Tampa restaurant becomes hub for Puerto Ricans looking for info

Residents with loved ones in Puerto Rico have been gathering for support at local restaurant

TAMPA, Fla. -- With the very first communication starting to trickle out from Puerto Rico to friends and relatives here in Florida, people are gathering in places to share what they know.

In North Tampa, a small restaurant has become a hub for people with loved ones in Puerto Rico, sharing as much emotion as they are information. 

El Sabor Boricua typically gets a good lunchtime crowd, but on Thursday, the restaurant known for its authentic Puerto Rican food was also doubling as a hub. A gathering spot, for people to get the latest news and share their concerns. 

Maribelle Crespo cried as she explained that her mother is stranded in the south. She's upset because most of the news is from the north. And what little she’s heard is not good. 

There’s a collective feeling of frustration and helplessness. 

“We're worried. Worried for our family. We're worried for what is happening right now and what's going to happen,” said a woman who was eating lunch with another friend from Puerto Rico.

The restaurant says it’s keeping its doors open, knowing the people here are hungry not just for food - but information. 

“I'm here. You know, this is a business, but other than the business we are here for the people,” said owner Robert Torres.

Santos Revera was one of the few people who'd gotten a text. It was from his uncle who lives near San Juan. Just five minutes of Wi-Fi access before he lost contact.

His grandmother, Revera found out, is OK. But the family home is gone. 

“He saw the whole top of the roof, the walls, from the third floor was all out,” he said.

People say they're also worried about what's to come as the situation in Puerto Rico becomes more desperate. Rafaela Sepulveda, who has cousins, aunts and uncles on the island said there are already reports of crime. 

“Looting. People breaking into homes. They're desperate, no water no food,” said Sepulveda.

For now the vast majority of people I talked to say they haven’t heard from anyone.

“No. I have not,” said Iris Ortiz. “As far as I've heard, the whole island is without power.”

And so, they huddle together in a small restaurant. Troubled by the images. United by concern. But with the knowledge they’re not alone.

“We find comfort because we're out here,” said one visitor.

“We are hoping and praying for them,” said Ortiz, “That's all we can do.”

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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