Archive | January, 2010

Osvaldo Budet’s Art brings Humor and Politics to Humboldt Park

Posted on 16 January 2010 by alejandro

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Magdaleno Castañeda –


On the eve of Three Kings Day, Humboldt Park witnessed a special visit by Puerto Rican artist, Osvaldo Budet, whose paintings were unveiled at the opening night of “Romantic Political Affair,” an exhibit of the artist’s work at the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture (IPRAC). Despite the cold of a typical Chicago winter, dozens of people, including a television camera crew, gathered at IPRAC for an evening of art and appetizers. The exhibit consisted of seven paintings that varied between color and black and white.

Ray Vázquez, president of the IPRAC Board of Directors, welcomed everyone to the opening of the exhibit, which will run until March 5. José E. López, executive director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, introduced Budet and thanked him for his visit, as well as for the mural Budet created at Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School. “How do we camouflage through art, messages we want to send about resistance,” was the question López asked the audience in explaining the themes behind Budet’s work.

“There is a duality between comedy and tragedy in Mexican life and cultural expression that resonates with Budet’s art in “Romantic Political Affair,” said López, who made also made connections between Budet’s work to that of Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo. When Budet spoke, he first thanked everyone for attending the exhibit and explained a little about his paintings saying, “I try to make politics more accessible to me and to all through humor.” This humor was visible in the “Where’s Waldo?” characteristic of Budet’s painting, which all include an image of himself. “Humor is a key to deal with anything,” Budet said. Many of his painting combine the humor with political events from the past like the Spanish Civil War as well as the Vietnam War. Budet also emphasized the importance of identity in his work. “The only thing we have is identity and we have to unite to keep our identity and respect other’s identity.”

After his speech, Budet socialized with the crowd and answered the public’s questions regarding his artwork. He also invited everyone to the community workshop and lecture at IPRAC held on January 9. It was great for Budet to have taken time from his busy schedule of studying art in Germany to visit Paseo Boricua. IPRAC was a very fitting place for the “Romantic Political Affair” exhibit because as Budet said, “Here is a place that preserves our culture.”


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William Cepeda delivers brilliant performance at the first annual NaviJazz

Posted on 16 January 2010 by alejandro

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José Luis Rodríguez –


On December 9, 2009, the Institute for Puerto Rican Arts and Culture (IPRAC) sponsored its first annual NaviJazz Concert held at VLive nightclub (2047 North Milwaukee). The concert will become a regular feature of the Institute’s work in promoting Puerto Rican musicians who have, and continue to make, significant contributions to the musical genre of Latin Jazz.

The very first concert featured the legendary William Cepeda, Puerto Rican trombonist, composer, and arranger. Cepeda brought with him a legend in his own right, pianist Edwin Figueroa, formerly of Batacumbele. These two legends were backed up by Chicago’s very own Latin jazz band, Latin Inspiration, led by Johnny Rodríguez, who has been recognized as one of Chicago’s top trombone players, along with Afri-Caribe, Chicago’s premier bomba group, led by Tito Rodríguez.

The night outside was in a deep freeze with temperatures bottoming out to the single digits. Inside was quite another reality. The temperature was beyond hot—slowly rising with each melody and each note that the musicians played. Cepeda showed his mastery as composer, arranger, and conductor by effortlessly fusing the genre of Latin Jazz— its emphasis on the trombone, trumpet and saxophone— with the rhythmic heart beating percussions of bomba.

On stage, Cepeda challenged each musician to give their absolute best performance. The crowd, which included more than 500 people, was awed while treated to a once-in-a-lifetime experience in seeing Cepeda not only lead these musicians, but watch as he himself put down the trombone and picked up his shells and began to blow into them. He played the shells as if they were his trombone, blowing melodic sounds that combined and blended smoothly with every note. It was a showcase of the best that our musicians have to show, both from the Puerto Rico and from Paseo Boricua/Humboldt Park, Chicago—the common denominator certainly being they were all Boricua. This was undoubtedly a memorable night—one that has set the bar high for the future of NaviJazz.


