Culture, General, IPRAC

The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture Celebrates Its Historic Grand Opening

Posted on 06 November 2014

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Last Thursday, September 4th, the former Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture re-opened its doors with a celebration of “Boricua” traditions and a new name. As the only Puerto Rican museum outside of Puerto Rico, the new name of The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture is very fitting.

After 15 years of renovations, the institute became a National Museum. The mistress of ceremony was none other than Ana María Belaval from Chicago’s very own WGN channel 9. CEO Billy Ocasio highlighted the evening of culture by entertaining the public with performances by Trío Superior, AfriCaribe and a fashion show by designer Michelle Gómez featuring Jaslene González, the winner of cycle 8 of America’s Next Top Model.

As part of this Grand Opening, four different exhibitions opened. “Mascarada Carnal” is an exhibition on colorful large-scale paintings inspired by the carnival and made by the artist Santiago Flores Charneco. The exhibit “What Do These People Have in Common” features a selection of letters of several world leaders written for Oscar López Rivera and asking for his unification with his community. Poets Salima Rivera and David Hernández were also honored with their own exhibits, “It’s Not about Dreams: The Artist and Poet Salima Rivera” and “Poems in Color: Homage to David Hernández”. On the newly opened second floor gallery, the museum presents “Homecoming”, a group exhibition reuniting Puerto Rican artists that are based in Chicago, featuring Bibiana Suárez, Cándida Álvarez, Edra Soto, Nora Maité Nieves, Josué Pellot and José Lerma.

The grand re-opening continued with the 14th edition of Barrio Arts Fest, during the weekend of September 6th and 7th, where over 25 different artists presented their crafts and artistic creations. This family event included poetry reading, performances by AfriCaribe, Las Bompleneras, Frank Díaz, Pocket Circus, as well as Family Mural Day sponsored by ArchiTreasures on Sunday.

This beautiful cultural institution is located in the community of Humboldt Park and will be open for all the public free of charge to enjoy its exhibitions, cultural events and future workshops and lectures on different topics related to our arts and culture. The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture is located in 3015 West Division Street, Chicago, IL 60622.

For more information, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/iprac or https://www.facebook.com/iprac.

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A Community That Can Teach the World: Roberto Clemente Community Academy Celebrates Forty-Years with an Educational Symposium

Posted on 06 November 2014

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“Let’s see if what Clemente has recently started will do justice to the students, to the teachers, to the parents, and to the community and hope that, in the future, it becomes the best school in Chicago.” – Oscar López Rivera

On Saturday, September 20, the Humboldt Park community celebrated forty-years of Roberto Clemente Community Academy’s (RCCA) founding in 1974. While there are those who may harp on the high school’s troubled history, the multiple events, including a symposium and gala at the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, demonstrated the significance of RCCA as an educational gem for generations of residents. As discussed at the symposium, the school is set to nurture global problem-solvers, who will be prepared for the world’s innovations and rooted in their communities.

The symposium, held at the RCCA auditorium to nearly 100 attendees, was full of notable scholars of education, such as Nilda Flores-González, David Stovall, Steve Tozer, Jonathan Rosa, and Orlando Hernández. Other speakers included Principal Marcy Sorensen and the Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, José E. López, both of whom discussed the school’s renewed vision of fostering global citizens.

While the notion of schools as building the citizens of the future is nothing new and remains an obsession for mainstream media – especially in the context of an ascending China and India – the symposium offered a nuanced spin to the idea, embedded in the Americas and the history of struggle that characterizes the Puerto Rican experience in Humboldt Park.

“We’re celebrating not only forty-years of Clemente [high school], but Latino cultural citizenship… Latinos added a new dimension to the notion of citizenship – which is cultural citizenship – by demanding the rights of culture and language,” spoke López when discussing the origins and implications of the school’s founding.

López went on to connect the struggle to found and further improve RCCA as a new educational imagining to efforts by other marginalized groups, like the Zapatistas in Chiapas, México and Blacks in the U.S., to gain freedom, land, and resources.

Jonathan Rosa, a professor of linguistic anthropology, echoed this sentiment, stating that “public schools are suppose to build citizens of the future and therefore be ‘inclusive’ and ‘equal’, which are tenets of the ‘American Dream’, but Puerto Ricans are racialized like Blacks and illegalized like other Latinos.” He goes on to add that what’s happening at RCCA, under the ‘Community as a Campus’ model, serves to counter this historical marginalization, because it is a “community enacting new visions of societal relationships and borders.”

