A Bronx man who hopes to change the negative perception of a small slum in Puerto Rico is now raising money to help the community that’s still recovering from Hurricane Maria.
Frank Rivera, 35, has been traveling back and forth between the Bronx and La Perla, a coastal town in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for the past four years, working on a documentary.
When the 35-year-old first learned about La Perla, all he read about it was negative. “It was all about murder and drugs and all this violence,” he said.
But Rivera believed there was more to the story, so he decided to make a film about the town. He made his first trip there in 2014.
“I fell in love with it,” he said. “It was nothing at all like what I read.”
Since then, he has visited several times and even lived there for about four months. He was nearing the end of his project a few months ago, but then came Hurricane Maria.
La Perla, just like many towns in Puerto Rico, was destroyed by the storm. It was weeks before Rivera could get in touch with people he knew in La Perla because of the lack of electricity. When he finally did, he knew he had to do something to help.
He started a GoFundMe in October and has since raised about $1,500. Earlier this month, he also started selling calendars with photos he took in Puerto Rico, putting all the profits toward his relief fund.
So far, he’s been able to buy battery-powered lights for people who still don’t have electricity, mosquito nets and backpacks full of coloring books and toys for kids.
Rivera has already shipped the nets and lights to the island, but plans to bring the bags for the kids for Three Kings Day in January.
When he visits, he says he will keep filming and incorporate the hurricane recovery into his documentary.