Archive | April, 2009

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[lang_en]Aspira of Illinois Celebrates 40th Year Honors State Sen. Iris Martínez with Prestigious Pitirre Award[/lang_en]

Posted on 14 April 2009 by alejandro

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On Friday, April 3, Aspira of Illinois celebrated the success, hard work and commitment of its staff and students at the Grand Ballroom of the Navy Pier. The gala event marked four decades of groundbreaking educational and youth development services mainly directed at Chicago’s Puerto Rican and Latina/o community. The gala’s highlights included: a presentation of over $10,000 in scholarship to students; presentation of a $1.6 million check from Wal-Mart for Aspira’s national scholarship fund; and special acknowledgments of distinguished Aspirantes, prominent leaders in the area of business, community, government, culture and education. Aspira of Illinois’ most prestigious award – “The Pitirre Award” – which is presented every decade to a prominent leader of the community that exemplifies Aspira’s mission and its continuous commitment to educational advancement was given to State Senator Iris Martinez. Martinez received the award by calling on the Puerto Rican and Latina/o community to continue the fight for quality education for our community’s youth.

In addition, the Cemi Award (the highest award of Aspira Association nationally) was presented to Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez. Zoraida Sambolin, anchorwoman of NBC5 News, served as the program’s mistress of ceremony. All the awards where presented by José Rodríguez, CEO of Aspira, and Sonia Sanchez, President of the Board of Directors. One of the Highlights of the evening was the presentation of Mirta Ramirez, founder of Aspira of Illinois, who was received with a rousing standing ovation by the more than 600 present.[/lang_en]

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[lang_en]For Home and Hope in Humboldt Park: La Voz del Paseo Boricua Celebrates 5th Anniversary[/lang_en]

Posted on 14 April 2009 by alejandro

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M. Rodríguez Muñiz

For five years, La Voz del Paseo Boricua has reported on important developments taking place within, and achievements by, Chicago’s Puerto Rican community. Currently serving as the only Puerto Rican-focused newspaper in the city, La Voz keeps alive a longstanding tradition and legacy of local Puerto Rican journalism. Published by the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, every edition of our newspaper engages with critical social issues and causes, providing information on resources and opportunities, all the while celebrating the many triumphs of our community. As a newspaper committed to our collective empowerment, we continue to raise our pens against the ongoing attacks on community life caused by gentrification. Humboldt Park continues to face the same process of urban destruction that displaced us from our homes in Lincoln Park and Wicker Park, among other neighborhoods.

Our staff and the members of the ¡Humboldt Park No Se Vende! Campaign are saddened by ever increasing housing costs that are forcing our families and businesses to relocate further northwest. However, as we have done for over half a decade, we will continue to struggle alongside those who refuse to surrender our community to greedy speculators and developers. Our barrio of Humboldt Park not only belongs to our antepasados, but also to our future generations.

Despite these challenges, we have much reason to celebrate. Our community continues to be an example and model in community development, for our Puerto Rican communities throughout the country and in Puerto Rico. The dream realized that is Paseo Boricua continues to have the highest concentration of Puerto Rican businesses in the entire Midwest. There is still much work that needs to be done (and is being done) in the areas of health, education, employment, cultural affirmation, and youth development. La Voz, as our community’s newspaper, reaffirms its commitment to those struggles.

On the occasion of our 5th anniversary, La Voz and the Puerto Rican Cultural Center will host a special gala on April 15. During this event we will honor our Top Ten of 2008 of Paseo Boricua, as well as hear a special keynote address from our Con. Luis Gutiérrez. The gala will also serve as the kick-off to a yearlong fundraising campaign, which seeks to make La Voz a fully sustainable newspaper.

