Archive | September, 2011

¡Bienvenido, pueblo de Hormigueros!

Posted on 07 September 2011 by alejandro

Para fotos del 18va Fiesta Boricua:18va Fiesta Boricua 2011

Aquí estamos nuevamente, al pie de la 18va Fiesta Boricua de Bandera a Bandera. Otra vez el Paseo Boricua se viste de fiesta para celebrar la cultura, la tradición, la raza, la identidad puertorriqueña. Nosotros, los que estamos acá, en la isla, pero que nos sentimos parte del Paseo Boricua y valoramos y respetamos tanta lucha, tanto afán, tanta conciencia y tanto fervor permanente en esta extraordinaria comunidad boricua en Chicago, también estamos de fiesta. Celebramos con ustedes, nos abrazamos con ustedes y nos quitamos el sombrero en señal de respeto por un trabajo bien hecho.

En la última semana de agosto, cuando ya nos preparábamos emocionalmente para volar al Paseo Boricua, la isla fue azotada por la tormenta tropical nombrada Irene. Nos dio duro; mucha lluvia, mucho viento. En un país desorganizado, con mala planificación y atacado despiadadamente en el corazón de su naturaleza por la construcción desmedida y “a lo loco”, los efectos de un evento natural, como esa tormenta, se multiplican.

Desde esta isla desolada y maltratada por el hombre, más que por la tormenta, les escribo estas letras. La lluvia cae incesantemente, el viento sopla con fuerza, los rayos iluminan el espacio y los truenos retumban por todas las esquinas. Sin embargo, pensar y sentir a esa comunidad puertorriqueña del Paseo Boricua que tanto quiero me alienta, me calma. Bajo estas condiciones siento la Fiesta Boricua que se prende, que sopla como un gran huracán cultural puertorriqueño.
Este año vuelve “Lo mejor de nuestros pueblos”, con mucha alegría. La 18va Fiesta Boricua se le dedica al pueblo de Hormigueros. Desde allí viene un grupo de hermanos puertorriqueños, desde una esquinita del oeste de la isla. Hormigueros es un pueblo de hermosas tradiciones, de una profunda fe cristiana y de un gran arraigo cultural. También, con un doloroso recuerdo. En el barrio Plan Bonito de ese municipio cayó abatido el patriota Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, bajo el fuego del FBI.

Hormigueros viene representado por una legión de buenos puertorriqueños y puerto rriqueñas y con su líder máximo, el Hon. Pedro J. García Figueroa, Alcalde. Vienen a traernos lo mejor de su pueblo. Démosle una gran bienvenida. Vamos a darle un caluroso abrazo con el corazón boricua de esta comunidad puertorriqueña de Chicago, fundido y defendido con tanta voluntad, orgullo, patriotismo, valor y sacrificio. ¡Bienvenido, Hormigueros, a esta Fiesta Boricua de Bandera a Bandera! Estamos seguros que vamos a disfrutar de lo mejor de su pueblo.

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PRCC joins Senator Durbin in Welcoming Justice Sonia Sotomayor to Chicago

Posted on 07 September 2011 by alejandro

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On Saturday, June 18, 2011 in the midst of preparation for the Puerto Rican festivities, including the downtown parade and the Puerto Rican People’s Parade, a select group of Puerto Rican leaders where invited by Senator Durbin, through the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, to join him in welcoming Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to Chicago.
Senator Durbin had extended an invitation to the Justice – the first Puerto Rican and first Latina to serve on the US Supreme Court- to join him for a baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and the New York Yankees.

Among those leaders where Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th Ward), Marvin García, member of the Board of Trustees Northeastern Illinois University, Verónica Ocasio, Operations Director Bickerdike Corp, Paul Roldán, CEO of Hispanic Housing, José Rodríguez, CEO of Aspira, IL., Mr. & Mrs. Fernando Grillo, President of Board of Director of Aspira of Illinois, Dr. Lizzette Richardson, Associate Chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago, Matthew Rodríguez, Principal Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos H.S., Juan Calderón, Program Director of Vida/SIDA and José E. López Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center.

On behalf of the Puerto Rican community José E. López presented the Justice with a gift basket containing artisanry, artifacts, films, and books of Puerto Ricans in Chicago.
The following is an personal account of that historic visit with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, by M. Lizzette Richardson, Associate Vice Chancellor for the City Colleges of Chicago.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor came accompanied by Judge Ann Williams from the federal bench.  Judge Williams and I serve on the board of the Just the Beginning Foundation which seeks to increase access of minority students to law school.

