Hands-on support for Puerto Rico

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Residents at the Amsterdam Houses on the UWS create a patchwork quilt in solidarity with those suffering from Hurricane Maria


  • When completed, the quilt will be sent to Puerto Rico to honor the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz. Photo: Ashad Hajela

  • Seamstresses including Martha Montalvo (left) and Myrna Escalera worked on the quilt. Photo: Ashad Hajela

The quilt is imposing: it measures 10 X 8 feet, showing cutouts of hands reaching for the sky below a map of Puerto Rico. Last Thursday, the quilt hung from an exposed pipe near the ceiling of the Amsterdam Houses Resident Association community room on West 64th Street as residents milled in and out of the room, taking pictures of the handiwork as the Amsterdam Houses Resident Association Executive Board looked on.

Designed by residents of the Amsterdam Houses, some of whom hail from Puerto Rico, the quilt is a remembrance of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico last year. The quilt is yet to be completed, but when it is finished, it will be sent to Puerto Rico to honor the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, who spoke out against President Donald Trump’s response to the hurricane.

Amsterdam Houses Resident Association President Margarita O. Curet and technology instructor John Figueroa spoke about the work done by Amsterdam tenants. “This is a digital design,” said Figueroa, explaining that it was created on a computer and then stitched onto the quilt that the residents made. “We are trying to close the technology gap between residents and their grandchildren.”

The cutouts of hands, he said, represent the upward reach of all people, no matter what age or race. And shadows of the Statue of Liberty and a Puerto Rican castle speak to the solidarity between New York and Puerto Rico.

Figueroa also emphasized that the caption on the quilt, “Unidos Hacemos Más” or “United We Do More,” resonates through the generations.

It would not have been possible to make the quilt without expert tenant seamstresses like Delfina Esquilin, who used to work for Ralph Lauren and is of Guatamalan origin. Another tenant seamstress who worked on the quilt is Myrna Escalera, whose brother was in Puerto Rico when the hurricane hit. While he is fine now, Escalera was motivated to show her support for him.

“They worked together like a family,” said Frances Muniz, the treasurer at the Amsterdam Houses Resident Association about members of the community like Escalera and Esquilin. “They had hope for their families in Puerto Rico.”

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