Archive | July, 2009

16th Annual Fiesta Boricua – Sunday, Sept. 6, 2009

Posted on 30 July 2009 by alejandro


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SUPPORT FIESTA BORICUA! Help Make this Festival a Reality

Posted on 30 July 2009 by alejandro

Dear friend and supporter:

On September 6, 2009, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center will once again host the annual Fiesta Boricua. This year will mark the 16th year of this incredible festival, which attracts over 200,000 individuals annually and features the very best in Puerto Rican music, cuisine, and artisanry. We are appealing to you to help make this event a reality. Due to the economic crisis there are few sponsors available this year. We are asking for you to join a new initiative called “Friends of Fiesta Boricua” and make a financial contribution to this year’s celebration. This will ensure that Fiesta Boricua will become more organic and sustainable. The following categories of support are available:

A.    Clave: $1000 +
B.    Guiro: $999 – $700
C.    Conga: $699  – $400
D.    Cuatro: $399 – $100

The names of contributors will be listed according to the above categories in the official Fiesta Boricua program and in La Voz del Paseo Boricua. All contributions must be made by Monday, August 31 by 5pm. All contributions are tax-deductible. For more information or to make a contribution, please contact Jonathan Rivera-Lizardi at 773-227-7794 or Zenaida López at 773-278-6737.

Gratefully yours,

José E. López,
Executive Director,
Puerto Rican Cultural Center

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At Work Between the Flags Youth impact community through summer employment program

Posted on 30 July 2009 by alejandro

(youth working)

(youth working)

by Marisol Rodríguez

This summer, youth, ages 14 to 24, are using their skills to contribute to the maintenance of Paseo Boricua through work in the areas of community beautification, cultural development, economic development, and participatory democracy.

Through funding from Mayor Daley’s Youth Ready Chicago Summer Program, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School (PACHS) designed this summer’s youth employment program to reflect the vision of the high school since its inception, community building in the Puerto Rican community, said Program Director and PACHS principal Matthew Rodríguez.

While youth have worked in the Humboldt Park community in the past, this summer the program has placed a significant number of youth workers at businesses. “It’s our first attempt to help the businesses in the community to engage in the process of passing down their skills and traditions of their specialties to the students,” said Summer Program Coordinator Lourdes Lugo. Having students learn the value of cleanliness and the effort it takes to maintain a business is another important goal of the program, added Lugo.

From June 29 to August 7, Humboldt Park residents will be able to spot youth workers at restaurants such as La Bruquena, La Plena and Latin American. Tony Muñiz, co-owner of Nellie’s, said youth have been responsible for helping greet customers and washing dishes, among other tasks. Muñiz pointed out that the summer employment program is a teaching experience for both youth employees and business employers. “For a lot of them, this is their first job,” said Muñiz. “You learn from them and they learn from you.”

As part of engaging students in participatory democracy work, students have been involved with Humboldt Park No Se Vende, a community initiative to address gentrification in Humboldt Park. For Lincoln Park High School student Carali Caro, 16, working with HPNSV has not only enhanced her understand of the effects of gentrification, but also developed her communication skills through activities such as canvassing. In addition, through learning about the history and struggles of the Puerto Rican community, Caro has found a way to fight stereotypes.

“People think Boricuas are lazy and addicted, but we can show them this is a positive community doing good things,” said Caro.

Having many of the youth work in the same community that they live in and/or attend school in has had its own benefits. “It’s a good idea to have students working in their community because they have a relationship with a lot of the customers already,” said Stan Kustra, owner of Joe’s Hardware Store. D’Angelo Luciano, senior at P.A.C.H.S. and Joe’s Hardware youth employee said he’s learned a lot of useful skills at the business that he can take with him to make repairs in his own home. Luciano also feels satisfied to be spending his summer working on Paseo Boricua. “It makes me feel proud to be able to work in between the flags,” he said.

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Fíjate– Those Who Opposed Pastor De Jesús Just Didn’t Get It!

Posted on 30 July 2009 by alejandro

Rev. Wilfredo De Jesus

Rev. Wilfredo De Jesus

by Xavier “Xavi” Luis Burgos

For the past few weeks now there has been quite a few news coverage (especially with a firestorm from the “blogging community”) on the possible new Alderman of the 26th Ward, Rev. Wilfredo “Choco” De Jesús of New Life Covenant Church. Sadly, much of this coverage has been negative.

When I first discovered that longtime Alderman Billy Ocasio was resigning in order to join the Governor’s cabinet and that he chose Pastor Choco as his replacement, I thought “this could not be a better choice!” May I ask, which Puerto Rican led institution in Humboldt Park has hundreds of members who are able to promote and organize such a electoral campaign? Next to none! Which community has been able to engage a church and a pastor in important social issues, from community preservation (look at all the real estate New Life has saved from greedy developers!) to immigration reform (by a Puerto Rican church, nonetheless!). In the last few elections in the 26th Ward, which is facing the displacement of its longtime residents (gentrification), we have been bombarded with puppet candidates who wanted to only serve the interests of greedy real estate developers and other anti-Paseo Boricua forces. Of course, some people remained myopic.