According to Marvin García, a director at the Alternative Schools Network of Chicago, in a special edition of Que Ondee Sola magazine for RCCA’s founding, “the Humboldt Park “Community as a Campus” (CAAC) initiative… is an organic community plan conceived in 2009 [that] will create an educational environment framed within the precepts of the International Baccalaureate academic standards, and transform all the schools within the designated area into ‘safe and inviting places to explore the world.’”

The CAAC plan is set to expand preschool and kindergarten to Humboldt Park’s children, and strengthen after-school engagement, parent education, and teacher training, among other innovative programs and projects. RCCA is the centerpiece of this community initiative as it prepares to be an official International Baccalaureate Academy – an educational model only found in the most elite of schools. However, according to the school’s principal, a revived Roberto Clemente Community Academy will not replicate what has historically been done to Puerto Ricans and other youth of color.

“Only by letting our students define citizenship for themselves, only then will they acquire citizenship,” spoke Sorensen, ending a symposium that showcased exciting developments that will benefit the residents of Humboldt Park, but can be a lesson for communities across the globe.

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General, La Red, Solidarity

Terre Haute, Indiana

Posted on 06 November 2014

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The morning was colder than anticipated: 48 degrees Fahrenheit. I arrived the night before in Indianapolis, Indiana, from where we left, driving for an hour and a half, to the Holiday Inn in Terre Haute. That morning we met to have breakfast with Puerto Rican Congressman Luis Gutiérrez. Then we left for Terre Haute Federal Prison. Arriving, the cold hit us again. We walked to the entrance. There we identified ourselves and waited a few minutes to enter.

That prison was built in 1938 and later adapted for current requirements. It’s made of dark brick. It looks well maintained, clear and clean on the inside. Photos of the building as it looked in 1938 adorn the lobby. While I looked at them, the guard called me to go in. We passed the first and second gates. Then we walked through an internal yard that leads to the main building. Walking out to this yard, it was still cold. I thought of all the souls gathered there since 1938. How many deserved it. How many didn’t. How many who deserved it never got there. How many who deserve it now aren’t there.

We arrived at the main building. Another gate. A hallway, another door, and then another gate. Then a waiting room with some one hundred chairs. Comfortable. Like an airport. Placed in line across from each other. They’re assigned by number. We sit down. At the other end, a family with a prisoner.

Soon, from a door at the other end, out came the man I came to see. A short man, showing his years. He looked at me and smiled. He’s the same as he looks in the photo published with the column this newspaper publishes on Saturdays. He went to the guard and then walked over to us. Luis hugged him and they greeted each other with affection, like people who have known each other for more than 40 years. Then I greeted him. I gave him a big hug, and he returned it. I told him about the solidarity of his people and the affection all of us in Puerto Rico have for him. We hugged strongly again. We sat down.

For almost three hours we talked about his childhood in San Sebastián. About his life in Chicago. About people in Chicago at the time. About his friends. About people in Puerto Rico at the time. About people in Puerto Rico now. We talked about Vietnam, where he was declared a hero. We talked about why he joined the independence movement. We talked about the current problems in Puerto Rico and about the most important thing to resolve them: solidarity.

Oscar López Rivera has been in prison for 33 years. He hasn’t been accused of committing any violent act. He hasn’t been connected to any violent act. He was accused of conspiring. The line that divides “conspiring” from “thinking” is very fine. I don’t think Oscar would be a danger for the future of our country, of our community, or of our family. His sentence, far too excessive, violates the most elemental principles of humanity, sensitivity and justice. Oscar López Rivera owes no debt to society, and if he ever did, he paid it a long time ago. He hasn’t done us any harm.

Who has harmed us are corrupt politicians or those who mortgaged the future, our present, borrowing without caring who had to pay. But they’re not in Terre Haute. What has harmed us are the advertisements of the Republican ultra right of the U.S. press, sponsoring a local political party. But they’re not in Terre Haute. What has harmed us are those who only worry about votes, or about their counterpart in the media, ratings. But they don’t even know where Terre Haute is. Who harms us are the parents who aren’t concerned about their children’s education. But they aren’t even interested in knowing about what Terre Haute is.

