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February 20, 2018 10:08 PM

Today's World In Huron

Huron, SD

Two devastating hurricanes slammed Puerto Rico in 2017, and the recovery from those storms is far from over. 

Some people displaced by the disaster have landed on their feet in KELOLAND. Their arrival in Huron, South Dakota is yet another example of the town's recent transformation.  

This All-American kitchen scene, brought to you by José Escribano and his wife María Rodríguez, is repeated in countless homes on the fruited and frigid plain.

"Yes, it's pretty cold, but it's something that one can't control," José Escribano said in Spanish.

"It's not that big of a deal- I kind of like more cold than hot," their son Ian Escribano said.

It's a whole world away from Puerto Rico, where this family of four used to live. José had a pizzeria there.

"It's a little sad to leave our island, because, well, there we were born, and we like the island, but we couldn't survive," José Escribano said.

Two hurricanes battered their island home. After Hurricane Maria, they left Puerto Rico and came here to Huron.

"Looking for a better quality of life, looking for a good job, trying to get my family ahead," José Escribano said. 

Both José and Ian Escribano work at Dakota Provisions, a meat processing plant in Huron.

"I have a good boss that treats me very well, even though I don't know how to speak English very well, they understand me," José Escribano said.

"I really have a good boss and supervisors and friends in Dakota Provisions," Ian Escribano said.

For an idea of this business' diversity, just take a look at the lunch room.

"Basically, we have three groups: Caucasians, Karen refugees from Burma and Thailand, and then we've got a number of Hispanics that work here, most of our Hispanics come from Puerto Rico," Smoky Heuston, director of human resources at Dakota Provisions, said.

The Escribano family has good things to say about Huron.

"I do like it, life is very easier, because if you need to go to get groceries or to take your ID, your license, or anything, you can do everything in like just minutes," Rodríguez said.

"The town is super calm, it's a peaceful life, more relaxed," José Escribano said. 

"I like that it's like a small community," María Rodríguez said.

Dan Santella: Do you like Huron? 

"Basically, yeah, because it's more of a calm place, there's like nothing to do, hardly, but, we figure things out, like going on trips, and going to Sioux Falls, Aberdeen, Rapid City," Ian Escribano said.

After all, no place is perfect.

"It's like every place in the world, that some people are very nice, and some of them not, but, yeah, but I feel welcome here," María Rodríguez said.

This family is just one example of how Huron has become more diverse. 

"Growing up in Huron I can remember it mostly being white," Kari Hinker, director of ESL instruction with the Huron School District, said.

A recent conversation Hinker had with her son, a junior at Huron High School, underscores what Huron has become, and what it can be.

"We were at the Mall of America and I said to him, there's a lot of different people here, lot of different diversities, and I said, you know, did you notice that, what did you think of that?" Hinker said. "And he said, I'm from Huron. I go to school at the high school. So, he's ready for the world, he is culturally aware, he is tolerant of differences, and he's been through the adversity that Huron has seen, so, I think it's made him a better person and character." 

"I think our parents feel this, that our kids growing up in this are prepared to go anywhere, because this is the new norm in America, and Huron looks certainly a lot more like the rest of America," Huron School District Superintendent Terry Nebelsick said.

"For every parent that helps you let go of your children and let them go into the world, 'cause you know they're ready, they're prepared, they're independent, they're going to make good choices, because nothing is going to rattle them," Hinker said.

While change can be difficult, Huron is learning to embrace it.

"I think once the community realized that these people wanted to be part of the community, they wanted to be contributors in the community, they wanted to take part ownership in the community and do good things for the community, I think they were more apt to embrace it," Hinker said.

José Escribano says he is thinking of people still in Puerto Rico "all the time."

"I have two kids there, plus my grand kids, that still are suffering hardships regarding the hurricane. But for us, we are much better in Huron," José Escribano said.

"We have told them if they want to come to Huron, but it's hard for them, because it's very different, you know the climate...so, they are not ready yet," Rodríguez said in both Spanish and English.

Here, the Escribano family has found peace.

"Tranquility, quality of life," José Escribano said. 

The same dreams everyone from all over the world has.










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