Archive | October, 2011

Community Action Councils present their vision of local schools

Posted on 19 October 2011 by alejandro

Imagine this: A community that is viewed as an expansive campus, home to elementary schools that specialize in all sorts of things from Montessori to math and science to language. Parents don’t have to apply and pray to win the lottery, but are guaranteed a seat for their child if they live in the neighborhood.

The high school would build on the specialties taught in the elementary schools, to draw in students from the community rather than having them travel far and wide.

This is the vision of the Community Action Council of Humboldt Park, one of four groups that have met for a year to come up with a comprehensive plan for what schools in their neighborhood should look like. Another council, in Bronzeville, has a similar vision. The four councils wrapped up presentations to CPS senior staff members last week.

When they came together last year, during the tenure of former CEO Ron Huberman, the councils were a novel idea. After years of experiencing school closings, consolidations, turnovers and takeovers handed down from above by CPS, a council would come together and create a vision for local schools.

In addition to parents and community advocates, aldermen and other elected officials would serve on the councils to give them some political leverage.

The plans are as different as the communities. Humboldt Park outlined a strategy to meld neighborhood schools and school choice. Englewood focused on creating more structures in schools to beef up parent involvement.

Yet all the groups want more high-quality preschools, and for schools to build on what students are learning as they transition from early childhood programs to elementary school to high school.

No mention of closing, consolidations

None of the plans, however, specify which schools the councils believe should be closed or consolidated, even though the communities–Englewood, Grand Boulevard, Humboldt Park and Austin–have many under-utilized schools.

The fact that the plans don’t include any recommendations for such action underscores how painful and controversial such decisions are, even when schools are virtually empty and low-achieving.

CEO Jean-Claude Brizard has said he will close and consolidate some schools this year; he’s also told the groups he will let them know what he’s thinking.

“I am proud to say that Brizard promised not to make any decisions without talking to us first,” says Chris Harris, pastor of the Bright Star Church of God and the chairman of the Bronzeville council. But Harris notes that hearing what the community has to say is not the same as listening to it.

Puerto Rican Cultural Center Executive Director Jose Lopez says the Humboldt Park council understands that some schools have to be closed, but that, rather than letting those schools sit vacant, they would like them to be used constructively for programs like job training or parent institutes.

He emphasized that the Humboldt Park council was more interested in talking about stopping the brain drain from their communities than about closing schools.

While some CPS officials might have liked for the councils to make specific recommendations about closings and other actions, council members say they wanted to offer up something more visionary.

“We didn’t want something piecemeal,” Harris says.

Serving students in their community

Because it comes out of the community, Lopez says, it incorporates ideas that outsiders often miss. “How do we harness the social capital of our community and bring it to bear on our schools?” he says. “This is the most comprehensive rethinking of schools that has happened.”

Lopez says the Humboldt Park council wants the schools in the community to be able to serve students seamlessly, from preschool through college. Julio Urrutia, deputy director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, says that the council wants Clemente to be the anchor of the community and to offer dual-credit programs with colleges, such as Northeastern University.

Making the neighborhood schools, such as Clemente High, more attractive is the critical factor in stemming enrollment loss. Clemente is down more than 1,000 students since 2006.

“We talked about why are we losing kids at that level?” Urrutia said.”Where are we failing?”

The plans don’t ask for, or speak against, charter schools, though CPS leaders who are supportive of charters might have been hoping the groups would get behind the idea.

Harris says the Bronzeville council supports any school that educates children well, but wants resources poured into neighborhood schools. He notes that there’s little evidence that charter schools are, on the whole, better than neighborhood schools, yet he understands why some parents choose them.

He points to Woodson South, where he is on the local school council. On one side of the building is a University of Chicago charter school, with smart-boards and new books and parents who can bring their children to school in a Mercedes-Benz, he says.

Charter schools and selective enrollment schools, such as King High School, can frustrate parents because students are chosen for them, creating a situation where students are forced to walk past good schools to go to worse ones.

“At the end of the day, do not put a school in my community and tell me my kid can’t go,” Harris says.

Potential impact

It’s anyone’s guess what the district’s leadership will do with these plans. Since the groups began meeting, Huberman left, Interim CEO Terry Mazany came and went, and new CEO Brizard has taken over. Robert Runcie, the former chief administrative officer who spearheaded the process, has also left CPS.

Brizard’s administration is still digesting the plans and is not ready to comment on them, according to a spokesperson.

But there are signs that the process could have at least some impact.

