A Rallying Cry for Recovery in Puerto Rico



Since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico in late September, the rebuild has been slow, with many individuals and families still lacking power, clean water and shelter. For local artist and Ringling College alum Javier Rodriguez, born in Puerto Rico, this meant watching friends and family lose homes and struggle in the storm’s aftermath. “I wasn’t going to be able to help them,” he says. “I might have been able to send a little money or resources, but I know they need more.” But through his latest venture, Vamó Arriba Puerto Rico, Rodriguez hopes to use his art to rally his new home to help his former one.

Translating roughly to “Let’s go, Puerto Rico,” the project pays homage to a common Puerto Rican rallying cry. Other Spanish-speaking countries will understand it, says Rodriguez, but the phrase holds a particular resonance with the population, enough to almost be considered slang in its own right. Together with an image of Rodriguez’ own design—an unflinching eye presented in the artist’s distinct and dramatic style—the mantra appears on every t-shirt that Rodriguez produces for Vamó Arriba Puerto Rico. Selling for $20 ($30 if shipped), profits from all sales will go toward recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.

“We’re planning on giving everything,” says Rodriguez, with the only funds not going directly to Puerto Rico, going straight to material costs for Vamó Arriba Puerto Rico to continue its mission. Eager to get started, Rodriguez and his mother paid for the first shipment of shirts themselves, confident that others would want to help. As a result, the project is still determining which charities, churches, nonprofits and community recovery actions will receive proceeds. Some, says Rodriguez, will go to families and communities that he and others from the area know specifically need help. “We have immediate family that needs help,” he says, “but I’m also thinking about Puerto Rico in general. They’re all going through the same thing.”

Rodriguez actually painted the image prior to the project, with one small but meaningful change—a single tear escaping the eye. He removed it. “I want people to think positive,” he says. “Even though we’re going through a painful situation, we're also thinking positive.”

Those interested in supporting Vamó Arriba Puerto Rico can contact Rodriguez through Facebook or Instagram.

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