A few weeks ago, I was one of 20 of the mostly Puerto Rican representatives of different community organizations that work on LGBTQ issues who attended a meeting at La Bruquena restaurant a few weeks ago with Pastor De Jesús. The meeting was allegedly called in order to better understand the Pastor’s views on LGBTQ issues. The biggest surprise though was that the vast majority of those who attended did not live in the 26th Ward! Actually many those in attendance represented organizations that did not completely focus on the Humboldt Park community or the 26th Ward. Interestingly enough, it was from those who did not live here that questions about important community issues like gentrification, the development of Paseo Boricua, violence, and education …etc were absent. The only thing on their minds was this: “You are an evangelical pastor, therefore you hate gay people and you hate us, don’t you!?” Up to that point I have never seen a group of people so concerned by just one issue – which is not surprising if you do not live or work in this ward.

Nonetheless, it was from those activists who live and work in this community, who organize LGBTQ events (which most of De Jesús’ discontents do not attend), and fight homophobia and transphobia on a daily basis in the schools, programs, and institutions of Humboldt Park, that a real dialogue took place. In my experience, Humboldt Park and Paseo Boricua has become such a welcoming space for LGBTQ Boricuas and Latinas/os and that just did not happen because of the “Boystown elite” opened people’s eyes. Look at Vida/SIDA as a community institution – where else do you see so many openly lesbian, gay, and transgendered people freely doing outreach to all the members of this community? Where else would there be a transgendered Queen for a major parade other than the Puerto Rican Cultural Center’s Desfile del Pueblo/ Puerto Rican People’s Parade every June? People have struggled and died to make LGBTQ Boricuas and Latinas/os feel welcomed in their OWN community so we would not have to suffer in the racist, sexist, and elitist so-called “Boystown.”

To all of De Jesús’ discontents, there are a few things to take into consideration. Which evangelical pastor would meet with a group of LGBTQ leaders? Which evangelical pastor in Chicago would explain herself/himself on her/his beliefs to such a group? Which evangelical pastor would support the construction of a gay homeless shelter in Humboldt Park? He may believe things that I disagree with, but in the end, there is room for common ground, common understanding and respect, and for struggle and engagement. That is what participatory democracy is about.

Another point to consider is that, for those who live and work in the 26th Ward would know that a great and visionary Alderman like Billy Ocasio would never choose a replacement who would not work for and support the diverse experiences of his residents and the major initiatives of this community. Sadly, some have eaten the apple and have abandoned his legacy and vision.

Furthermore, without a community there will be no struggle to engage people (leaders or residents) in anything. As the Puerto Rican (and Latina/o) community continues to suffer gentrification then the forum in which to dialogue about important issues such as these becomes less and less available. It just becomes talking heads speaking to an imaginary community. If the Puerto Rican community is desecrated then where will all the LGBTQ Boricuas be? Boystown! Ha! Puerto Ricans were gentrified from Lakeview decades ago. For those who claim to be “Latina/o leaders” take this into consideration: Being a “Latina/o leader” means nothing if you do not have a community to lead. The next Alderman (or Alderwoman) of the 26th Ward will have to understand that in order to truly lead our community into a brighter future. ¡Fuácata!

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On July 4, Puerto Rico calls for independence

Posted on 30 July 2009 by alejandro

Lolita Lebron - (Center, sitting down)

Lolita Lebron - (Center, sitting down)

by Dan Berger

July 4 in Puerto Rico was less a celebration of independence than a demand for it. That night, more than 100 people attended the closing event for Not Enough Space, an art show featuring the works of political prisoners Oscar López Rivera and Carlos Alberto Torres, as well as a replica of the small cells in which they have each spent almost 30 years.

The exhibit was housed at a community center in San Sebastián, which was on the same grounds where scores of vendors and artisans from around the island had come that very weekend to sell homemade hammocks, paintings, leather goods and other materials at the 29th annual Festival de la Hamaca. The first thing festival goers saw upon arrival was a giant banner proclaiming that Puerto Rico awaits the return of López and Torres.

The night before, festival planners awarded one of the island’s renowned linguist, Luz Nereida Pérez, for her work to study and preserve Spanish. She dedicated her award to López, saying the continued incarceration of this San Sebastián native “affects us all.” The town’s mayor, a supporter of Puerto Rican statehood, was one of several speakers at the July 4 finale; he too called for López’ freedom.