This was the highlight of my summer!  How often do you get the opportunity to meet a Supreme Court Justice and a Puerto Rican at that?  A humbling experience indeed.  She came in, greeted and spoke to each one of us individually, taking her time in a very personal way.  Imagine a Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx, humble beginnings, entering law school, a field dominated by white males, serving with distinction and becoming a Supreme Court Judge?  What an inspiration to all of us!
I took my Constitutional Law book from my days as a law school student hoping that she would sign it.   After she finished talking to each of us, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center presented a gift basket filled with items made by the Puerto Rican community;  she was thrilled.  Then, Senator Durbin indicated that I had brought the Constitutional Law book for her signature.  To my surprise, she signed it graciously!  A gesture and memory that I will forever treasure.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Puerto Rican Cultural Center and Senator Durbin for inviting me to this memorable event.  The memory will live with me forever.

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Thousands throng 33rd Annual Puerto Rican People’s Parade Gov. Pat Quinn and New York State Assemblyman José Rivera Special Guest

Posted on 07 September 2011 by alejandro

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This year’s 33rd annual Puerto Rican People’s Day Parade was dedicated to the greening of Humboldt Park. The theme “Verde Que Te Quiero Verde” drawn from the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, was intended on calling attention to the efforts of creating a sustainable green greater Humboldt Park community.
Gov. Pat Quinn and New York State Assemblyman José Rivera joined local leaders such as Ald. Roberto Maldonado, Angel “Tito” Medina, Casa Puertorriqueña, State Rep. Antonia “Toni” Berrios and State Rep. Luis Arroyo.
One of the most salient aspects of the parade itself was the paper mache likeness of Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Oscar López Rivera, which hovered over the float of the National Boricua Human Rights Network.

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Ricardo Alegría 1921-2011: The Man Who Made it “OK”to be Puerto Rican

Posted on 07 September 2011 by alejandro

As a kid growing up in the deep campo of Vega Baja bordering Morovis, I read   in marvel Ricardo Alegría’s newspaper articles on the Tainos and other tidbits of Puerto Rican culture. Long before telephone lines ever got to the isolated campo, waiting for these articles become something to do, as I fantasized that one day I would become an anthropologist. This was way before I would interview Professor Ricardo Alegría at the Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños for my doctoral thesis. That thesis would become Sponsored Identities: Cultural Politics in Puerto Rico (1997), a critical exposé of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture and the official cultural policy Alegría helped found. A product of the times, my book was informed by a renewed criticism on the cultural essentialisms that limited an assessment of more popular expressions of Puerto Ricaness, including the Puerto Rican diaspora’s Nuyorican culture, which was quickly becoming my own.

As we mourn the loss of this titan of Puerto Rican anthropology, it is worth recalling the historical conditions of the ‘50s and ‘60s and early 1970s that made Alegría’s work so powerful and necessary and him such an influence on generations of scholars, students, artists and activists. See, way before it was fashionable to openly love Puerto Rican culture in Puerto Rico, and politically acceptable to waive flags and even to play folk instruments and music, the island was enveloped in an aggressive U.S. assimilationist policy intended to Americanize Puerto Ricans, rip them of their language and of any pride or knowledge of their history and culture.

To be openly proud of being Puerto Rican was to be an “independentista” or “nacionalista” and to be ostracized and run the risk of not getting government jobs and contracts. My interviews with cultural activists associated with the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture showed that many of them had been victims of political profiling simply on account of their cultural work. One showed me his carpeta (FBI file) that described his “subversive” activities: playing Puerto Rican folk music at church. That he played the “cuatro,” a four-string guitar now recognized as a beloved national instrument, was noted as evidence. This is the obscure political context to which Alegría’s work became such a powerful rejoinder.

Working with the first locally elected governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Muñoz Marin, Alegría helped found the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (ICP) in 1956, which he led for over eighteen years. From there he helped launch a revival of all things Puerto Rican through festivals, activities, museums and cultural centers celebrating Puerto Rican culture, especially the island’s Jibaro (peasant) culture and the Taino.

It would take decades before the ICP would fully venture into the island’s African legacy, though it featured in the renewed ICP appreciation for Bomba y Plena music and the Festivities of Loiza Aldea. Since, scholars have rightfully noted that Alegría’s cultural nationalist project was also part of a larger cooptation of nationalism that neutralized its most radical components, placing it at the service of the colonial commonwealth government. Others, myself included, exposed the essentialist views of Puerto Rican culture that became “officialized” through the many preservation and cultural projects promoted, and the elitism bred when some aspects and representations of Puerto Rican culture are considered more ‘authentic’ than others. But these critiques stand on ground that was paved through hard won struggles that need to be also be appreciated, especially in their greatest achievement: the generalized appreciation and popularization of Puerto Rican culture, a culture that had long been shamed and purposefully persecuted on the island

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Today, this key achievement deserves to be remembered and cherished along with the lessons from Alegría’s life-long mission. We especially benefit from remembering the legacy of Ricardo Alegría as Puerto Rico continues to be enveloped in a neoliberal Pro-Statehood administration that consistently refers to Puerto Ricans as “Americans,” dislodging the progress Puerto Ricans have made in overcoming our shamed colonial past. His memory should make us recall how hard we had to fight for the right to be recognized as Puerto Rican irrespective of background and political persuasion, and whether we’re born on the island or not. In his memory, I hope we continue to be defiantly Puerto Rican, lovingly, openly and proudly.