Throughout these past few years, I have had the honor and privilege of serving as this newspaper’s editor-in-chief. However, La Voz has been a collective endeavor from the start and has counted on the involvement of many individuals and the support of numerous organizations. I would like to recognize the work of our current volunteer staff: Jodene Velázquez, who has served as diligently as production manager for nearly four years; Jonathan Rivera, who currently is our lead designer and has contributed since La Voz’s inception through articles, photography, and design; Juanita Garcia, our relentless distribution manager for the past two years, and Xavier “Xavi” Burgos, who is a staff writer and the “Fijate” author. A very special thank you is in order for Alejandro Luis Molina, for his countless contributions, and José E. López, for his commitment to La Voz’s overall development. The current staff would also like to thank all of our previous staff members, translators, proofreaders, and distributors for all their hard work. La Voz, indeed, is a community initiative. Lastly, La Voz on the occasion of our 5th anniversary would like to especially thank all of our readers, supportive organizations, and businesses that have made the production of La Voz possible and meaningful.

For more information, please contact us at lavoz@prcc-chgo.org or call us at: 773.227.7794.[/lang_en]

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Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez: The Mastery of the Politics of Making the Impossible Possible

Posted on 14 April 2009 by alejandro

When he first ran for Congress in 1992, Luis V. Gutierrez promised he would be a “different kind of Congressman – one who is closer to the people than to the smoke filled rooms in Washington, D.C.” Congressman has amply delivered on his promise.

Clearly comfortable with the heavy burden history has placed on his shoulders, Congressman Gutierrez has become the best known Hispanic official in the United States and, more importantly, one of the few only Hispanic politicians with the moral and political authority to be able to convene the diverse factions of our community at the national level. Undoubtedly, he is the recognized national leader on comprehensive immigration reform.

Evidence of this is the overwhelming response the Familias Unidas national tour has had. In this tour, the Congressman has already visited 16 cities all over the country with the collaboration of the Hispanic Evangelical and Catholic communities. He has only seen churches and other venues filled to capacity. Many Members of Congress, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressman John Lewis, one of the most respected members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and several local politicians have joined Gutierrez at the events.

Congressman Gutierrez’s confidence is deeply rooted. It is based on his close ties to the people he represents, his understanding of their problems and his solid commitment to working to find concrete solutions to these problems.

The base of the Congressman’s initiatives has been, and continues to be his Congressional district, where, interestingly, the Puerto Rican community plays such an important role.

Chicago’s Puerto Rican community is where the Congressman grew up and developed as a leader.

Despite the “legal” status of Puerto Ricans in the U.S., Puerto Ricans are immigrants.

Puerto Ricans have always faced discrimination. This was especially true of first generation Puerto Ricans who were brought to the U.S. as cheap labor. The Congressman’s parents were two of the many thousands of Puerto Ricans who came to Chicago in the 50’s and 60’s. Therefore, Congressman Gutierrez grew up in an immigrant household, in an immigrant community.

It was in that working class, ethnically and racially discriminated community that Luis V. Gutierrez received his education, formal and real.

From very early on, he saw how his community was shortchanged when it came to the distribution of government resources and services, such as education, health, housing, employment, and police protection.

In this context, he developed his well-known fighting spirit. It is that principled, uncompromising spirit that has earned him the nickname among our people: “El Gallito.”

Puerto Ricans in Chicago were always a numerically small minority in Chicago. In the struggles of our community, Puerto Ricans learned the art of alliances and coalitions. As the number of Hispanics, especially Mexicans grew, it was only natural to work together with our Latino brothers and sisters.

In that context, Latinos in Chicago learned to develop a common agenda, an agenda to improve the lives of our community in the areas of education, housing, employment and others.

Meanwhile, the imperative need to achieve comprehensive immigration reform has surged to the forefront as the number one problem facing the Hispanic community in the U.S.

Drawing from his strong value system, his personal, ideological and political education and from his experiences in the Chicago City Council and in Congress, Congressman Gutierrez has stepped forward to meet the challenge posed by this thorny issue.

As is well known, politics in the U.S. is moved by money and votes. Immigrants have neither. Immigrants are the least politically influential group in our society. By definition, they have few, if any recognized rights in our society. They do the most dangerous, harder and lesser-paid jobs, the jobs nobody else wants. They tend to live in sub-standard housing, and have very little access to quality health care.

