Two cultural groups create relief fund for Mexico and Puerto Rico

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Juan Mendez, chairman of the Board of Directors for the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance (left), Carlos Tortolero, president and founder of the museum (center), and Carlos Hernandez, executive director of the arts alliance (right) announce the Chicago for Mexico and Puerto Rico Relief Fund at the National Museum of Mexican Art on Sept. 21, 2017. | Taylor Hartz/Sun-Times

Two Chicago cultural groups joined forces this week to help those in need and announced the launch of the Chicago for Mexico and Puerto Rico Relief Fund.

The fund was started by the National Museum of Mexican Art and the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance after group leaders said they took dozens of calls from community members looking for a way to help those recovering from natural disasters. Puerto Rico has been hit by two major tropical storms this month, and Hurricane Maria left the entire island without power. In Mexico, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake killed at least 273 this week.

The relief fund has reached out to the Red Cross of Mexico and Red Cross of Puerto Rico to donate all funds they receive.

On Thursday, museum Board Chair Carlos Cardenas announced that Wintrust Commercial Banking will provide $5,000 in seed money for the fund. The fund has set up an account at Wintrust’s Pilsen branch for all donations, which will be split evenly between Mexico and Puerto Rico.

Cardenas said the two groups decided to collaborate because “when you have tragedies of this magnitude, it’s about humanity, not nationalism.”

Collaboration between the two cultural groups is not new, said Carlos Hernandez, executive director of the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance.

“We have a history of working together with the Mexican and Puerto Rican communities, and the community is already responding and calling us on both sides,” Hernandez said. “This is of so much historic importance for both of our countries that we needed to get involved.”

The organizations hope that by combining their effort they will be able to raise more for those in need.

“When you bring your resources together you’re able to acquire a lot more,” said Juan Mendez, chairman of the board of directors for the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance.

“In our community we may not have a lot of resources, but people give,” Mendez said. “Each dollar that we get helps somebody.”

Donations to the Chicago for Mexico and Puerto Rico Relief Fund are being accepted by check at three locations during business hours:

• Wintrust’s Pilsen branch, 1800 S. Blue Island Ave.

• The National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th St.

• The Puerto Rican Arts Alliance, 3000 N. Elbridge Ave.

Checks should be made out to the National Museum of Mexican Art with Chicago for Mexico and Puerto Rico Relief Fund identified in the memo.

Donations can also be made online at www.nationalmuseumofmexicanart.org/relief

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