Miami LGBT businesses, like Score, Molto and afterhours destination La Puta Nota at Heart Nightclub, stepped up for hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico in a big way this past weekend – each holding hurricane relief events benefiting displaced residents of the island.
The fundraisers kicked off Friday, Sept. 29, at Score with the Miami Music-thon. Door proceeds and a percentage of bar sales were donated to Ricky Martin's Foundation. Host and drag queen Athena Dion said the money raised — about $3,200 according to a post on Score's Facebook page — included "five or six fabulous DJs coming out and donating their time.”
"Everyone’s working for free tonight," Dion said. "All the money is going to go to hurricane relief for Puerto Rican victims of Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island. People are going to actually kind of feel better about drinking tonight because it’s going to a good cause. It’s a good excuse to drink, like you needed one," Dion laughs.
On Saturday, Sept. 30, promoters of La Puta Nota Afterhours at Heart Nightclub next to Club Space held their Power of Music fundraiser with 100 percent of their proceeds earmarked for the Red Cross and Ricky Martin's hurricane relief initiative. All L.P.N. employees and nine DJs volunteered for the cause.
Ely Lords, who runs the afterhours gig with her partner, Danny Villar, said everything at the door and bartenders' tips were all getting donated: half to Puerto Rico, where Lords is from; the other half to Mexico, which recently suffered from a devastating earthquake.
"We're waiting and hoping and keeping positive that every little dollar counts towards helping Puerto Rico," Lords said. "We need to get these people as much as we possibly can, as quick as we can. I'm thankful that the people that have stepped up have stepped up: the Daddy Yankees, the Pitbulls, the JLos, the Marc Anthonys. And it's not just the celebrities who are contributing. It's everyone. Restaurants here in Miami, clubs like Score, anywhere you can possibly imagine."
On Sunday, Oct. 1, Molto South Beach ended the weekend of fundraisers with their Much Relief charity event for Puerto Rico, which raised about $1,500 according to a Facebook post by Molto co-owner Raymond Ortega. The event included drag shows and an auction of items provided by fellow LGBT establishments.
Ortega, who is Puerto Rican and has family on the island, including his grandparents and cousins, said he wanted to help, not just because he's Puerto Rican.
"When Hurricane Irma hit Florida, I opened up our doors and fed a lot of people from Key West," Ortega said. "It was the right thing to do because if you have it, you should just give it and try to stay positive because it will come back to you.”
"A lot of people are helping in this event," Ortega continued. "All of our bartenders and drag queens who are performing, their tips, everybody’s tips are going straight to the check. Molto is going to match everything by 20 percent. My business partner and I are hoping to raise a lot of money but anything, any amount will help.”
Ortega's family is from Fajardo, a small city in Puerto Rico located in the east region of the island, bordering the Atlantic Ocean.
"[My family is] doing really well. My grandmother has a generator and she has gas and food. She says she can last for a month, so we’ll see a month from now if we have to touch base."
Ortega said the majority of people in Puerto Rico, however, are not as lucky.
"They are not going through good times at all. They can’t get to the stores because of the roads."
"I feel very concerned for the Puerto Rican community," said local resident Jeff Pazzo. "They [Puerto Rico] need every dollar they can get. Every local business should take Molto and Score's lead on this. We're all one community and we should all stick together."
Dion said everyone should continue coming together for Puerto Rico because "it's the right thing to do."
"Puerto Rico is completely devastated. The island is just in a shambles," Dion said. “And you know, Puerto Rico is part of America. There are a lot of Puerto Ricans in Miami and on the mainland of the United States. This has affected all of us. You see the things that are showing on TV and the news; and the mayor from San Juan, who’s working really hard. I’m glad we can actually come together and do something. It may be little, whatever we can do, but hey, it’s something."
Lords said La Puta Nota was contributing to the cause because Puerto Rico is her family and her heritage but "at the end of the day that doesn't matter. We're all the same. You cut me, I cut you and we still bleed red."
Sam Yovan, manager at Score, agrees.
“It’s just unfortunate that our government is not doing that much about [assistance]. But at least we’re doing our part here at Score," Yovan said.
Alan T. Ibaldeo, who works the door at Club Space every weekend, said it’s important citizens come together at this time for Puerto Rico "because we’re all people."
"We need to help people that are in need of being helped," he said. "That’s why we have a pulse. It’s not just to party and to carry on, which you can do all in conjunction with. But one helping the other is always the best thing you can do."
Others in the community had the following to say:
Dani Toro, DJ and producer: “I wanted to make my contribution to [the party at Score] and support the humanitarian crisis that is happening right now in Puerto Rico. It’s devastating the news that is coming from the island, so we decided to do something proactive, utilizing our gifts and talents as DJs and promoting parties. Luciano [Retondaro] and I may not be Puerto Rican. But tonight we are all Puerto Rican. There is no need to have anyone specific from Puerto Rico because we are all Puerto Rico and our hearts are with the people of Puerto Rico.”
Luciano Retondaro, DJ and producer: “We’ve produced events in Puerto Rico before. They have opened their doors to us. We’re grateful for everything they have done for us, when we were a part of their events and festivals. We cannot turn our backs on Puerto Rico now. We need to give back. Puerto Rico is a beautiful place. Dani [Toro] and I are not even Puerto Rican. He is from Spain; I am from Argentina. But we feel for Puerto Rico. I feel like this is the right thing to do. We’re happy to help with this event and we’re looking forward to see similar efforts from other citizens in New York and Orlando, which have some of the biggest concentration of Puerto Ricans. That would be nice to see.”
Noel Leon, entertainment director and “dragtender” at Molto: "We have DJs and drag queens who are donating their time and tips, and we have also gay businesses that have given us a lot of things to auction off. And these are amazing items to auction. Everybody’s really come together to make sure that we can help the people of Puerto Rico. I’m actually half Puerto Rican. I have family there. They are ok, but things are really tough over there. There’s no food, no water at the supermarkets. So we’ve got to get it to them. They are a part of the United States. Although the response from the U.S. hasn’t been good, we’re all still going to get together and make sure Puerto Rico survives this hard time and make sure our Puerto Rican loved ones are taken care of. We’re just making sure everyone is surviving and they have what they need. We’ve been to other benefit shows."