While Brizard is not beholden to the councils, he and his senior staff did take time to meet with them and listen to their presentations. And amid hundreds of layoffs in central office, the former principal who has overseen the council process, Bill Gerstein, remains on board.

Other communities, such as Roseland, are starting to meet to come up with plans as well.

Public pressure, too, could put pressure on the district to listen. In Humboldt Park, the plan was unveiled and approved at a community summit meeting attended by 300 people.

Harris says the Bronzeville council also worked with the chief of schools, Sean Stalling, who oversees area high schools, and Shawn Smith, who oversees area elementary schools.

The Humboldt Park council also included ideas about how to lengthen the school day, which is at the top of Brizard’s agenda. Rather than add many more minutes to subjects such as math and reading, the Humboldt Park council would like to see community groups and neighborhood institutions such as the fire department work with teachers to integrate some real-life, hands on lessons.

“Why would we do the same things, and students are [already] bored to death?” Lopez said.

Note: Catalyst Chicago is still waiting on copies of all of the community action plans. After saying they would provide them on Wednesday, CPS officials have not done so. Once they do, we will post in full.

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Navi-Jazz 2011: Edgar Abraham & His Latin Jazz Project

Posted on 16 October 2011 by alejandro

You Do Not Want To Miss This Rare Moment in the Latin Jazz Scene
An All-Star Line-Up For The Ages.

This year marks the 3rd Annual Navi-Jazz Concert and will feature the following renowned Puerto Rican Latin jazz artists:

• Edgar Abraham is a saxophonist, composer and master of sixteen instruments. Additionally, he is the creator of the unmatched Hyper-Virtuoso technique for the saxophone.

• Latin Grammy nominee Paoli Mejias is a distinguished master percussionist, ranked among the best in both Latin jazz and salsa. As a bandleader Paoli fuses straight-ahead jazz with African, Mediterranean & Caribbean folkloric rhythms to create a new dimension of Latin jazz that is global, energetic, and modern.

Antonio Quijano is an electric bassist, composer and theorist. Quijano is author of Secessionist Method of Composition Encyclopedia which discusses the dozens of theories he has developed over the years. Quijano is the composer of more than 150,000 pieces of music and creator of the 2:1 technique for stringed instruments. He has lectured at major universities as an independent cultural researcher, writer, and theorist and is a pioneer in posthuman music and new music theory.

Endel Dueño, known as the encyclopedia of the “Timbal,” has taken the place of “King of the Timbal” left by the legendary Tito Puente. Master of both the Timbal and Drums, Dueño is undoubtedly one of the most prodigious and talented musicians in the world today.

IPRAC is an art and educational institution devoted to the promotion, integration and advancement of the Puerto Rican culture. IPRAC brings to the community a visual arts and exhibition program that furthers the Puerto Rican arts tradition. IPRAC is in the process of transforming the historic Humboldt Park Stables into a world-class arts and cultural center.


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Reflexiones al final de la Fiesta