After about three hours, I asked him what message, if any, he wanted me to take to you. He thought for a moment. He said he was grateful for what has been done for his release. Then he spoke of hope and of solidarity. Yes. This man who has been in prison for 33 years. Who is already 71 years old. He still has heart and spirit to talk about solidarity and hope. What a lesson for so many people!

The time arrived for me to leave. I had to go back to Indianapolis to catch my flight. I wanted to talk longer with him. I gave him a big hug. I told him that we would keep working for his release. I asked God to bless him. He thanked me. I thanked him.

Leaving, it was still 48 degrees Fahrenheit. But for me, now it was a warm morning.

I hope to greet that compatriot again, in Puerto Rico.

by Alejandro García Padilla / Governor of Puerto Rico Publicado en El Nuevo Dia / October 8, 2014

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General, Solidarity

Community welcomes Elvira to Paseo Boricua

Posted on 27 July 2014

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On Sunday, March 23, 2014, members of the Humboldt Park community welcomed back Elvira Arellano at Adalberto Church. The church was packed with supporters. Community members made reflections on Elvira’s behalf. Elvira spoke about her activism in support of undocumented people in the US, but also on her work with Central American undocumented people in Mexico. Elvira, Emma Lozano and others made a call to continue fighting for immigration reform and encouraged people to participate in an action at ICE headquarters on Thursday, March 27. They demanded that President Obama extend de- ferred action to all undocumented people in the US. The event was widely covered by the media including live transmission on Channel 5 and Telemundo and the Chicago Tribune and Hoy Newspapers. Elvira will live in Humboldt Park and will continue her commitment to end the slave labor status of the 12 millon undocumented in the US.

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Culture, General

BOMBA as we know it

Posted on 27 July 2014

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By Brenda Torres Figueroa 

Bomba is the oldest musical genre from Puerto Rico existing today; having its origins in the plantations of the Island where Africans were brought into slavery. As documented, slaves constructed drums using barrels and other discarded materials and rejoiced around them on their day off. These gatherings, as said, were used by slaves to communicate with other plantations and plan uprisings and escapes before slavery was abolished in 1873. This tradition, that has been four hundred years in the making, speaks of ongoing struggles, resistance and aim for freedom that still define our culture, politics and identity. Bomba is not only African, bomba emerges from our “identidad criolla”, rooted in the spiritual and political transformation of our people and our culture as a mixture of Europeans, African and the natives Tainos.

Bomba elements include percussion instruments, dancing, singing and story telling. The drums used in bomba are known as “Barriles”; with them, different rhythms are produced accompanied by a maraca, the cua, the singers and the dancer. Technically, Bomba like many traditional African dances, consists of a communication between the dancer and the “subidor”, echoed by a sustained rhythm played by the “buleadores” (remaining drummers). Practitioners and enthusiasts of Bomba have no particular age, color, religion, education and socio-economical background. Bom- ba has been able to connect us with a deeper understanding of our heritage and its power of liberation, unification and preservation of community all of which preserve our culture, particularly here in our very own Paseo Boricua.

El que no tiene de dinga, tiene de mandinga”… refers to a Puerto Rican saying that we are all connected through a rich African tapestry. In year 2000, Tito Rodriguez founded in Humboldt Park, AfriCaribe, a non-profit organization that offers Bomba dancing and percussion classes. Classes at the Academy prepare students to perform rhythms of Bomba that includes sica, yuba, cuembe, holande and seis corrido. Learning bomba is not limited to performing a solo dance at the Batey, but it helps build fluency through developing movement, timing and control, it also helps develop an improvisational character that can relates to the dancer’s personal story and emotions and a connection with the community and space we share.

The traditional bomba dance (Bombazos) has also been featured in Paseo Boricua as an example of the consistent dedication to this particular genre that has also nurtured the creation of groups like AfriCaribe Performing Ensemble, Cocobale, Inaru, Bompleneras, Nuestro Tambo, Grupo Buya among many others. It’s also nurtured cultural centers such as Segundo Ruiz Belvis dedicated to preserving this rich tradition in the Chicago area. Classes at AfriCaribe will begin on Saturday, April 26, 2014. For a complete schedule and information of registration and performances, find AfriCaribe on Facebook or call 773. 879.2123.