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Three Kings Day Winter Festival & Parade Delivers the Gift of Culture to Community

Posted on 16 January 2010 by alejandro

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Eduardo Arocho –

Hundreds of children, parents, and community members endured the freezing temperatures to participate in the 15th Annual Three Kings Winter Festival & Parade held on Wednesday, January 6.  This tradition on Paseo Boricua is one of the highlights of the New Year and has grown to be one of the most anticipated family festivals in Humboldt Park. 

As in previous years, families gathered at Rebaño Compañerismo Church (2435 West Division) to register, enjoy some hot chocolate and rosca de reyes, a sweet bread traditionally served on Three Kings Day, as they waited to board the double-decker bus and trolley for the parade. This year, recently appointed 26th Ward Alderman Roberto Maldonado and his family rode on the horse and wagon with the Three Kings who are always represented by members of the Latin American Motorcycle Association (LAMA), a key sponsor of the parade and a major contributor of toy donations along with the Chicagoland Toys For Tots.

The Three Kings celebration on Paseo Boricua first began in 1995, when the first bandera was inaugurated on the corner of Artesian and Division. On that day, snow fell upon the flag that was still being welded together up until the press conference that afternoon, attended by Congressman Luis Gutierrez, then-Alderman of the 26th Ward Billy Ocasio, and Mayor Richard M. Daley, among a host of other political leaders. Paso fino horses were brought in from a suburban stable to be ridden by the Three Kings down Division Street after the press conference. But it wasn’t until 2000 that Three Kings Day began to be celebrated as a winter festival and parade, with trolleys, horse and carriage and an immense toy drive.

This year, the parade procession marched a mile along Division Street until it reached the Humboldt Park Field House, where music and gifts were given to the delight of the children of the community. The parade was organized by the Three Kings Parade committee, consisting of the Division Street Business Development Association, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, LAMA, the Chicago Park District, Alderman Roberto Maldonado, Chicagoland Toys for Tots, and Rebaño Compañerismo Church. Moreover, this year’s parade enjoyed the sponsorship support of Extra newspaper, the 2010 Census, Verizon, Comcast, and La Voz Del Paseo Boricua. The success of this year’s parade is a good omen for the New Year. ¡Felicidades!

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Fíjate – I’m more Puerto Rican than you…

Posted on 16 January 2010 by alejandro

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Xavier “Xavi” Luis Burgos –


As I have previously addressed in this column, the issue of Puerto Rican identity – especially for those who are from the Diaspora, i.e “Diasporicans” (Boricuas in the U.S.) – is a complicated topic and even a painful one to discuss. Who defines who is and is not Puerto Rican? Why do Puerto Ricans, who are second and third generation, some of who cannot speak Spanish and many who have only seen the island in photographs, proudly display the flag on everything, from tattoos to car stickers? Are Puerto Ricans on the island really in a privilaged place, in terms of knowing who they are and where they stand as a people?

To research these questions, I turned to  none other than Facebook, the social networking website, to began a discussion. I began it with a statement that I do not believe (and it will explain itself as you read), but wrote to stir peoples’ minds and emotions. I hope the comments selected will enrich your opinions and thoughts on Puerto Rican identity. The following is an abridged (and grammatically correct) version of what transpired vis-à-vis Facebook:

Me: I’m more Puerto Rican than any Boricua born on the island because I have had to fight for my identity instead of having it handed to me…

Diasporican #1: AMEN!!!! How can I even begin to explain that to others??

Islander #1: Everyone has their own experiences… I don’t know if you are more Puerto Rican, but ultimately it is the way you feel…

Diasporican #2: It’s interesting you say that because I’ve had this discussion with my cousins on the island, and they just don’t get it.

Islander #2 (my aunt): And of course I disagree with you at least 50% of the way. You know your history, you fight for Puerto Rican rights in Chicago, you live the flavors. You might be more Boricua than some, but not most. There are a couple of people that discredit our island but most of us love our background, we do have a love-hate relationship with Puerto Rico, but you have to live here (not read about it or experience it during vacations) to understand that. That’s why no one from here will ever understand or accept when you say you’re more Puerto Rican than the ones living here, but if that’s how you feel, okay.