Posted on 15 October 2011 by alejandro

Bienvenido Hormigueros/Video Fiesta Boricua11/Flickr

No es al comienzo de la construcción cuando se valora lo que se va a construir. No es el ímpetu inicial, ni la energía que se pone al principio, ni la idea que se tiene de lo que será lo que da la justa medida, el valor total de lo que se busca lograr. Es el resultado final, al llegar a la meta lo que nos pone ante los ojos y en el corazón el valor de aquello que con tanto trabajo y sacrificio se ha  logrado.
Acaba de terminar la 18na jornada de la Fiesta Boricua de Bandera a Bandera. Los que estamos de afuera no vemos el proceso, solamente el final, el resultado. Podríamos acaso imaginarnos los sinsabores, los conflictos, el arduo trabajo, las dificultades, las prolongadas reuniones, las pocas horas de sueño, las diferencias y desavenencias en cuánto a cómo hacer las cosas y las dificultades para reunir los fondos para sufragar los gastos de unas fiestas que, por lo que se ve, deben costar “un dineral”.  Más allá de eso, de tal vez imaginarnos ese escenario, creo que no podremos llegar nunca a aquilatar el trabajo que conlleva la organización de una fiesta como ésta. Hemos manifestado anteriormente en este espacio la admiración y el respeto que sentimos por esta comunidad del Paseo Boricua y por todos y todas los que componen el Centro Cultural Puertorriqueño Juan Antonio Corretjer, en Chicago. Me reitero en esa afirmación y la pongo en grado superlativo.
Después de la fiesta, después de la 18na Fiesta Boricua de Bandera a Bandera nos sentimos muy agradecidos por un espectáculo maravilloso de afirmación cultural puertorriqueña, de hermandad y solidaridad latinoamericana y de talentos extraordinarios. A propósito de la Fiesta, el alcalde del municipio homenajeado, el pueblo de Hormigueros, el Hon. Pedro J. García Figueroa expresó lo siguiente: “La hospitalidad y el orgullo patrio desplegado por la diáspora puertorriqueña en Chicago, ponen de manifiesto que, salvo algunas diferencias en el idioma, somos todos hermanos boricuas. En Chicago pudimos palpar lo que somos y lo que juntos podemos hacer para la redención de nuestra nación puertorriqueña”. Por otro lado, el director de la Oficina de Arte y Cultura del municipio, el Sr. Félix A. Ponce Labiosa puntualizó: “Esta Fiesta Boricua ha puesto de manifiesto cuán profundas están las raíces de nuestros compatriotas, aunque no estén afincados en el lar nativo. Estas raíces están sembradas en el alma colectiva.” “La muestra de talento artístico que se presentó fue de una variedad y calidad extraordinaria”, fue otro entre muchos comentarios muy positivos de los que fuimos testigos.
Compañeros y compañeras del Centro Cultural Puertorriqueño Juan Antonio Corretjer, ¡Gracias, un millón de gracias! Nos imaginamos que es muy difícil, y por fuentes fidedignas nos enteramos que esta pasada Fiesta Boricua tuvo muchas y grandes dificultades de distinta naturaleza, pero el resultado, como exponemos al principio, es lo que les da la justa medida del valor de sus esfuerzos, aunque los deje extenuados.
Como en todo lo que se hace con el corazón, hay que continuar a pesar de los sacrificios, continuar a pesar del arduo trabajo, continuar a pesar de los infortunios y los sinsabores, continuar a pesar de las presiones económicas, continuar a pesar de los que nos dificultan el trabajo, continuar a pesar de los pesares, a pesar de todo.
Como dejara dicho nuestro Poeta Nacional Juan Antonio Corretjer Montes: “La vida nunca cesa, la vida es lucha toda”. Adelante, adelante siempre. Esperamos verlos y abrazarlos nuevamente el próximo año.

by Carlos Quiles


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De bandera a bandera, Chicago celebró su Fiesta Boricua 2011

Posted on 15 October 2011 by alejandro

Fiesta Boricua Trailer 2011

Todos los años, durante el mes de septiembre, la comunidad puertorriqueña de Chicago celebra en el Paseo Boricua (Division Street entre la Avenida California y la Western) la Fiesta Boricua. Esta fiesta es una celebración de la puertorriqueñidad. Una de las últimas oportunidades o excusas para los boricuas y solidarios de juntarse y celebrarla antes de que empiece a bajar el termómetro en esta ciudad de inviernos crudos.
Desde el año pasado, la organización de la Fiesta Boricua rinde homenaje en la misma a un municipio isleño con el fin de crear alianzas entre la comunidad puertorriqueña de Chicago y el municipio homenajeado. Entre los criterios para escoger a un pueblo en específico están las iniciativas culturales y de turismo que hayan desarrollado recientemente.
Según ha explicado La Voz del Paseo Boricua anteriormente, bajo el lema Lo mejor de nuestro Pueblo, la Fiesta Boricua ha incorporado una serie de eventos para mostrar lo mejor de los elementos culturales de uno de los 78 municipios de Puerto Rico. El primer pueblo homenajeado fue Comerío, el año pasado, de donde llegaron más de 200 comerieños a Chicago para ser parte de la celebración.
Hormigueros ha sido el municipio escogido este año por la comunidad de Paseo Boricua para que rendirle homenaje en esta celebración. El alcalde, Honorable Pedro García Figueroa (PPD) expresó su emoción de recibir el mismo de esta comunidad en la diáspora.
“Siento un orgullo extraordinario de cómo la nacionalidad puertorriqueña se mantiene tan vibrante en la ciudad de Chicago. Nosotros vivimos la puertorriqueñidad todos los días pero no con la intensidad que la vive la diáspora, nuestros hermanos. Siempre he entendido que, los de aquí y los de allá, somos un solo pueblo,” abundó el alcalde estadolibrista, quien vino acompañado de una delegación de decenas de personas, además de un grupo musical de jóvenes de Hormigueros que presentaron su repertorio de música típica. Además, añadió que “la única unión permanente entre Puerto Rico y los Estados Unidos son los puertorriqueños que habitan en los Estados Unidos.”
Antonio Martorell, artista invitado del IPRAC (Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture), expresó en la apertura de la fiesta que la arquitectura de nuestra patria la tienen que hacer los puertorriqueños y las puertorriqueñas de aquí y de allá. “Todos juntos creamos nuestra casa nacional. Da la casualidad que fue en Hormigueros donde se asesinó vilmente a Filiberto Ojeda Ríos. Yo quiero honrar a ese patriota y a los patriotas de Hormigueros, y saber que la memoria de ese crimen va a transformarse, a formarse, a erigir la casa nacional en Hormigueros.”
La Fiesta Boricua 2011 tuvo lugar del viernes, 2 de septiembre en la tarde con una visita guiada por el maestro Martorell a su exposición en el IPRAC (Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture) y además, con una recepción de bienvenida a la delegación del municipio de Hormigueros al domingo, 4 de septiembre con música y actividades para la familia.
“Cuando me explicaron de esta fiesta hace unos meses, yo me comprometí que aquí íbamos a estar. Ayer hicimos una misa jíbara y cargamos a la Virgen de la Monserrate en hombros por la Division. Entre nuestra delegación hay artesanos e historiadores.” Entre los historiadores se encontraba el Profesor Mario Cancel que ofreció una conferencia en el IPRAC sobre Segundo Ruiz Belvis.
Los grupos musicales que participaron este año fueron: Orquesta de Guiro, Bompleneras, Africaribe, Pura Cepa, Orquesta Leal, Bakeré, Orquesta NDS, Angel Meléndez 911 con tributo a Héctor Lavoe, entre otros.