Immigrants work very hard to survive and to help their families in their countries of origin survive. They can’t vote and don’t have the ability to make financial political contributions to elected officials: the opposite of what is usually needed to get Congress to act on your behalf!

Undaunted, Congressman Gutierrez has worked tirelessly since elected to assist immigrants. For example since being “deputized” by the INS to accept and help process applications for citizenship, his office has assisted more than 50,000 immigrants submit their U.S. citizenship applications.

At the national level, Congressman Gutierrez has been at the forefront of every single immigration reform and immigrant rights defense struggle since 1993, from 245 (i), NACARA, to several proposals for comprehensive immigration reform.

Right now, Congressman Gutierrez and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which is presided by a Puerto Rican woman, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez from New York, are reminding President Barack Obama that he has publicly committed to addressing the urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform during the first year of his administration. He needs to deliver on his promise.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus agrees that comprehensive immigration reform is the number one item in the national Latino agenda.

Congressman Gutierrez’s most memorable achievements have been deemed as “impossible”.

It was considered “impossible” to get President Bill Clinton to commute the sentences the Puerto Rican political prisoners. Congressman Gutierrez played an indispensable role in convincing President Clinton to commute the sentences of 13 of the 15 political prisoners. Eleven of the political prisoners are now in our community.

It was considered “impossible” to get the US Navy out of Vieques. The people of Vieques and Puerto Rico reached that goal. Congressman Gutierrez played an important part in that struggle.

It was considered “impossible” to stop the Rossello pro-statehood administration in Puerto Rico to get the annexionist and unfair Young Bill though Congress. Congresspersons Gutierrez and Velazquez stood in their way and stopped the bill.

Today, some think it is “impossible” to obtain comprehensive immigration reform, justice for immigrants and equality for Latinos.

Congressman Gutierrez has shown and is showing that the way to accomplish these and other goals is through the unity of our community.

It is not enough to achieve unity between Puerto Ricans and Mexicans and other groups.

It is imperative to achieve unity in our communities. It is called community building:

Unity between women and men, between age groups, the incorporation of our communities of faith to the struggles of our communities, and the unity with our business people.

Though his struggles, which are also the struggles of our people, Congressman Gutierrez has shown the way forward. In order to achieve self-determination, Puerto Ricans on the island and in the US, and Latinos in general need to build up our communities, generate common agendas, unite around common issues, and following his example, never shy away from the impossible.

For this commitment to our community, La Voz selected Congressman Gutierrez as our 2008 “Person of the Year.” He will be the keynote speaker at La Voz’s 5th anniversary dinner/reception on April 25, 2009.

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[lang_en]Latino and African-American communities Dialogue on Health Disparities[/lang_en]

Posted on 14 April 2009 by alejandro

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Jaime Delgado

Hundreds of people attended the Communities United Against Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities Forum held on March 27th at the UIC Forum.  The forum was organized by a collaborative of Latino and African American community based organizations with the support of the Illinois Department of Human Services to call for actions to eliminate Illinois’ growing racial and ethnic health disparities. Health disparities are the gaps that exist between the health status of the non-Hispanic white majority, which continues to improve, compared to the health status of Latinos and African Americans, which continues to decline.

During the past 50 years, the United States has benefited greatly from advances in medicine, environmental protection, diseases control, and health promotion strategies. Unfortunately, racial and ethnic groups have not benefited equally from these advances. Latino and African American communities, in particular, are disproportionately affected by disease, disability and death. The U.S Department of Health and Human Services has identified six major areas in which racial and ethnic minorities experience serious disparities in health access and outcomes – diabetes, heart disease and stroke, cancer, infant mortality, child and adult immunization and HIV/AIDS. As a starting point, the forum examined the issues of Diabetes/Obesity, Substance Abuse/Mental Health, and HIV/AIDS affecting Latinos and African Americans in Illinois.