Islander #3: You think we have not fought for our identity Xavi? You don’t think as a Puerto Rican I struggle everyday to show these mofos we exist? You don’t think it hurts when I see maps in history books that don’t even have the island on it? You think our identity is handed to us just because we were born en la isla? La isla, it’s already a dilemma, my man. It’s even harder, you know why? Because I was born in a place like no other, with our own traditions, culture, climate, people, our own self; yet, we are not recognized. We are “La isla del Encanto” con el desencanto de no ser nada. Ni esto, ni lo otro. We, too, have to fight for our identity, much more than anybody. ¿Dónde nació Pedro Albizu Campos, Ramón Emeterio Betances, Juan Antonio Corretjer? No fue en New York, no fue en Chicago; yet, this are los proseres, the ultimate fighters of our independence, the people you emulate. ¿Dónde nació Lolita Lebron? Donde nació Filiberto? Who organized and said to La Marina, “Salte pal carajo de Vieques?” Nobody gave me my identity, nobody gave nobody anything. You could be from NY, CHI, Puerto Rico; if you identify yourself as a Puerto Rican, you are still looking for your identity and ESPECIALLY if you were born in Puerto Rico.

Me: I’m loving this discussion. I do have to say that identity is much more complicated than anything one thinks. I, myself, began this discussion with an essentialist view of identity… and I did it on PURPOSE. Do I believe Puerto Ricans on the island or in the Diaspora are more Puerto Rican than each other? NO! Because we are a nation of 8 million, not just 4 million, on the island or in the Diaspora. The point of initiating this discussion was to: 1) To prove to everyone, even my dear Titi, that it is painful and wrong to say a person is “more” than someone else, especially in terms of identity and 2) To see the different reactions between my friends, who were born or live on the island and those who are “Diasporicans.” The differences are clear. All those who were born or live on the island reacted negatively to what I had to say while my fellow “Diasporicans” cheered me on. Isn’t that ironic? LOL

Me: Oh, and by the way, even though I agree with you 100%, Lolita Lebron joined the Nationalist Party in New York City. The campaign for the freedom of the five Nationalists began in Chicago, the last grouping of Puerto Rican Political Prisoners were almost all born in Chicago or in New York, and the campaign for their freedom started in Chicago. Betances wrote his most eloquent writings in Paris and Hostos did so in the Dominican Republic and Chile, and Juan Antonio Corretjer wrote “Boricua en la luna” about Boricuas in Chicago, which is the greatest proof that without the Diaspora, Puerto Rico would be incomplete. Oh, and the Vieques movement would not have been successful if it wasn’t for the compañeros in the U.S.

Islander #2 (my aunt): Well, I think you’re full of it. Even if you were trying to make some kind of experiment, of course we were going to get offended. It’s like if I say I’m more American than any soldier who has served in Afghanistan or Iraq. But you’re right; there is a difference between Puerto Ricans who live in the U.S. than those who live here in Puerto Rico. We think it’s very funny when you people demand liberty, equality, march, and complain about our social/democratic issues when all you know is due to books and newspapers. When you all move here, work here, and contribute here, then we can actually talk more seriously.

Me: Ok, Titi, let’s take back that Puerto Rican flag you hold so dear and bring it back to New York where it was made. When you’re willing to do that, then I’ll say what you wrote makes sense. Also, who’s “you people?” Let’s not be essentialist here and regroup everyone into one experience and category. I guess my “experiment” didn’t really work, because you still feel you have the right to define who’s a “true” Puerto Rican…

Through observations, I believe that the two things that elicit the most discussion from Puerto Ricans and even divides the Puerto Rican family is the conversation on puertorriqueñidad and the status of Puerto Rico. In terms of identity, as you have read, there is no easy way to describe what constitutes a “true” Puerto Rican and what criterion exists to allow someone into the category of “Boricua de pura cepa.” But here is some food for thought: when one actively excludes people from a community, you are actively developing feelings of anger, sadness, and confusion. However, one also fans the fires of empowerment and affirmation. It is like when my grandmother came to the U.S. in 1967 and was “greeted” with racism. In turn, she held onto her Puerto Rican roots and worked to instill in her children and grandchildren the beauty of being Boricua, even though most were not born there. It pushes me to tears when some of my cousins call me “American” instead of what I truly am. How can you tell a little boy, with a smile on his face and a Puerto Rican flag, during a hot summer day during the parade that the symbol he carries does not represent him? And that is why the “Diasporicans” cheered me on in the discussion. They, too, know the pain of being ignored, the love they feel for a country that sometimes wants to forget that half of its citizens left the island, but those same citizens will have Puerto Rico in their hearts and memories, forever.