by Vanesa Baerga


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A Decaying Boricua Diaspora

Posted on 15 October 2011 by alejandro

Feature Photo by Geno Rodriguez

We are from “allá afuera.” As such, we inhabit a nebulous and intangible world in the imagination of those who have not trekked beyond their Caribbean waters (and in even those who have). It is as if, in the insular colonial imagery, we dwell upon the heavens, sitting on top fragile clouds or lurking behind the stars, out of touch with humanity. But celestial beings we are not. Our existence, on Earth, is obscured. We are deemed a throw-away people, cultural pollutants, who were never suppose to return, never to witness the island of our forebearers. “Tú no eres Boricua” can be the most spiteful slander an islander can bestow upon us, not so much because of an innate insecurity, but the acknowledgment of our difference.

“i want to go back to puerto rico,
but i wonder if my kink could live
in ponce, mayagüez and carolina”
(Tato Laviera)

According to the 2010 United States census, there are, for the first time in our history, more Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. than on the island; 4.6 million to 3.7 million to be exact. As time continues, less and less the children of Borinquen reside on our tragic Eden, despite the conviction that it remains our communal ‘home.’ The question why is important, but what characterizes our exiled existence as a hint to new collective directions is even more intriguing.
As stated by Boricua theorist Juan Flores, the root definition of Diaspora means a “scattering or of sowing seeds (-sperien) across space (dia-)”, a suitable metaphor for the construction of Puerto Rican enclaves; from a minute bud to a growing vine germinating nuances in identity and community-building. For Flores, a Diaspora is not just about people moving to a new place, but the unraveling of a consciousness about the place they are in and the place they left. In the aftermath of the first Great Migration of the late 1940s to early 1960s, we forged emblems of our “inherited cultural backgrounds” in institutions, cultural festivities, literature, music, and political organizations, but with a palette of distinct “ruptures and innovations” detailing, exalting, and even lamenting our cultural aberration from those on the island. Like that of nations, our community is imagined, because although we could never know all the members of such a disparate Diaspora, it is a communion in which our connection is internally recognized and a camaraderie eternally yearned for.
With controversial origins and often critiqued markers like ‘Chi-Rican’ or ‘Nuyorican’, we are united by a reference point and a new location, but of also disturbing social ills. As an au courant exodus out of our island unfolds before our tired eyes, we continue to face high levels of poverty and low levels of formal education, exacerbated by the destruction and displacement of our historic centers and a psyche of inferiority. Moreover, the cultural and political institutions we have created throughout the decades are decaying because there are those among us who submit to the pressure to homogenize our experiences and unique historical memories under a “latino umbrella” and thus render any affirmed puertorriqueñidad as taboo and separatist. And even worse, those of us who obtain any sort of money or education, leave our life-centers, detach and disassociate themselves from ‘those in the ghetto’ and produce offspring with a sort of Du Boisian triple-consciousness – never accepted by a racist world and never truly accepted by one’s own people on both sides of the Atlantic. We are here, but less cohesive and pronounced, persistently misrepresented and misunderstood by the islander, the greater U.S. society, and by some in our flock.
The leaking faucet of our tropical kin continues to flow and detrimental social forces endure in a masquerade around our unmarked tombstones. We are at the crossroads of possibilities stretching from a path of great historical and contemporary resilient feats, but jointly, across the cities and towns of our presence, something is lacking, the earth-shattering urgency remains nonexistent. With the effort of producing and amplifying safe spaces of in-depth dialogue on such socio-political conundrums and subsequently courses of direct action, can we approach the horizon with a profoundly inspiring, renewed, and reinvigorated vision for our people in the Diaspora. But the challenge has so few recruits while any semblance of our existence continues to erode. We are full of possibilities, but in a deep slumber we continue to lay.