Arlene Dávila, Ph.D. is a Professor of Anthropo- logy and American Studies at New York University. She is a cultural anthropologist interested in urban and ethnic studies, the political economy of culture and media and consumption studies. Her work focuses on Puerto Ricans in the eastern U.S., and Latinos nationwide. She is especially interested the politics of culture and representation as they play out in a variety of institutional settings as varied as museums and contemporary culture industries. Professor Dávila teaches courses on comparative ethnic studies, race and nation in the Americas, Latino/a popular culture, global ethnography and consumption studies. She is author of Sponsored Identities: Cultural Politics in Puerto Rico (Temple University), Latino Spin: Public Image and the Whitewashing of Race (NYU Press), Latinos Inc: Marketing and the Making of a People (University of California Press), and Barrio Dreams: Puerto Ricans, Latinos and the Neoliberal City (University of California Press). Her new book, Culture Works: Space, Value and Mobility across the Neoliberal Americas, is forthcoming from NYU Press next spring. She can be reached at ad62@nyu.edu

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IPRAC Opens A Year of Martorell in Chicago

Posted on 07 September 2011 by alejandro

In a celebratory atmosphere the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture opened its first major exhibit: “A year of Martorell in Chicago” with the master artist Antonio Martorell on June 11, 2011.
The celebration began with a reception honoring Antonio Martorell, hosted by Congressman Luis Gutiérrez and his wife Soraida. This was followed by a “Conversatorio” among three young Puerto Rican artists – Ramón Miranda (Puerto Rico), Miguel Luciano (New York) and Josue Pellot (Chicago) – with the master Antonio Martorell.  Brenda Torres served as the mistress  of ceremony.
The lively conversation served as the opening for the exhibit itself.
Martorell explained his intentions with this exhibit “Gestuario 1 and Gestuario 2 and the “Árbol Caído”. An exhibit which focuses on Puerto Rican and Caribbean gestures across generations with particular emphasis on the body and its changes and through it, a dialogue between the youth and what he frames as the “super adult”. Additionally “Árbol Caído” cripples of the issue of de-forestation and the human carbon footprint. The more than 200 people who gathered at IPRAC were deeply impressed with the beauty, simplicity and the message of Martorell’s exhibit.

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The evening culminated with a gala in which several of the sponsors were recognized including Clayco, Harris Bank, Hispanic Housing, as well as Congressman Gutiérrez and the Master himself Antonio Martorell.
Martorell will be returning to Chicago on serveral occasions including Friday, September 2, when he will conduct a workshop with students and faculty of Aspira and offer a guided tour of his exhibit at IPRAC at 5pm.

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Governor Quinn Signs Important Education Bill at IPRAC Sponsored by State Representative Cynthia Soto and State Senator Iris Martínez

Posted on 07 September 2011 by alejandro

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Prominent Attorney Carmen Lonstein, a Senior Partner at Baker & McKenzie LLP and Board Member of IPRAC, welcomed Governor Pat Quinn to the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture on August 20th for the signing of SB630. During her remarks she acknowledged the commitment of Governor Quinn to make IPRAC a Museum In The Park.
Key legislators in the passing of SB630 were Rep. Cynthia Soto and State Senator Iris Martínez. The bill seeks to address the issue of arbitrary school closings by CPS without any community engagement. The following provisions are some of the highlights of the bill:
•School Actions have to be announced by CPS every year by December 1st – before the application deadline for selective enrollment schools.

•CPS must issue a written announcement explaining its reasons for wanting to take a school action.
•Hearings will be run by Independent Hearings Officers and can’t be held until 30 days after the CPS announcement of the proposed School Actions.
•CPS must have School Transition Plans to support and aid students and schools impacted if and when School Actions are approved by the CPS Board.
Among the many prominent leaders in attendance from various community organizations were Block Togethers, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Design for Change and the Grand Boulevard Federation, José Sánchez, CEO of Norwegian, Rev. Freddy Santiago, Rebaño Church and Rev. Wilfredo de Jesús, New Life Convenent, as well as State Rep. Luis Arroyo.

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