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Too soon to party? San Juan pushes ahead with street festival despite aftershocks

Jim Wyss, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

But the continual shakes and tremors have left the island with jangled nerves.

Brenda Mendez Quinones runs a coffee shop in Old San Juan and loves the San Sebastian Street festival, but she thinks it needs to be delayed. She said just a few days ago, a mild aftershock sent people running and screaming out of a local store. The combination of drunken crowds, narrow streets and tremors worries her.

"This party brings 300,000 people onto the street," she said. "If there's a single joker who says something like 'it's shaking' people are going to be in a panic. And where are they going to go?"

Cruz is trying to blunt criticism that she's promoting a party amid the island's pain. On Monday she announced that she will be turning the Roberto Clemente Baseball Stadium into an evacuation center where people from the hard-hit south can seek refuge. She's also channeling help from the Clinton Foundation, Sean Penn's CORE organization and the cities of Chicago and New York to the victims.

Cruz also said that extra security measures would be in place to guarantee safety at the event. But canceling the festivities entirely would simply reinforce the trauma -- reinforce the idea that Puerto Rico is broken.

Already, more than 900 musicians and 200 dancers have been confirmed for the festival, and there are seven cruise ships scheduled to dock for the event.

 

"We are living in a new reality," Cruz said of the aftershocks. "But we have to keep moving forward. Nobody knows how long this will last."

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