Next Part: The New Boricua: A Renewed Vision

1. Laviera, Tato. (1992). my graduation speech. la carreta made a u-turn (pp. 17). Houston: Arte Público Press.
2. United States Census Bureau. (May 26, 2011). 2010 Census Shows Nation’s Hispanic Population Grew Four Times Faster Than Total U.S. Population. Retrieved from
3. Flores, Juan. (2009). The Diaspora Strikes Back: Caribeño Tales of Learning and Turning (pp. 16-17). New York: Taylor & Francis Group.
5. Anderson, Benedict (2006). Imagined Communities. New York: Verso.
6. Du Bois. W.E.B. (1903). Of Our Spiritual Strivings. In The Souls of Black Folk. The Health Anthology of American Literature: Volume D Modern Period 1910-1945 (pp. 897-902). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

by Xavier Burgos


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Hasta nuevo aviso el Gasoducto

Posted on 15 October 2011 by alejandro

La portavoz del Cuerpo de Ingenieros del Ejército de Estados Unidos en Jacksonville, Florida, Nancy Sticht, reveló al periódico regional La Perla del Sur que el permiso final para la construcción del Gasoducto del Norte podría retrasarse, lo que podría extenderse al año 2012.
De acuerdo con la información, al Cuerpo de Ingenieros le tomará un mes más completar la “Evaluación Ambiental Preliminar” del proyecto llamado la “Vía Verde”. Según la funcionaria, el análisis podría estar listo para el mes de noviembre. Y si es completada la evaluación preliminar para ese mes, tendrían luego que discutir los hallazgos entre las partes interesadas como la ciudadanía. Por lo tanto, los procesos durarían otros 30 días y no se conoce si será por consulta directa con las personas.
“Sabemos que las comunidades pueden tener información que quizás nosotros no tengamos, así que es importante conseguir los comentarios de ellos”, según Sticht declaró a La Perla del Sur. Luego de esos 30 días, el Cuerpo de Ingenieros decidirá si emite una Evaluación Ambiental Final o pone en marcha otro estudio aún más riguroso, la Declaración de Impacto Ambiental Federal (DIAF). Este proceso, entre evaluaciones de datos y recomendaciones, se alargaría hasta el mes de diciembre.
Sticht le reconoció al semanario La Perla del Sur que el espacio de tiempo está “apretado” para emitir una decisión final antes de que concluya el año. “El equipo que está evaluando esto está enfocado en hacer un buen trabajo, mirando toda la información y consultando con las agencias pertinentes. Y cuando se trata de un proyecto complejo como éste, eso toma tiempo”, recalcó la funcionaria federal. “Ellos no están enfocados en cumplir con un ‘deadline’”, agregó según La Perla.
Para el portavoz de Casa Pueblo, Arturo Massol Deyá, el atraso en el informe que se había rumorado saldría a la luz el 30 de septiembre, es un cambio de postura por parte del Cuerpo de Ingenieros producto de la desobediencia civil realizada por él y otros activistas frente a la Casa Blanca, así como de la gestión del congresista de origen puertorriqueño Luis Gutiérrez. Para Massol Deyá, es la victoria de otra batalla.
“Hemos ganado otra batalla, pero el país debe estar alerta, porque el aviso de huracán aún está vigente”, continuó el líder comunitario. “Exhortamos al Gobierno a retirar la propuesta del Gasoducto y a concentrar sus recursos limitados en opciones reales que beneficien a los 1.5 millones de abonados de la Autoridad de Energía Eléctrica”.
Diferentes entidades se han expresado en contra del proyecto como Casa Pueblo, Sierra Club, la National Congress of Puerto Rican Rights, The Labor Council for Latin-American Advancement, Lafayette Presbyterian Church, Union Theological Seminary, Greenpeace, Earth Justice, Green Party, East Harlem Preservation, El Puente, LatinoSports, la, la Trinity Lutheran Church de Brooklyn y grupos sociales a través de la red social Facebook y Twitter.


