Minnesota organization honors Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico for leadership

Inside the Nicollet Island Pavillion Thursday evening, hundreds gathered to honor influential leaders across the country who embodied the mission of Casa de Esperanza, a Twin Cities-based organization dedicated to ending domestic violence and sexual assault. 

Among those receiving an award was Carmen Yulin Cruz, the Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico and a major voice in advocating for relief on the island commonwealth following a devastating hurricane last year that killed thousands and left many more without water, power and other necessities. 

She was one of the first leaders to speak out publicly about the lack of urgency on the island after it was ravaged by Hurricane Maria, inspiring many more to help fix a crisis that's still very much affecting Puerto Ricans today.

"In a humanitarian crisis, you have two choices," she said Thursday before the event. "You speak up against injustice, or you stand down and ultimately become an accomplice to what the Puerto Rican people have endured."

Mayor Yulin Cruz was in good company Thursday, joined by the four Twin Cities women who founded Casa de Esperanza in 1982. Among them: Elsa Vega-Perez, a Puerto Rican Minnesotan who has worked with the organization to shine a light on the solidarity of Latinx communities across the country and promote an America where all citizens have access to clean food, water, shelter, and safe living conditions.

"[We're asking] what it means to work toward social transformation, what it means to work towards a vision where all people are treated with equity and respect and with healing for those who’ve experienced violence," said Senior Director for Public Policy at Casa de Esperanza Rosie Hidalgo. "A vision where we no longer have gender based violence."

In addition to the ceremony, the Lowry Avenue Bridge was lit turquoise and green Thursday night to honor the organization and the work they do. The Minnesota Twins also plan to honor Mayor Yulin Cruz and the local Puerto Rican community Friday before their game at Target Field.