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In the picture professor Roberto Vélez.
In the picture professor Roberto Vélez. (Vanessa Serra Díaz)

Vivian Moreno arrived on Friday from Providence, Rhode Island, with the aim of contributing to the reconstruction of Puerto Rico from local communities.

She is concerned about the reliability of the statistics provided by the government of Puerto Rico and the political-partisan perspective for many public issues.

Yesterday, the goal behind a workshop organized by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College was to work, somehow, the data issue.

The idea was simple: to create a database between different Puerto Rican communities in order to stop relying on government information, and move aid and resources where they are needed.

"We need that information, not from the government or political parties, but from the people," said Moreno, who, for many years, helped with the coordination of the Puerto Rican Cultural Festival and Parade of Providence.

They discussed the Map of the Reconstruction of Puerto Rico. The idea is to use available technology to identify civic initiatives, projects, needs, infrastructure, available facilities, among other issues that could be relevant in projects for the island after Hurricane Maria. 

"The idea is for communities to be in contact and help each other. A community with a project can upload the initiative to the system, and other communities able to help can identify the project and offer help," explained Edwin Meléndez, director of the Hunter College Center for Puerto Rican Studies.

The objective is also for communities to engage in the discussion regarding projects that would be developed for the reconstruction of Puerto Rico. This way, initiatives would respond more to what people need than to what the government may propose as a solution to specific problems in the neighborhood. 

He argued that as communities prepare and document their needs, opportunities for development and resilience could be more effective in influencing the government during the process.

"The idea is to have effective community participation," said Carmen Concepción, director of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) Graduate School of Planning.

Yesterday's workshop was part of a series of activities developed last week by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, based in New York, at the UPR facilities. Issues such as changes in public policy that should be generated after the hurricane, volunteers for many organizations, channels for donations, communication between organizations and technological tools available, among other topics were discussed during the workshop last Friday.