BUFFALO, N.Y. — It may have looked like the average block party on Niagara Street, but this was a party with a purpose.
"Right now what we're trying to do is gather some contributions and donations for the island of Puerto Rico. So, of course it's a block party but as you can see everybody wants to participate and be part of it," said Erica Leon-Torres, a director at the Hispanic Heritage Council and one of the party’s organizers.
"We've seen videos and we've seen how horrendous and devastating the situation, the crisis is. You know every day they have new videos, and we've seen our mayor in San Juan talking about what's going on. It's a very devastating situation right now for the island and our community here in Western New York," said Leon-Torres.
Luis Collazo has family in Puerto Rico and calls the situation dire.
"No food, no water, no communication. It's too bad, too bad, right now the family that live in Puerto Rico," said Collazo.
A controversy erupted over the weekend after the mayor of San Juan criticized what she said was a slow response to the damage caused by Hurricane Maria. President Trump unleashed a firestorm on Twitter defending the government response and calling the mayor of San Juan a poor leader.
"The comments are just incredible. I'm speechless when we talk about this because my heart just wants to explode with emotion when I see how they talk about our Latino community,” said Leon-Torres. “We're hard working people. We don't want anything given to us, but give us the opportunity to earn it.
“I know there's some barriers and I know they're working really hard to get the troops out there, and I know there's a process for everything but there is stuff that we can do on our end to facilitate and make things a lot easier for people who are suffering," said Leon-Torres.
All the goods collected will be shipped to Puerto Rico to help those dealing with the disaster, she said. In the meantime, Leon-Torres said other efforts are planned.
She wants the people of Puerto Rico to know people here care.
“It’s important that we let them know we’re here to support you, we're your voice, even though we're in the states and they're on an island, we're here to support you. We need to push forward," said Leon-Torres.