Historically, efforts to address the disproportionate rates of illness and death among Latinos and African Americans have been limited to calls for increased access to health care, which is in fact needed. However, research has shown that access to health care alone is not enough to improve the health status of Latinos and African Americans. Powerful social, economic, and environmental factors known as Social Determinants of Health must be addressed, as well.  The Institute of Medicine has said that “It is unreasonable to expect people will change behavior easily when so many forces in the social, cultural, and physical environment conspire against such change.” Clearly, the health of the individual cannot be separated from the health of the broader community.  It is these social determinants of health that the forum called for the State of Illinois to include in any future public health interventions intended to improve the health status of Latinos and African Americans.[/lang_en]

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[lang_en]Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center Awards Puerto Rican Bomba Dancers for Service to the Community and Puerto Rican Culture[/lang_en]

Posted on 14 April 2009 by alejandro

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Anahi Lazarte

The Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center (SRBCC) presented awards to a group of female bomba dancers recognized for their community work and committment to the Puerto Rican culture.  The award ceremony took place during the Abolition of Slavery Concert held on March 20th.

The concert was dedicated to the female bomba dancer, with a performance from Nandí, the first all female group of bomba percussionists  in Puerto Rico.

The Center presented the Abolitionist award to Rhenna Lee Santiago who directs a school in Puerto Rico where bomba has been incorporated into the curriculum.  She is also part of the Puerto Rican group Paracumbé, with which she has participated in various educational initiatives.  That evening female dancers from Chicago, New York, and Puerto Rico also received special recognition: Jeanitza Avilés, Lauren Brooks, Marilyn Delgado, Ivelisse Díaz, Oxil Febles, Jaris Rodríguez, Jessica Rodríguez y Marién Torres.

Created in 1971, the SRBCC is the first Puerto Rican cultural center founded in Chicago. It’s mission is to promote and fortify the Puerto Rican culture, with emphasis on afro-Puerto Rican culture.[/lang_en]

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[lang_en]Jury clears Puerto Rico’s ex-governor Anibal Acevedo Vila in corruption trial[/lang_en]

Posted on 14 April 2009 by alejandro

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Former governor of Puerto Rico, Anibal Acevedo Vila, was found not guilty on Friday, March 21st, 2009 of all nine counts including conspiracy, money laundering and lying to the FBI. This conclusion to a month long corruption trial marks a major blow to US Attorney Rosa Emelia Rodríguez, a member of the statehood New Progressive Party. Rodríguez prosecuted then governor Acevedo Vila in an election year, which likely contributed to his defeat in one of the most lopsided elections in Puerto Rican history.

Upon leaving the courtroom Acevedo Vila was greeted by hundred of supporters, waving Puerto Rican flags, singing, blowing whistles and chanting “Innocent!” Acevedo Vila remarked: “I hope Puerto Rico learns  from this lesson… you defend the truth no matter what.”[/lang_en]

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[lang_en]Ald. Ocasio calls for the naming of Miguel del Valle as Chancellor of City Colleges[/lang_en]

Posted on 14 April 2009 by alejandro

[lang_en]During Aspira of Illinois’ 40th anniversary gala, Alderman Ocasio called upon the city administration to name the current City Clerk, Miguel del Valle, the new chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago. Recognizing the hard work of the present Chancellor Wayne Watson, Alderman Ocasio challenged the City to seize the opportunity, of his possible resignation, and name Del Valle to that position. According to the Alderman, not only has he been a leader and a pioneer in educational reform in the state of Illinois, the population of the City of Colleges is increasingly becoming Latino. For Ocasio, making Miguel del Valle the chancellor will demonstrate the City’s commitment to the growing presence and persistence of Latinos, as well as to the continue improvement of the educational process in this world class city. The Alderman’s call was received with resounding applauses by the hundreds gathered in Navy Pier.[/lang_en]

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[lang_en]Fijate– I’d be Puerto Rican even if I was born in Humboldt Park… and here’s why[/lang_en]