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Singing Plena in the Snow: Paseo Boricua Parranda Puertorriqueña 2009

Posted on 16 January 2010 by alejandro

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Xavier “Xavi” Luis Burgos –

Nostalgic for the sweet sounds of Boricuas singing and playing music outside your door during the Christmas season? Miss the smell of roasting lechón and the echoes of scratching güiros? For the past two years the ¡Humboldt Park NO SE VENDE! campaign has organized the Paseo Boricua Parranda Puertorriqueña, a special Puerto Rican tradition full of music and food, in order to promote Paseo Boricua as a safe, culturally relevant, and family-oriented space during the holiday season. ¡Humboldt Park NO SE VENDE! is an organization that works to connect housing resources to longtime community residents who are threatened by displacement (i.e. gentrification) and raise community consciousness on the issue.

In its third year, the Paseo Boricua Parranda took place on December 19, around the anniversary of the adoption of the Puerto Rican flag.  Over 100 participants visited nearly two dozen businesses down Division Street while traveling the parranda route, including an endearing visit to the Teresa Roldán Paseo Boricua Apartments for the elderly and the Institute for Puerto Rican Arts & Culture.

During the chilly and snowy evening, the event began at La Estancia Apartments with over 30 people enjoying hot chocolate, Puerto Rican pastries, and literature related to the parranda and its history in this community. The local bomba y plena group, Nuestro Tambó, serenaded the eager parranderos with mostly traditional Christmas plena songs, including Dame la mano paloma, but also added two new songs created by the NO SE VENDE campaign, with lyrics related to the struggle to preserve the Puerto Rican community in Humboldt Park.

As the singing and dancing parranderos visited each community business, receiving food and drink in gratitude for the mobile party, the group grew larger and defiant of the cold. What began as a relatively small group grew to over a 100 people who paid homage, with music, food, and waving Puerto Rican flags to dozens of community pioneers at Teresa Roldán Paseo Boricua Apartments, an affordable housing complex that remains a symbol of hope and resilience for the longtime residents of Humboldt Park. The event ended at the Institute for Puerto Rican Arts & Culture for the closing of its “EsCultura” exhibition of Puerto Rican sculpture.

The ¡Humboldt Park NO SE VENDE! campaign continues to plan events such as the parranda, which has potential to connect important resources to longtime community residents, support community businesses, preserve Puerto Rican traditions and experiences, and to promote Paseo Boricua as a historical center of Puerto Rican life in Chicago that is worth maintaining and building.

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Annual New York Trip 2009: Community, History, Culture and Higher Education

Posted on 16 January 2010 by alejandro

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Eric López –


Students and staff of Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School, members of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, and Batey Urbano Collective members traveled more than 15 hours on bus to New York City for a three-day pilgrimage from December 11 to 13, 2009.  The trip served as a culturally engaging educational experience for PACHS students that included visits to El Museo del Barrio and Taller Boricua at the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center.

Included on the trip was a tour of Hostos Community College, located in the South Bronx. PACHS students and staff toured the campus and one of Hostos’ most popular departments, the dental hygiene program. The long history of partnership and struggle with the Bronx community was apparent as students learned about the institution’s long history in New York of promoting higher education opportunities for Puerto Ricans and Latinos. University students of Hostos Community College provided an interactive and informational tour, with an edge of personal experience, struggle, and determination in their personal pursuit of higher education.  Another important part of the trip was a conference dedicated to mobilizing support for the release of Puerto Rican political prisoners Oscar López Rivera and Carlos Alberto Torres.

