As part of its ongoing commitment to the arts and humanities sectors in Puerto Rico, the Mellon Foundation announced $10,150,000 in funding to support local organizations and initiatives following the devastation of Hurricane Fiona—the most recent natural disaster to impact the archipelago’s most vulnerable communities.
The funding is aimed at addressing the most urgent needs in the wake of the storm and supporting communities as they equip themselves for a future in which severe climate events are more frequent.
In addition to the funding announced today, Mellon has pledged a second round of recovery funding totaling more than $3 million, and more than $9 million in additional support for institutions including the University of Puerto Rico, Centro de Economía Creativa, El Ancón de LoÍza, and others, for their cultural and educational work—all for distribution by the end of the calendar year. This additional funding is part of Mellon’s commitment to sustaining and enriching the archipelago’s vibrant cultural, knowledge, and memory ecosystems—an effort to which the Foundation has granted over $50 million since 2018.
“We believe deeply in the power of writers, scholars, artists, and cultural leaders throughout the Puerto Rican archipelago and the diaspora,” said Elizabeth Alexander, President of the Mellon Foundation.
“In times of crisis, they are first responders and anchors for their communities. For five years, our commitment to Puerto Rico and its culture has remained steadfast and central to Mellon’s mission. With this immediate and intentionally responsive funding to the destructive impact of Hurricane Fiona, we are reaffirming once more our dedication to these fields. There can be no art if people don’t have food and shelter.”
The devastation of Hurricane Fiona was severe, its impact hitting as many across the archipelago continued working to recover from the cumulative and far-reaching effects of previous natural and human-made disasters.
These disasters—from Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, the earthquakes of 2020, and the COVID-19 pandemic—along with austerity measures imposed by the fiscal control board made the impact of this latest storm even more devastating, and the need for sustained partnership rather than periodic responses even more urgent.
In recent years, community-based organizations, including arts and cultural spaces, have self-organized to address the needs of their communities. Tackling challenges from harnessing solar energy and harvesting rainwater to delivering appliances, clearing debris, and establishing community kitchens, the growth of these community hubs provides necessary support in the face of slow-moving government response.
By providing critical funding to these local, self-managed networks, resources can be quickly and directly mobilized to the individuals and communities that need them most.
“In moments of crisis such as this, the devastating impacts of structural and environmental racism are undeniable—from the omission of Loíza and other hard-hit municipalities from the government’s original emergency declaration, to a lack of Spanish-speaking FEMA personnel, and technological and other barriers to accessing federal sources of relief,” said Gloriann Sacha Antonetty Lebrón, Founder and Director of étnica—a Puerto Rico-based magazine and multimedia platform that amplifies the voices of Afro Descendant communities.
“In the face of so much loss and despair, our actions of mutual support, solidarity, and partnership are a balm for us and for our communities. We do this work to honor our ancestral legacies as descendants of Africans and Indigenous people.”
Organizations supported by Mellon’s recent $10 million in funding include: Corredor Afro, Departamento de la Comida, Étnica, Filantropía Puerto Rico, Fiona Community Response Fund, Flamboyan Arts Fund, Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico, Fundación de Mujeres en Puerto Rico, Fundación Puertorriqueña de las Humanidades, Haser, Maria Fund and Poetry is Busy Studio.