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From Pittsburgh to Puerto Rico: Concert by Latin American music groups benefits hurricane victims

Back in September, Hurricane Fiona was in the news daily after the Category 4 storm made landfall in the Caribbean, leaving flooded fields, battered roads, and downed power grids in its wake.

But while the U.S. news cycle has moved on, the damage lingers in places like Puerto Rico – which, many say, has yet to fully recover from Hurricane Maria, in 2017, let alone the earthquake that followed in 2020.

It’s a wrenching story for María Eugenia Nieves Escoriaza, the singer and percussionist known as Geña. She’s lived in Pittsburgh for 18 years, but she was born in Puerto Rico, and her parents, brothers, and other family still live there.

“There has been very little done to address the grid or even just electrical power in general in Puerto Rico,” she said.

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This Fri., Nov. 4, Geña and her partners in Pittsburgh Stands With Puerto Rico will do their best to help with a benefit concert.

“It should concern all Americans. We are American citizens. I believe there is a responsibility from all of us to take care of our own," she said.

The show at Mr. Smalls Theatre will feature more local Latin American musical talent than has likely been assembled on a single stage here in quite some time. And proceeds will benefit Casa Pueblo, a community organization in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico, that provides people in need with solar power for life-sustaining medical equipment like dialysis and breathing machines.

Acts will perform in a variety of styles, from the Cuban and world music of Hugo Cruz and Caminos to the salsa, Latin jazz, Afro-Cuban and Afro-Puerto Rican sounds of Noel Quintana and the Latin Crew. Gavas Beat offers its fusion of salsa, merengue, cumbia and reggaeton. Geña herself performs as part of the acoustic duo Geña y Peña.

Other performers include Guaracha Latin Dance Band and drag queen Jezebel Sagardia, billed as “Pittsburgh’s original Puerto Rican Queen.” And Rumbón de Calle is a collective of percussionists and drummers of the African diaspora working in the style of community gatherings in their respective homelands, including Oba Elie Kihonia, Kelly E. Parker, Miguel Sague III, and José Rivera.

Pittsburgh Stands With Puerto Rico is co-hosted by Geña, Gloria Josefina Rodriguez Ransom, and Phat Man Dee.

More information is here.

Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email: