Growing up in the small surf town of Rincon, Puerto Rico, Arianna Del Valle’s graduating class consisted of just 30 students. Del Valle saw the same faces every day, and although she loves her hometown and Puerto Rico as a whole, she knew that she wanted a change of pace when she went to college. Her parents also pushed her to do more — they told her she shouldn’t get too comfortable in their small town and that she should start branching out.
Although she was a bit nervous before coming to Penn State, Del Valle became familiar with the culture after visiting family in the states. She also had attended a bilingual school prior to coming to Penn State, so the transition was a bit easier for her.
Del Valle, without a doubt, misses Puerto Rican food the most. Smiling, she describes a staple dish from her upbringing … rice and beans, along with another dish called asopoa — a flavorful chicken stew.
Since coming to Penn State, Del Valle has quickly become involved in the community. As a sophomore, she is already involved in the Puerto Rican Student Association and the Latino Caucus, all while holding a job off-campus at Urban Outfitters.
While Del Valle is thriving at Penn State, the events that played out in her home country last fall were certainly devastating. On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria barreled through Puerto Rico, taking the title as the worst storm to hit the island in more than 80 years. The hurricane demolished homes, schools and roads, leaving the entire island without power. To say the effects of the storm were detrimental is an understatement.
After Hurricane Maria, Del Valle was unable to reach her parents for nearly a week. Her only source of information was through social media and word of mouth. When she was finally able to speak with them, she was relieved that they were okay and that her hometown had not been completely destroyed.
Del Valle tells VALLEY that while her hometown was very lucky and able to rebound, many other areas on the island have not been as fortunate.
“There are people who are still living with no power, no electricity, no water … no anything,” said Del Valle. “It’s heartbreaking because a lot of these places that don’t have electricity are smaller communities, and a lot of older people live there.”
Del Valle and the other members of the Puerto Rican Student Association have set up donation outlets, including GoFundMe pages, in order to help those still struggling in Puerto Rico. With all the effort going into helping the island, Del Valle stressed that Puerto Rico is still in need. She notes that while popular tourist attractions such as the city of San Juan have recovered, children in other areas of the island still have no electricity in their classrooms and communities are lacking basic resources.
While Del Valle loves her time here at Penn State, her Puerto Rican culture and pride will never deteriorate. Even though she is focusing on her work and involvement, she is still concerned about Puerto Rico and wants to acknowledge that just because it isn’t covered in the news anymore, doesn’t mean the issues have all been resolved.
“It’s an ongoing process,” says Del Valle. “And we still need help.”
Want to donate in order to help Puerto Rico’s recovery? Try these links below.