Story by Desiree Johnson
Photos by Cristóbal Vivar
There’d be time enough for policy and politics.
Families braved the blistering cold and filed into the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center in East Harlem this past Sat., Jan. 6 to mark Three Kings’ Day holiday, a touchstone holiday for many Latinos who observe the Epiphany, in which the three wise men – on camels – visit the infant Jesus bearing gifts.
Fittingly, the theater was festooned with brightly colored garland, twinkling holiday lights and a complete Nativity scene.
Children of all ages fidgeted anxiously beside their parents while gawking and pointing to the many toys and gifts that filled the stage.
“Aquí le recibimos con mucho amor [We receive you with much love here],” exclaimed Mónica Tavares, Vice President of External Affairs for the Hispanic Federation, in her welcoming remarks.
The gifts had been collected as part of the “Toys4PuertoRico” toy drive, which was conducted in collaboration with the Hispanic Federation, Toys’R’Us, Telemundo, cultural arts group R.Evolución Latina – and Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and his extended family. The drive, which began on December 12th, was timed to conclude by the Three Kings’ Day holiday so that the bounty would be distributed throughout cities in the United States and in Puerto Rico to families specifically affected by Hurricane María.
It has been estimated that more than 140,000 Puerto Ricans have left the island since the storm on September 20th and that over 300,000 more are likely to leave during the next two years.
Since mid-October, the Julia de Burgos Center uptown has served as a central clearinghouse for in-person support and access to services to individuals affected.