Posted on 14 April 2009 by alejandro

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A little over a month ago, a Puerto Rican finally made it into space. The California-born hydrogeologist, Joseph Acaba, even made sure to play the song “Que Bonita Bandera” as a wake-up call and to hang a Puerto Rican flag in the spaceship – a requirement for any Boricua on the national stage, or in this case, the celestial stage. It was at that very moment that “yo seria borincano aunque naciera en la luna” – the line of a famous poem by Juan Antonio Corretjer – took on new, ironic meaning. The important and interesting aspect of this seemingly minor human event is not that a Boricua finally made into space, where the moon lies, as the poem mentions, but that it is a Puerto Rican from the Diaspora – born not on the island but in the U.S. that did it. What is even more amazing is that he was revered and claimed as a native son on island newspapers and television commentary. “I would be Puerto Rican even if I was born in the moon.”

Boricuas everywhere were speaking of this rare and prestigious occurrence. Understandable since as colonial people we have always been informed of our alleged inferiority and incapability. For this small moment, it did not matter if it was the Puerto Rican from “alla” that accomplished something for our people, a “Nuyorican” that is not “really” Puerto Rican as some tease. The week leading up to April 4, 2009 in the Puerto Rican community in Humboldt Park, Chicago, Corretjer’s old poem also took new and ironic meaning, providing a sense of puertorriquenidad and historical memory that very few places are able to produce. This community in the middle of the cold and post-industrial Midwestern U.S. is also challenging what it means to be Boricua.

In every April, for one week, the Puerto Rican community in Chicago commemorates the capture of  a group of Puerto Rican freedom fighters in Evanston, Illinois during tumultuous political times. April 4, 1980 initiated what would become an international campaign that eventually led to a Presidential clemency offer in 1999 for 11 political prisoners (two remain imprisoned).

At the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), the Union for Puerto Rican Students (UPRS) hosted their 15th annual Pa’Lante Conference dedicated to the educational realities of Puerto Ricans in Chicago. The conference invited top-notch academic speakers, held panel discussions, poetry open mics, and conducted a tour of Paseo Boricua. At Northeastern Illinois University, the Union for Puerto Rican Students hosted two major events – Plantando Semillas, which focused on the needs, projects, and status of Latina/o programs and organizations at this “Hispanic Serving Institution” and Patriotas Boricuas, inviting former political prisoners Ida Luz Rodriguez and Luis Rosa to speak. The organization also distributed hundreds of copies of the new Que Ondee Sola edition, the oldest Puerto Rican or Latina/o student magazine in print and conducted a tour for 20 senior students from Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School after a Proyecto Pa’Lante application workshop. Saturday, April 4 was the festive and emotional culmination of a phenomenal week, with over a hundred people crammed into the Batey Urbano youth space to hear activists, artists, musicians, and community leaders – old and young – speak, read poetry, sing, rap, and reflect on the struggles and accomplishments of this community.

It is no coincidence that most of the members of the two chapters of UPRS were born and raised, live, and/or work in the Humboldt Park community – all second or third generation Puerto Ricans. It is also no coincidence that nearly all of the former Puerto Rican political prisoners captured in the 1980’s were from Chicago, some of which never visited the island until their release. Some of the people in the Batey Urbano that night have only seen Puerto Rico in the old photos of their grandparents, but proudly raised their fists when our national anthem – La Borinquena (version revolucionaria) was played. How is this possible? How is it possible for so many generations, so many young people to be involved in building a connection between the university – the bastion of educational possibilities – and the Puerto Rican community, especially around an important historical event so connected with the Diaspora but also the political paradox of the island?  It is possible, because being Puerto Rican is more than having an island town on one’s birth certificate. It is possible because we have a strong and well-organized community. After all, the greatest symbol of our island – the flag – was made in New York City in 1895 and its largest monument is found on Paseo Boricua, Chicago since 1995. This sense of Puerto Rican-ness can only stay possible if we continue to support and dedicate ourselves to building and re-creating a home away from home right here on Paseo Boricua.[/lang_en]

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[lang_en]Exciting Developments on Paseo Boricua Interview with Eduardo Arocho, Executive Director of Division Street Business Development Association (DSBDA)[/lang_en]

Posted on 14 April 2009 by alejandro

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The Division Street Business Development Association is a key organization on Paseo Boricua, which offers a number of services to local businesses and community residents alike. At the Paseo Boricua Business Center (2459 W. Division Street), La Voz had the chance to catch up with the extremely busy Executive Director of DSBDA, Eduardo Arocho. Arocho previously served in this capacity between 1999 and 2000, and has many years of experience in economic and community development. He is a proud graduate of Roberto Clemente High School and has a Master of Science Degree in Nonprofit Management from Spertus College.

