Almost a year later, Puerto Rico continues to recover from the devastation cause by Hurricane María. Boricuas all over the world are still trying to get Congress’ attention to address the crisis and raise funds for relief efforts. One of them is Ricardo Muñiz, a Puerto Rican underwear designer, who’s using his platform during New York Fashion Week to bring attention to the economic and political crisis his island is currently facing.
“There are roughly 3.5 million Puerto Ricans on the island and another 6.5 million on the US mainland. Although these communities are distinct, we are still Puerto Rican. And we wave our flag as if that is the only passport we need,” Muñiz tells Remezcla.
Muñiz owns the clothing label Chulo Underwear, which is deeply rooted in his Puerto Rican heritage. With his brand, he constantly donates part of the funds to scholarship programs and community-based organizations. As you might have guessed, Chulo uses the allure of hunky male models in underwear to attract, not only customers, but donors. “Hot models in underwear and a charity fundraiser? I was so there,” reads a Paper Magazine review of one of his events. It’s a clever strategy.
This time, Muñiz is gearing up to help communities in mainland Puerto Rico and the island municipality of Vieques by partnering with Guagua Solidaria, a community-based project that travels around Puerto Rico providing aid, and Finca Conciencia, which focuses on rebuilding a sustainable agriculture environment in Vieques. “This fundraiser is just one of many small and big things Puerto Ricans are doing for each other,” Muñiz says. “We honor those grassroots activists on the island who see the problems [PROMESA, austerity measures, and colonialism] and who are working day and night to bring hope back to a people long colonized and subjugated.”
The Chulo Underwear New York Fashion Week benefit is set for Saturday, September 8 at the legendary Nuyorican Poet’s Café in the Lower East Side. The party and fashion show will also have models such as poet and health educator Simply Rob, boxer Nisa Rodriguez, and singer-songwriter Caridad de la Luz. The show will be more than just a runway. Caridad de la Luz will grace the stage with her music, while body painter Karen Adeva will create a scene from Puerto Rico on her own body.
While the hunky underwear models and special performers may sound like a glamorous affair, Muñiz still wants people to remember it’s all about taking a stance against injustice. “Puerto Rico is a colony, true, and the real Hurricane Maria is the disaster capitalism, displacement,” he says. “And denigration we must endure whether we be on the island of Puerto Rico or the island of Manhattan.”
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