National Boricua Human Rights Network organized the conference, “Bring Them Home,” held at Hostos.  It was a gathering attended by activists from around the country and Puerto Rico in hopes of collaborating to create new strategies to bring awareness to the unjust incarceration of Oscar López Rivera and Carlos Alberto Torres.  Three former political prisoners were present: Adolfo Matos, Ricardo Jiménez, and Luis Rosa.  Samuel Vega, a member of the Batey Urbano Collective facilitated an activity at the conference with PACHS students, who created a spatial representation of a prison cell by taping off a 6 x 9 feet space and occupied it to simulate the physical, mental, and emotional limitations of incarceration.  Adolfo Matos shared his experience and expressed not simply the limitations of incarceration, but the possibilities and opportunities of resistance nonetheless.

The trip concluded with a celebration of the anniversary of the creation of the Puerto Rican flag and the birthday of Bronx Assemblyman, José Rivera, at Hostos Community College’s theater.  Several salsa bands performed, including Son de la Loma and La Excelencia. The concert ended with a memorable performance by legendary sonero Jose Alberto “El Canario.”


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An Awakened Demand for Freedom: The Campaign for Immediate Release of Puerto Rican Political Prisoners, Carlos Alberto Torres and Oscar López Rivera

Posted on 16 January 2010 by alejandro

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Michael Rodríguez Muñiz –


Puerto Ricans have a long history of fighting for the release of their patriots. This tradition began nearly two centuries ago with the struggle to free Puerto Rico’s first political prisoner, Mercedes Barbudos. Whenever Puerto Ricans have been incarcerated for resistance to colonial authority – whether Spanish or American – campaigns have emerged to demand their liberation. The contemporary moment, like the recent past, is no different. Today, there is a growing movement seeking the release of the longest held political prisoners in Puerto Rican and Latin American history, Carlos Alberto Torres and Oscar López Rivera.

Last month, just days after International Human Rights Day on December 10 and a week prior to the anniversary of the adoption of the Puerto Rican flag on December 22, over 130 people gathered in New York City to discuss the future of the campaign for the immediate release of these two freedom fighters. The central topic was the somber fact that 2010 marks the 30th year and 29th year of Torres and López Rivera’s incarceration, respectively.

For the past three decades, they have endured the harsh separation from their families and community, as well as abuses suffered in prison. Charged with seditious conspiracy, Torres and López Rivera were imprisoned for their activity in support of Puerto Rican independence, a struggle for freedom legitimated by the United Nations protocol on colonialism.

The December 12 event was convened by the National Boricua Human Rights Network (NBHRN), an organization dedicated to the liberation of the Puerto Rican political prisoners and other human rights causes. Held at Hostos Community College in the Bronx, the gathering was attended by religious and civic leaders, youth, artists, community activists, and elected officials from throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. Participants came from Detroit, MI; Providence, RI; Fitchburg, MA; Boston, MA; Springfield, MA; Cleveland, OH; Los Angeles, CA; and Philadelphia, PA.

Several prominent religious leaders attended the event, including Reverends Pedro Windsor (Chicago), Raymond Rivera (New York), Nozomi Ikuta (Cleveland) and Matt Meyer (New York). Artists such as Miguel Luciano, Tania Fronteras, Melissa Montero, Teresita Ayala and others also joined the event.

In attendance were former political prisoners Ricardo Jiménez, Adolfo Matos and Luis Rosa, who forcefully expressed the importance of building a movement of the same magnitude that successfully won their release in 1999. They called for renewed energy and unity among Puerto Rican communities in the Diaspora and in Puerto Rico, as well as among progressive sectors in the U.S. and abroad. New York Assemblyman, José Rivera and Executive Director of Chicago’s Puerto Rican Cultural Center and brother of Oscar López Rivera, José E. López, also made impassioned remarks.

In enthusiastic breakout sessions many creative ideas and plans were discussed. In upcoming months, these discussions will materialize in the form of specific events to be coordinated throughout the United States. For instance, events will be held in several cities of the U.S. and Puerto Rico on April 4 to commemorate the 30th year of Carlos Alberto Torres’ imprisonment. For this date, NBHRN chapters in Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York will be organizing a special interactive art installation to dramatize the political prisoner’s incarceration. One of the most exciting developments was José Rivera’s idea on the possible hosting of a major concert dedicated to Torres and López Rivera before New York’s Puerto Rican parade.

