Exclusive: Hurricane María forces cancellation of Somos fall conference in Puerto Rico

The annual Somos el Futuro conference, which had been scheduled for Nov. 8-12 in Puerto Rico, won't go forward after all due to the damage caused by Hurricane María.

A highly placed source said that the conference would be canceled, which City & State reported in an exclusive on Monday evening. On Tuesday morning the organizers sent out a note confirming the decision.

"SOMOS was eagerly looking forward to putting together a humanitarian effort that would have allowed all of us to participate in relief/rebuild efforts," Somos Executive Director José M. Paulino and Chairwoman Paloma Izquierdo-Hernández said. "However at this time, our host hotel, the Caribe Hilton Hotel has informed us that they are closed and will not be re-opening until January 2018. Attempts to secure alternate lodging accommodations were unsuccessful and given current conditions on the Island where we are not confident of being able to provide a safe and coordinated effort, we made a decision to cancel this year’s conference."

RELATED: Rep. Velazquez and Assemblyman Crespo assess the damage in Puerto Rico

The devastation caused by the hurricane and the inability of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other government agencies to improve the conditions on the island had forced the tough decision, according to another source familiar with the ongoing planning of the politically anticipated annual event.

The Caribe Hilton and another hotel in San Juan where the majority of the event’s attendees would be staying simply won’t be operational in time. The source had indicated that these hotels are expected to shut down for the rest of the year. 

Organizers had initially hoped to still have a presence in Puerto Rico, but to shift the focus to "volunteering and humanitarian efforts." This is the first time the conference has been cancelled since 2012, when it was called off in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. 

City & State was told that the Somos organizers will be holding a gathering next month on Nov. 1 in New York City. In their note on Tuesday morning, the organizers confirmed that they would be hosting a "SOMOS Pro Puerto Rico Dinner" open only to registered conference guests, sponsors and elected officials on Nov. 1. 

Options will be given to those already registered. They will be asked to either donate their registration fee so that Somos can take it to one of two community-based organizations they work with in Puerto Rico, use it for next year’s spring conference in Albany or get a reimbursement. Sponsors are expected to donate their sponsorship to Somos, which in turn will donate to the above-mentioned CBOs on the island.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that this will be the first time the Somos el Futuro conference has been cancelled. 

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