Five of the 11 political prisoners released in 1999 attended the closing event, as did the 102-year-old Isabel Rosado. For her lifetime involvement in the struggle for Puerto Rican independence, and in honor of the local artisans, event organizers presented the legendary activist with a hammock.

This event was not the first time that independence supporters gathered that week. Two nights before the closing, two dozen people gathered to hear Puerto Rican Cultural Center director José López speak about the beauty and the struggles of Puerto Rico. And on June 30, more than 150 people came to a wake in Mayagüez in memory of Miguel Sanchez, a shoemaker and longtime activist against the U.S. military presence in Vieques. Independentists from across the island, including Puerto Rican Socialist Party founder Juan Mari Bras, attended his wake and a celebration of his life the following evening. On July 4, Luis Rosa praised Sánchez as both a brilliant strategist and a tireless organizer.

These public events revealed a continuing push for the release of Puerto Rican political prisoners through a unified demand across Puerto Rican civil society. This unity succeeded in winning the unconditional release of one Puerto Rican Nationalist in 1977 and his four comrades in 1979. It won the freedom of 11 more prisoners in 1999. And it effectively removed the U.S. military from the island of Vieques in 2003. In interviews held during the week preceding the July 4 event, leading independence figures—Lolita Lebrón, Nelson Canals, Rita Zengotita, José Fortuño, and Juan Mari Bras, among others—each pointed to this unity of purpose as the reason for the movement’s successes in the past three decades. Such unity has repeatedly made the impossible inevitable.

Irmgard Iglesias lives in San Juan. During the 1970s, she lived in New York City and worked with a Puerto Rican organization called Resistancia Puertorriqueña. As we drove the two hours from San Sebastián to San Juan, Iglesias told me that she never thought the five Nationalists would get out of prison. To her delight they did, and it confirmed for her what she said she has always known: “I’ve never had any doubt that we will get our independence. I know we will be free.”

Dan Berger lives in Philadelphia and is the author of Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity (AK Press, 2006).

Isabel Rosado (Green Shirt)

Isabel Rosado (Green Shirt)

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Latina/o Students Succeed in Push for a Latina/o Cultural & Resource Center at Northeastern

Posted on 30 July 2009 by alejandro

by Xavier “Xavi” Luis Burgos

In an e-mail sent by Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) President Sharon Hah’s on June 19, it was stated in a swift and inconsequential manner that “[The State of Illinois funded] $1.5 million for costs associated with facility renovations for the construction of a Latino Cultural Center….”

This event comes from the tireless contribution by State Senator Iris Martínez who stated on an historic meeting on May 1 organized by Latina/o student leaders at NEIU that “If I am going to continue to work hard for this institution… I want to make sure that Latinos are [being] catered to.” Now, finally, we, the Latina/o students of the university, have won, after years of being told there was never enough money, space, or time by many administrators!

This struggle began 27-years-ago with the university’s destruction of Albizu-Zapata Portable 1, a small, grassroots student-led space of Latina/o cultural and political affirmation. Fast forward to the present day and organizations like Que Ondee Sola (QOS) magazine alongside the Union for Puerto Rican Students (UPRS) and the Chican@ Mexican@ Latin@ Student Union (ChiMexLa) organizations have spearheaded this struggle with strong support from the Puerto Rican and Mexican communities of Chicago.

With members like Ruthy Venegas, Samuel Vega, Marcuz Erazo, Juan Morales, Jackie Nowotnik, Miosotis Santos and Joshua Cruz alongside Alpha Psi Lambda’s Stephanie Gómez, Jessica Urbina, and Vanesa Corado and the Movimiento Cultural Latino Americano (MCLA) organization this achievement was also made possible.

However, it must be stated that the struggle is not over. Complacency risks decreased funding for Proyecto Pa’Lante and Latino & Latin American Studies program (LLAS) every year. In QOS and in meeting after meeting we have made it a point to write and say “Latina/o Cultural & Resource Center” and not just a “Casa Latina” or anything else. This new space must include the vision that we as Latina/o students have placed out there, which includes the physical centralization of integral Latina/o-focused programs and student organizations. As we have stated before, QOS, UPRS, and the other Latina/o student leaders of NEIU must be at the table of planning and decision-making for this space – it is, after all, owned by the students of NEIU and no one else.

