Hondurans Displaced by Katrina Seek Refuge, Work in Houston

September 9, 2005

HOUSTON – Responding to one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history, Honduran native Cristina Flores has been doing all she can to provide free meals to dozens of her countrymen displaced by Hurricane Katrina.Flores, the owner of a small restaurant in Houston and coordinator of the city’s Committee for Honduran Unity, has donated food and arranged for volunteers to “bring hot meals to these people who have lost everything.”Flores, long active in assisting Central American immigrants in Houston, estimates that the number of displaced Hondurans who have come to Texas from areas devastated by Katrina totals roughly 40,000 – some of whom moved to the United States after Hurricane Mitch ravaged their native country six years ago.TO date, there is no official report on the number of Hondurans who have died and no word on the number of people victimized by the hurricane.It is assumed that thousands of Hondurans’ homes were flooded or suffered other damage, given that tens of thousands of Honduran immigrants live in New Orleans.In addition to visiting refugees to locate displaced Hondurans, Flores is in contact with other community leaders in other Texas cities.ONE of those cities is Dallas, where dozens of Honduran survivors of Katrina were taken from Houston and other areas, she said.The six Honduran members of the Carvajal family are among 60 people residing at a motel near Flores’ restaurant. There are also displaced Salvadorans and Mexicans staying at the hotel.Albertina Carvajal talked about her terrifying experience Aug. 29, when Katrina’s winds struck the New Orleans hotel where she worked at speeds greater than 125 miles per hour.“The windows were shattered and glass flew at us inside. The lights went out. We were trapped and tremendous winds were coming in,” Carvajal said.Albertina said there were about 400 people trapped on the 18th floor with no idea where to go.TWO other Hondurans displaced by the hurricane and staying at the motel are Zeida Aguilar and her daughter, Zeida Meiza Oro.“I lost everything. All I have is what I’m wearing,” said the mother, who like many of Katrina’s victims barely has money to continue paying for accommodation and is looking for work.Zeida Aguilar said she could clean houses or do other domestic labor. Flores, meanwhile, is trying to convince Hispanic restaurant and storeowners to set up kitchens and food distribution points for the refugees.Some companies such as Maseca have donated flour for tortillas, while Las Comadres – a national organization of Hispanic women with representatives throughout the country- has provided beans, rice and other supplies as well as volunteers.The aid drive by Houston’s Latino community on behalf of the Hispanics displaced to this city has provided significant relief. Still, Flores said, “we have to continue to organize because what we are having to face is unprecedented considering the scale of these poor people’s misfortune.”

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