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Campaigns, General, Solidarity

Fallece el Patriota Dr Luis Nieves Falcón

Posted on 27 July 2014

Comunidad Boricua en Chicago dice: ¡Gracias por tu ejemplo!

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San Juan- En la madrugada del lunes 10 de marzo, a las 2:20 de la madrugada, falleció el incansable luchador de la justicia, la libertad y los derechos humanos el Dr. Luis Nieves Falcón. El martes 11 de marzo, a las 10:00 de la mañana, en la Funeraria Alvarez en Bayamón, se llevó a cabo un acto de reconocimiento al destacado sociólogo y abogado. Su cuerpo descansará a partir del miércoles en el Cementerio los Cipreses en Bayamón. La comunidad Boricua de Chicago se unió al luto de el inolvidable patriota con quien compartio muchas luchas y hazañas. A continuación publicamos los mensajes de el Congresista Luis V. Gutiérrez y el director Ejexcutivo del Centro Cultural Puertorriqueño José E. López.

Mensaje de José E. López 

Es con mucho pesar que doy mis más sentidas condolencias, y las de mi familia, como también, es de la Red Nacional Boricua Pro-Derechos Humanos y el Centro Cultural Puertorriqueño Juan Antonio Corretjer, por la pérdida física de una de las figuras intelectuales más valiosas de Puerto Rico, el Dr. Nieves Falcón. Nieves Falcón no fue solo maestro de maestros, psicólogo de psicólogos, abogados de abogados, sociólogo de sociólogos; fue, sin duda, un intelectual orgánico. Nieves Falcón comprometió su vida a la lucha por la independencia de Puerto Rico; especialmente, a la defensa de las víctimas de persecución en la jornada por hacer de Puerto Rico una patria libre. Dedicó las pasados 35 años a liberar a los prisioneros políticos puertorriqueños. Planificó la campaña que excarceló a más de una docena de ellos en el 1999 y continuó esta jornada, hasta con su último suspiro, para ver a mi querido hermano, Oscar López Rivera, libre en nuestra Patria. En todo lugar que Nieves Falcón vivió, dejó una marca indeleble. Era una trotamundos, visitó casi todos los continentes. En cada uno, dejó parte de sí mismo. Invirtió gran parte de su tiempo y esfuerzos al fortalecimiento de la diáspora puertorriqueña. En Filadelfia, en 1991, ayudó a articular la visión que fue lo que, a la larga, liberó a los prisioneros políticos puertorriqueños a través de Ofensiva ‘92. En Nueva York, fue pionero en las tantas luchas que mejoraron la calidad de vida de los puertorriqueños, fuese en el Bronx o El Barrio u organizando tribunales sobre la violación de los derechos humanos y los presos políticos. En Chicago, vivió con nosotros en la comunidad, moldeando y creando algunas de las ideas más innovadoras sobre currículos y prácticas educativas que hicieron a la Escuela Superior Clemente un modelo a imitar en la década de los noventa. Con mucho cariño, recordamos su última visita a  Chicago en abril de 2013, donde dio tres grandes discursos e incluso cantó, con su melódica voz, una canción por la libertad de Oscar. Nieves Falcón, siempre serás nuestro Quijote, batallando contra los molinos de viento de la opresión, y nuestro cimarrón, construyendo una comunidad de resistencia, esperanza y cambio.

Mensaje de Luis V. Gutiérrez

Quiero expresar mi más profunda gratitud a nuestro patriota, el Dr. Luis Nieves Falcón, en estos momentos  cuando entra en su nueva jornada de lo temporal a lo infinito. Y, al mismo tiempo, me uno en luto con mi patria en la pérdida física de ese total boricua. Cuando pienso en Nieves Falcón, veo el rostro de cada uno de los presos políticos excarcelados. Fue su inagotable energía, su poderoso empuje, su compromiso sin limitaciones, su visión magistral que nos guío para hacer posible la victoria que obtuvimos en el 1999 con la liberación de nuestros patriotas encarcelados. Nieves Falcón no era solamente un letrado con un verbo encendido, sino un hombre para  todos los tiempos. De Nieves Falcón aprendí mucho sobre nuestra patria; de él aprendí a amarla más. Mi querido Nieves Falcón, nosotros en Chicago jamás te olvidaremos, serás siempre nuestro “Snow Falcon”, el que cuida sobre nosotros. Hasta siempre compañero de lucha.

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