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IPRAC celebrates grand opening with Pablo Marcano García exhibit

Posted on 30 July 2009 by alejandro


(Picture: Pablo Marcano Garcia)

by Pedro Sarsama

Just west of the beautiful banderas of Paseo Boricua is the newly-opened Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture (IPRAC), the only museum exclusively dedicated to Puerto Rican art & culture in the states. Humboldt Park has historically been Chicago’s largest Puerto Rican community and in the face of gentrification, many are striving to preserve our Pedacito de Patria. Situating IPRAC in Humboldt Park is part of the conscious effort on behalf of community members to preserve Puerto Rican culture and community here. Located in the historic Horse Stables and Receptory of Humboldt Park (3015 W. Division), IPRAC is also helping to preserve this beautiful landmark. IPRAC has restored about eighty percent of the facility and is actively working to complete the renovations.
IPRAC’s opening reception, held on June 12, was a great success with 250 guests that included many notable community, business, and educational leaders. Among these important guests was Billy Ocasio, former 26th Ward Alderman. Ocasio gave wonderful remarks praising the hard work of the Board of Directors and IPRAC’s supporters. At the opening José López, Executive Director of IPRAC, presented artist Pablo Marcano García, whose exhibit Luz y Color is currently on display at IPRAC. Marcano García gave a powerful opening to his exhibition, which he feels represents hope for Puerto Ricans. He presented Margaret Burroughs, a major arts figure in the African American community, one of his paintings to be donated to the Dusable Museum. Luz y Color is a vibrant exhibit celebrating Puerto Rican history and culture through a series of paintings and silkscreens.

IPRAC is currently working on building a permanent collection of work by Puerto Rican artists, offering year-round programs of permanent and traveling exhibitions, giving educational art workshops, and hosting various art and film festivals.

The first of these festivals is the Puerto Rican Film Series, taking place at dusk on August 8 and 22, showcasing films by Puerto Rican filmmakers. Also coming up at IPRAC is the Barrio Art Fest on September 19 and 20.

IPRAC is free and open to the public throughout the summer. Its hours of operation are Thursday-Friday 3 PM – 7 PM, Saturday 10 AM – 4 PM, and Sunday 12 PM – 5 PM. Luz y Color is on display July 6 until September 6. More information about these and other events can be found by visiting IPRAC or calling (773) 486-8345.


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The fifth annual Community as Intellectual Space Symposium: Critical Pedagogy and Community Building

Posted on 29 July 2009 by alejandro


by Eric Johnson

The fifth annual Community as Intellectual Space Symposium was held on June 12-14, 2009 at the La Estancia Building (2753 W. Division St.).  The theme was Critical Pedagogy and Community Building.  Critical pedagogy is an education methodology that challenges mainstream cultural practices and beliefs while encouraging students to become conscious of their own culture and history.  The symposium explored how different organizations can come together in solidarity to transform communities through dialogue and practice.  The events highlighted the importance and role of critical pedagogy in the Paseo Boricua community.

Antonia Darder, Professor at the University of Illinois delivered a thoughtful and emotional keynote speech on the importance of critical pedagogy within the educational structure. Her written works include Reinventing Paulo Freire: A Pedagogy Of Love and The Critical Pedagogy Reader: Second Edition.

Students and teachers from Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School (PACHS), along with Troy Harden, Dr. John Fritsche, of Illinois College, and Michelle Torrise, a graduate of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, presented on the empowerment of critical consciousness and education.  Other topics included critical inquiry and community health; critical engagement; critical literacy; and how asset-based community service can produce collaborative and long-lasting relationships between students, faculty, universities, and communities.  The presentations included a short documentary showing how students from PACHS used creativity and life experience to learn in an urban environment.

Workshops highlighted several projects between the Puerto Rican Cultural Center (PRCC) and the University of Illinois, including efforts to catalog the PRCC library using LibraryThing. Dr. Laura Ruth Johnson and several of her students from Northern Illinois University talked about their practices and experiences in community based research at Paseo Boricua. One student worked at a local café, another learned about traditional Puerto Rican music. The students shared what they learned, and how community engagement transformed their research experience during the panel.

Ann Bishop, of the University of Illinois, led a panel on Community Inquiry and Informatics with Victor Benitez and Licia Knight.  The panelists discussed their experiences working in and with the people of Paseo Boricua.

A Café Teatro Batey Urbano performance, entitled “Crime Against Humanity”, followed.  “Crime Against Humanity” is a dramatic play depicting the struggles and joys of several Puerto Rican political prisoners lives behind bars. The play is based on interviews with released prisoners.

Artist Pablo Marcano García opened an art exhibit at the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, a museum in Humboldt Park. His artwork uses bold Caribbean colors, and he is known for his mural artistry. He later showed a video depicting a recent art project of his in which the homes in a small hillside village in Puerto Rico were re-painted with Caribbean colors to reflect the town’s heritage.

Sunday afternoon ended with symposium goers sharing their thoughts and feelings about what they learned and saw over the course of the three-day event.  The symposium brought together people of different backgrounds to share in a united experience of transformation through the dialog of critical pedagogy.

The author is a 2009-10 UIUC Graduate Research Assistant
Community Informatics Initiative, Graduate School of Library and Information Science.

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