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Central Floridian Provides Respite For Displaced Puerto Rican Family

The Capo Family. Photo by Crystal Chavez.
The Capo Family. Photo by Crystal Chavez.

More than a month after Hurricane Maria, many Puerto Ricans who left the island temporarily still don’t have a return date. One central Florida woman has been playing host to lots of family.

Vianska Capo has a full house. On an October weekday at her home near the Orlando International Airport, she had her eight year old son, mom, sister, niece, three dogs, and three parakeets.  That’s not it, since Hurricane Maria she’s had more people in and out, “My stepdaughter with her son, she left already, she stayed here for a week; then I have my sister with her husband, her husband left to Puerto Rico.”

Capo jokes about her revolving door in the month since Maria. “Well um, we have situations like, how long are you going to stay? Uh.. are you leaving tomorrow?"

Her sister Linda's husband, is a pastor so he returned to the island sooner to tend to his congregation. He calls Linda to tell her he misses her and that life is difficult in Puerto Rico.

Linda and Vianska’s mother is a sharp-eyed grandma. Monserrate Perez is anxious to return to her island. Perez weathered the hurricane at home with the company of her little dog, Duffy. She didn’t take up offers to shelter with nearby family.

Vianska worries about sending her mom home with only her social security check. They don't know if her electricity has been restored. “She’s a senior citizen and you know, to do the lines with pain and everything.” Lines have been long for ice, water and gas. Capo says her mom is old school and doesn’t want to apply for assistance.

They’re trying to change her mind.

Granddaughter Gabriela Bermúdez underscores the risks for the elderly. She said her 88 year-old great uncle died in the days after Maria. She said he was in a home that didn’t have electricity nor water, that he needed extra care they couldn’t achieve or get and he died because he didn’t have what he needed.

Bermúdez plans to return soon because she has college classes to finish. She thought about transferring to a Florida college but decided against it because she’s so close to graduating over there. She hears from her friends sporadically and knows what she’s going back to. They tell her it’s horrible, that it’s hard to get up at three in the morning if you don’t have resources and to go find ice.

She said some people have disappeared or haven’t been in communication with others. Cell phone service is spotty and landlines aren't reliable.

Bermudez thinks it will be a long time before we know the real toll of Maria.

Returning Home

Vianksa has filled up a Target basket with goods to send home with her loved ones.“Whatever they need; I am a very compassionate person and whatever they need I’m here for them.”

All of her family is now scheduled to fly out Thursday back to their island. Now, Vianska says her house is going to be quiet and lonely. She wishes her family the best for whatever they find back home.