Sandra Quinones said she suffers from severe depression.
“Just like any human being, you immediately say ‘I’m not crazy,’” Quinones said through an interpreter. “Although you know that something is wrong, you’re crying all the time. You’re not yourself.”
The trauma associated with having to leave behind a home in Puerto Rico and take her two kids to a new place in Connecticut was bad enough. But she’s also dealing with a recent divorce. And she says she’s battled breast cancer.
But Quinones said a few things have helped -- Getting medical care and now, attending her first Puerto Rican Day Parade in Hartford -- the first one since nearly 13,000 evacuees left Puerto Rico for Connecticut after Hurricane Maria.
“I feel proud,” Quinones said. “I feel good. I feel relaxed. My mind is settled. Today is a good day. My mind is busy, I’m not thinking about all of that and I feel like I don’t have anything today.”
The parade returned to Hartford Saturday following a one-year hiatus.
Ana Valentin-Jackson, one of the parade’s organizers, said that the parade didn’t happen a year ago because there wasn’t enough financial support. She felt the pressure to deliver a parade this year because she knew how much of a positive effect it could have for the evacuees.
“That kind of like drove the process of ‘Oh, now we have to raise the money because now we have to have a parade,’” Valentin-Jackson said. “And then again, we thought the families would probably have a little bit of Puerto Rico here so that really made it even more special because we really wanted to focus on the culture and that helped us a lot.”
Jessica Guzman had lived in Hartford before. But she had to make a permanent move to Connecticut after the storm ravaged her hometown of Morovis.
“It crushed my heart to pieces,” Guzman said. “I mean, I couldn’t-- I was lost. But little by little, Puerto Rico will go up.”
It certainly did something for Guzman. She and many other evacuees were a part of the lead pack of those marching in the parade. Guzman explained the emotions she was going through as she stood through the sunroof of a dark green Honda Civic, driven by her husband, riding down Main Street while waving a Puerto Rican flag.
“Happiness,” Guzman said. “I’m glad. This is supportive to us.”
The other evacuees carried a giant flag while they marched. Organizers said a total of 1,800 people marched in the parade.