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From Generation to Generation: A Mentorship Program for Young Mothers

Posted on 15 October 2011 by alejandro

Trying to keep up with the responsibilities of school and family is a formidable task, especially when you are a teenager. This sort of balancing act is an all too familiar routine for young mothers and parents attending the Lolita Lebrón Family Learning Center (FLC), an educational program addressing the needs of adolescent parents in Humboldt Park. The program has been in existence since 1993, when it served women aged 14-45 with children seven years of age or younger. In its current form, the program offers high school coursework, parenting workshops, on-site childcare, and parent-child activities to young parents, mostly mothers.
Over the past 18 years, many mothers have crossed the FLC’s threshold, with hopes of achieving their high school diploma and improving their life circumstances, not just for themselves, but for the future of their children. Hundreds of women have graduated from the FLC and have gone on to be successful in a variety of professions, including education, social work, and healthcare; many have also transformed their personal lives and made significant changes, such as leaving abusive relationships and becoming more independent.
One such graduate is Maria Lopez, who graduated from the FLC in 1995. More than 15 years later, she was invited to return to the FLC and share her experiences with current students. Now 50 years old, she gave birth to her first child when she was 19. She enrolled in the FLC when she was 35 and had her fourth child.  She stated that her favorite aspect of being involved in the FLC was  “learning [about my] culture” and what “lots of Puerto Ricans go through, especially Pedro Albizu Campos “(who is also the namesake of the high school affiliated with the FLC). She described herself as “not hav[ing] that knowledge” before she attended the FLC.  In the years since completing the program, she has enrolled in college and served as a drug/addiction counselor for 10 years.

On Friday September 23rd, Maria shared with young women at the FLC how she changed her life by enrolling in the program. She exuded warmth and energy as she encouraged young women to reach their goals. This presentation was the inaugural session in a mentorship series, the brainchild of Danette Sokacich, the current director of the FLC and Laura Ruth Johnson, the first director of the program. Afterward, when asked what she hoped the young mothers would take away from her session, Maria responded: “just finish what we’ve started … even though there were obstacles in our way.”
If you are a graduate of the FLC and are interested in sharing your experiences with current students, please contact Danette Sokacich at 312.532.4684 or email


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35 Years of History Celebrated at the Rafael Cintrón Latino Cultural Center at UIC

Posted on 15 October 2011 by alejandro

On Wednesday, September 14th, the University of Illinois at Chicago’s (UIC) Rafael Cintrón Latino Cultural Center (LCC) celebrated its 35th Anniversary. Rosa Cabrera, (new) Director of the LCC, organized the daylong program to commemorate the struggle to preserve this cultural and political space within UIC, as well as celebrate the longevity of its legacy 35 years later. The center was filled with multiple generations of students, activist, university faculty and community members invested in the establishment and development of this historic space.
Part of the daylong program included seven panelists representing the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s, all of who worked to establish and advance the LCC. The panelists included two of the LCC founders, José López, Director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, and Leonard Ramírez, former Director of the Latin American Recruitment and Educational Services (LARES) Program at UIC. Each spoke of how the LCC came through student activists who took-over University Hall in 1973 in protest to claim a space for Latin@s on campus. From their struggle, came the LCC, Latin American/Latin@s Studies Program, as well as the LARES Program. These initiatives opened the doors for more Latin@ students to have an opportunity for higher education at UIC. Hence, the 5 other panelists; Sara Agate, Claudio Gaete, Sofia Mohammad Castañeda, Jackie Rodríguez, and Willie Rodríguez, that represented each decade thereafter. Each panelist spoke of the different efforts used to promote, preserve, and continue the work of the LCC at UIC, as well as in the Latin@ communities throughout Chicago.
As the facilitator of the panel, as well as a former student leader of the Union for Puerto Rican Students at UIC, to me their stories represented a wide array of socio-historical-political junctures that Latin@s have not simply survived but thrived with historical and cultural pride.

by Judy Diaz


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