La Voz: What are some of the new developments at the Paseo Boricua Business Center?
Arocho: We have a new tenant, West Town Bikes, which is a non-profit organization that will be opening a bicycle shop called Ciclo Urbano. This bike shop will be a bike repair and bike cleaning place, as well as a store to sell bikes. They will be leasing the west half of the business center. This means that DSBDA’s new entrance will be on Division Street, more towards the east side of the building. We still have four other small business tenants here, including DSBDA. We also still have our conference room, where we will be hosting our General Business meeting starting in mid May.

Ciclo Urbano will be having a Grand Opening of the bike shop on May 1st at 5:00PM; DSBDA invites the entire community to come tour the new shop. They will also offer workshops to local residents, especially youth, to learn how to construct their own bikes. Bike riding is a very healthy activity and it would be a great resource to everyone in this community.

La Voz: What are some of the new projects and ideas that you have in store for Paseo Boricua?
Arocho: I’ve been having discussions with State Senator William Delgado about some ideas that have been floating for a while. We are interested in initiating a project to help increase the visibility of the Paseo Boricua Entertainment/Cultural District. In particular, we would like to hire a dozen or so music bands that we could arrange to play at the different restaurants on Paseo Boricua. Coupled with that, we are planning to launch a large-scale marketing campaign that will include a Food and Get Around Guide and a new Paseo Boricua Business Directory. One of my major goals is to solidify Paseo Boricua as a tourist attraction for Chicago residents and visitors to the city.

We have also been working with our State Representative Cynthia Soto to promote and expand our Guided Tour Program. I have been conducting walking tours of Paseo Boricua for about 14 years. DSBDA gives tours to over 1000 people per year. We want to expand this program with several new packages, including a Restaurant Food Tour where people will be able to taste cuisine from the various restaurants on Paseo Boricua while learning about the history of the food and the community.

La Voz: What are some of the visions that you have for the future of Paseo Boricua?
Arocho: I have been working with other partners on a concept for an Arts Building on Paseo Boricua to provide Puerto Rican/Latino artists with a living space/workspace that they would be able to own. We are looking at the former site of Ashland Sausage. The plan is to transform it into an arts center where people could visit the artists’ galleries, which would increase the cultural viability and street traffic of Paseo Boricua. It will surely complement the Institute for Puerto Rican Arts and Culture (IPRAC), which will be opening this summer in Humboldt Park.

One big plan currently under discussion with Rebaño Church is to create a multi-level parking facility that would add quite a bit of parking space for visitors to Paseo Boricua. Parking has always been a concern for the businesses here. In addition to being a multi-level parking facility, it will also house Rebaño’s Youth Center. All of these potential projects would be a great stimulus for Paseo Boricua and will continue the renaissance of Humboldt Park for many years to come.

La Voz: A number of Paseo Boricua Businesses have DSBDA stickers on their windows. Does this mean they are DSBDA members?
Arocho: Yes. We ask for an annual donation of $240.00 for DSBDA membership, which goes towards paying our Paseo Boricua street cleaner and some of the beautification projects we have on the street.

La Voz: Is there anything else you want to say or add?
Arocho: Yes, many people are wondering about Enrique Salgado. He is currently enrolled in a Masters Program in the State of New Hampshire and I want to thank him for his years of service and wish him luck in his pursuit of a higher degree.

For more information on DSBDA, please call 773-784-0454. If you are interested in opening up a business on Paseo Boricua, please contact Eduardo Arocho. Look out for the DSBDA website in May 2009.[/lang_en]

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