In the final decades of the 20th century, the Puerto Rican people have won the freedom of two generations of Puerto Rican freedom fighters, the Nationalist Five in 1977 and 11 Puerto Rican political prisoners in 1999. Invoking this legacy, the national gathering in New York symbolizes a renewed movement to release two individuals, who have spent already more than a lifetime in prison for the freedom of a people.

For more information on the campaign, visit www.boricuahumanrights.org.

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Invitation delivered to the town of Comerío for “The Best of Our Towns” for Fiesta Boricua 2010

Posted on 16 January 2010 by alejandro

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Carlos Quiles


January 4, 2010, marked the official delivery day of the invitation and proposal to the town of Comerío, Puerto Rico, to participate in the activities of Fiesta Boricua 2010. The participation of the town of Comerío would be framed within the new component of Fiesta Boricua, “The Best of Our Towns.” The invitation letter was given officially to the Hon. Mayor Jose A. Santiago. The invitation was delivered by Carlos Quiles, Comerieño (native of Comerío) and Puerto Rican history teacher at Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School in Chicago, in representation of the Juan Antonio Corretjer Puerto Rican Cultural Center and of its executive director, Mr. José López Rivera.

The invitation was received by the mayor of Comerío during the celebration of the arrival of the Three Kings in the town of Juana Díaz. The Three Kings, who have traveled like official kings of Puerto Rico throughout the island and some places abroad, were received by a large number of children accompanied by their parents and relatives. After a religious act in the Catholic Church Santo Christo de la Salud, the Kings of Juana Díaz moved to the public place of the town where they shared with the children of Comerío and with all of those present.

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon between the mountains of Comerío, in which the magic of the Three Kings shone in the eyes of children, adolescents and adults and the Epiphany was celebrated in the voices of local comerieñas/os to the chords of the Puerto Rican cuatro, the guitar, and güiro. We hope that the participation of the town of Comerío in Fiesta Boricua 2010 brings a little of that magic from “The Best of Our Towns.”

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BACCA Advice Column

Posted on 16 January 2010 by alejandro

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Raquel Vivian

As part of an anti-underage drinking campaign led by the students of Barrio Arts, Culture and Communication Academy (BACCA), Raquel Vivian, a journalism student and senior at Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School, is responding to real-life teen issues in an advice column for teenagers. The anti-underage drinking campaign, “This is the Real Me,” will continue in 2010 through youth-produced media projects in the areas of graphic design, radio, print journalism, and theatre.

Dear Raquel,

My friends and I planned a small party to celebrate the last day of school before Christmas break. It was supposed to be something chill, you know, talking, listening to music, maybe some dancing — nothing too crazy. Some friends of mine showed up with bottles of vodka, and things started getting a bit out of hand. At first we were feeling silly and having fun, and then multiple fights broke out. I do like drinking, although I am only 17, but when things get crazy like they did, I really don’t know if I should bother drinking at all. Sometimes I think about looking for new friends because mine drink a lot, but I still think they are good people. What do you think? –Confusedindawindycity

Dear Confused,

Well, you sound like you just wanted to have some fun with your friends and enjoy the day, but legally, you should wait till you are 21 years of age to drink, just to be on the safe side. You mentioned that your intentions were to have fun and chill out with your friends, but as soon as you noticed things are getting carried away you should be the bigger person and try to get your friends from getting even more intoxicated. Things tend to get out of hand and pretty violent when there is a crowd of young teenagers and even adults under the influence of alcohol.

I don’t think you have to get new friends if you think your friends are good people. Your friends may not be angry people that like to start fights at all; they’re probably very nice friends, but you should talk to them about how you feel about the violence that erupts when they get intoxicated. It is also better to let them know ahead of time that you just want to hang out and not get too crazy. Also, having fun does not mean that you have to drink to enjoy yourself. Talk to your friends and see what their response is. If you do choose to continue drinking, drink responsibly and know your limits.



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