Rico right now. As a store that celebrates everything that Latin America offers, seeing this humanitarian crisis unfold without the resources for the victims to help themselves pains us. But beyond that, from the day we started to realize that Grand Cata would become a reality, we knew that giving back and helping people must be an integral part of who we are. We would be breaking this promise to ourselves to not do something for these countries in their most dire times. 

MY DEAR PUERTO RICO, THE ISLAND THAT RAISED ME IS NO LONGER THE SAME, THE DEVASTATION IS BEYOND WORDS. I’M HEARTBROKEN WITH THIS HUMANITARIAN CRISIS. HOWEVER, AS AN OPTIMISTIC PERSON I CAN ONLY HOPE FOR THE RENEWAL OF MY ISLAND, AN OPPORTUNITY TO DEVELOP A SUSTAINABLE SOCIO-ECONOMIC MODEL WITH COMMUNITIES COMING TOGETHER...IT WILL TAKE TIME BUT I KNOW MY FELLOW BORICUAS ARE UP FOR THE TASK AND I WISH THEM A LOT OF STRENGTH, PATIENCE AND LOVE FOR EACH OTHER. WE WILL RISE AGAIN.
— Grand Cata Co-Founder, Pedro Rodríguez
An unfortunately common scene in Puerto Rico following Maria

An unfortunately common scene in Puerto Rico following Maria

We have chosen a few local organizations that are working to help those in the most need in Puerto Rico and Mexico. For now the only aid we can show them is supporting their work on the ground. Pedro is planning a trip to continue to support the relief efforts in January, 2017. We are thrilled that DC based chef Jose Andres has been on the ground and stepping up for the task of providing hot meals to thousands of Puerto Ricans in dire need of food. Believe us, “barriguita llena, corazón contento” a famous saying “full belly, happy heart” makes the day to day a bit better, especially for the elderly and children. Puerto Rican artists such as Ricky Martin, J-Lo, Lin Marin Miranda, Rene Perez “Calle 13”, Daddy Yankee and many others have also shown their support aiding with basic needs of providing shelter, food, clean water and emotional support.

A picture provided to us by Joahna Hernandez showing a damaged building. Many buildings are too damaged structurally for people to live in them safely.

A picture provided to us by Joahna Hernandez showing a damaged building. Many buildings are too damaged structurally for people to live in them safely.

Puerto Rico recipients:

The Hurricane Maria Community Relief & Recovery Fund:

This fundraising is being organized by Taller Salud, Popular Democracy in Puerto Rico, and Caño Martín Peña in Puerto Rico. Funds will be used to support immediate relief, recovery and equitable rebuilding in Puerto Rico for low-income communities hit hardest by the storm. The fund will support organizations working with these communities.

“One hundred percent of money raised will be used to support immediate relief or long-term equitable rebuilding in Puerto Rico for the communities hit hardest by the storm. Grassroots organizations have determined that, aside from initial emergency funding, grants from the María Fund will be decided by a committee made up entirely of Puerto Ricans, 50% from the island and 50% in the diaspora.  The committee will be chaired by Iris Morales, an activist, educator, and author with extensive experience in strategic grantmaking to low-income communities and grassroots initiatives.  

In addition to delivering critically needed supplies to the island, the Maria Fund has already made grants to local organizations that are both providing immediate relief needs and laying the foundation for an equitable rebuilding.  These include Taller Salud in Loíza, the G8 of Caño Martín Peña in San Juan, and Centro para Desarrollo Político, Educativo, y Cultural in Caguas.”

Solar 4 PR:

Millions of U.S. citizens are still without electricity, let’s help them shine at night so they can continue with their recovery.

“On behalf of our team at solar4pr.org thank you for helping us make our vision a reality for over 5,000 families in Northwest Puerto Rico. Thanks to over 1,100 people who donated over $72k, we were able to distribute 5,000 solar lamps last weekend. Many of you have asked if the campaign is over. NO!!  The situation in Puerto Rico is still dire. In the Aguadilla area, there is still almost no access to clean water, hospitals are shutting down and there is still no power. Help is still desperately needed. We are continuing the campaign and hoping to bring at least another 5k lights down”

Mexico recipient:

Ambulante

Ambulante raises urgent needed funds to rebuild hospitals, schools and homes that have been severely affected by this disaster. Ambulante is a grassroots organization which has organized community programs all over Mexico for the past 12 years. Ambulante will receive and distribute 100 percent of the funds directly to local organizations and social initiatives dedicated to helping those most affected by this catastrophe.

  • At the end of the campaign, Ambulante will publish the total amount received.

  • Ambulante will form a committee of decision-makers and recognized social actors with adequate representation from different affected groups to decide the allocation of funds.

  • Decisions of the allocation of funds will be made public and published on the Ambulante web page.

  • There will be an external audit of the use of the funds and these results will also be published.

  • 100 percent of funds will be used for civil society initiatives and efforts (and not handed over to government or public officials).

  • Ambulante will ensure that funds and efforts are distributed across different states, rural and urban areas, and not just Mexico City.

We look forward to Saturday, because as difficult as these disasters are to comprehend and as sad as they make us, seeing people come together to help others in need is always an uplifting experience. As small as our part is, it matters. Please come join us to not only raise money to help those in need in Mexico and Puerto Rico, but also to celebrate with us their strength, perseverance, and spirit. 

On Saturday October 14th, we will be hosting a fundraiser in our store called Pueblos Unidos Fundraiser for Puerto Rico and Mexico.

Donations start a $25 that includes a complimentary wine tasting, Latin American snacks from our friends of El Tamarindo Restaurant in Adams Morgan.

  • Donations over $250 includes (2) bottles of wine valued at $50+.
  • Donations over $500 includes wine class for up to (10) guests at Grand Cata, A Latin Wine Co.
  • Raffle of Yoga Classes from our next door neighbors at Yoga Shala 
  • Art Sale by local artist Veronica Melendez - all proceeds will go towards the fundraiser
  • Our dear amigo, Hellman Escorcia, profesional musician and member of Grammy nominated reggae band SOJA will be donating his time and saxophone talent to help us raise money for Puerto Rico and Mexico!

DONATIONS will be taken online or in-person on Saturday and they start at $25...larger amounts are always welcomed. PLEASE DONATE HERE.

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