Archive | December, 2011

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Puerto Rico, Latin America & Calle 13

Posted on 09 December 2011 by alejandro

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“You can not buy the wind / You can not buy the sun…
You can not buy my joys / You can not buy my sorrows…
The juice of my struggle is not artificial /
For the fertilizer of my land is natural…
You can’t buy my life / My land isn’t for sale…
I’m what my father taught me/
If you do not love your country, you do not love your mother…
I’m Latin America / A people without legs yet walks …”

Under the pouring rain and the sounds of Venezuela’s youth orchestra, the lyrics of Calle 13’s Grammy award winning song “Latinoamerica” were chanted by thousands present for the closing ceremony of the first summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). Held in Caracas, Venezuela on December 2 and 3, the CELAC represents the formation of a new political and economic regional bloc that unites thirty-three countries from across Latin America and the Caribbean, but which does not include the United States and Canada. This song, one of Calle 13’s most recent, has become the international anthem throughout the Spanish-speaking Americas. Not only does it poetically describe experiences of historical injustice, poverty and the ruthless operations carried in Latin America by the United States and its allies, but also it has reinserted Puerto Rico and its colonial situation on the Latin American and international stage.

Prior to CELAC summit, Bolivian President Evo Morales made an acknowledgement of Calle 13, stating that “their songs, their interpretations, represent the people of, not only Bolivia, but of Latin America as well.” Historically, Calle 13 has distinguished itself from other performers by giving voice to the voiceless, just as they did on the last day of the summit. Among the 33 nations invited to CELAC, Puerto Rico’s absence was the most felt. The absence of Puerto Rico is due to the fact that Puerto Rico is a colonial possession of the United States. Since the signing of the “Treaty of Paris” on December 10, 1898, which concluded the so-called Spanish American War, the fate of Puerto Rico and its people have been determined by the U.S. Congress.

Calle 13 is composed of stepbrothers René Pérez, Residente (lead singer), Eduardo Cabra, Visitante (producer), and their sister Ileana aka PG-13 (choirs). The group has created a bridge that connects Puerto Rico to the rest of Latin America. In addition to their ability to incorporate sounds and slang from throughout the Americas, the lyrics of Calle 13 have courageously denounced the contradictions of capitalism, the brutality of colonialism and right to free education. In doing so, they have assumed the mantle of visionary musicians like the likes of Silverio Rodríguez, Bob Marley, Femi Kuti, and the late Facundo Cabral. Through their music, they have reminded their fellow Puerto Ricans about the ills of U.S. colonialism and the importance of independence. For this reason, they have been consistently criticized and attacked by Puerto Rico’s upper middle class and conservative sectors. Through rhymes and beats, Calle 13 has advanced the patriotic work of Puerto Rican revolutionaries, such as Lolita Lebrón, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Juan Mari Bras and Juan Antonio Corretjer.

It is in this spirit that Calle 13 doesn’t forget their ancestors who have given their lives to free Puerto Rico. If we look back at Calle 13’s first political song, “Querido FBI,” it was angry denunciation of Machetero leader Filiberto Ojeda Ríos’ assassination by the FBI in 2005. Ojeda’s death, in fact, marked a major turning point for the group, as they soon after embarked on a journey to better understand the social injustices that have and continue to occur on our continent.

On the last day of the summit, René Perez (Residente) became the most important popular voice that Puerto Rico has thus far in 21st century. Its significant contribution to Puerto Rico is so relevant that it invites the question: Who, in the absence of Calle 13, would popularly connect Puerto Rico to the rest of Latin America? Their presence in Venezuela not only gave voice to all the Puerto Ricans who believe in a sovereign Puerto Rico, but also made the point that the CELAC summit was incomplete without Puerto Rico. This important point was powerfully reiterated during the summit by the Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega, who noted: “We are thirty-three, but are still missing Puerto Rico; sooner rather than later, Puerto Rico will incorporate itself.”

by Jonathan Rivera Lizardi

For more on CELAC visit: or Facebook/TeleSur

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The Power of Indignation

Posted on 09 December 2011 by alejandro

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“I have only the power of my indignation,
the power of my convictions.”
Danielle Mitterrand

The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement is stirring and awakening the people’s righteous indignation throughout the nation.  Its call to action is germinating and sprouting like wild flowers (hopefully perennial ones) from Wall Street to the universities and from the ghettoes all the way to the suburbs.  It’s this response of the people that clearly demonstrates the potential it has to radicalize the masses and to find solutions to the prevailing crisis created by Wall Street and the politicians who control the reins of government.

The people are responding because OWS has clearly identified the problems affecting them and the culprits responsible for the crisis and the prevailing pernicious conditions. According to OWS, what are the main problems and who has caused them?  They are: 1). the inequality in the distribution of wealth – one percent controls it and 99 percent has none; 2).  the concentration of capital in fewer and fewer hands; 3). the skulduggery of Wall St.; 4). the corruption of the politicians who control the reins of the government; 5). the government’s inability and refusal to resolve the economic crisis; and 6). the workers, the elderly, parts of the middle class, the minority communities and  the young people who find their dreams deferred and sabotaged.

There’s an organic relationship between Wall Street and the politicians who are in control of the government.  The former controls the finances the politicians need to be elected, and thus determines who’s going to win.  The politician who gets elected owes his seat to Wall St.  or is a big money person whose interest is the same as the others honchos on Wall St.  For the politicians, their most important task is to defend the interest of Wall St.  A good example of the relationship is how the government dealt with the demands of the corporations that were “too big to fail.”  Wall St. claimed there was an economic melt down and that the government had to bail out the corporations that were too big to fail.  The government’s response was immediate.  Billions of dollars were dispensed and the politicians had no qualms or hesitation in answering Wall St. demands.

One of the corporations that the government bailed out was General Motors.  At no moment did the politicians mention the fact that while GM in the U.S. was going broke in China it was one of the most profitable U.S. corporations.  If that was the case, then why not use the money it was generating in China to bail itself out? What’s most interesting about the bail out is that the bulk of the billions of dollars sent to Wall St. ended up in the pockets of the bankers and of the CEO’s of the big corporations.

While the politicians were bailing out the big corporations, the problems of the millions of families who were facing foreclosure, the millions of workers who were unemployed, the students who owed almost a trillion dollars in student loans and couldn’t pay  were totally ignored by them.
The politicians seats were safe because Wall St. was doing what it had to do to protect them.  It had the finances, the lobbying groups, the think tanks, the media and such nepharious entities like the Tea Party and ALEC -American Legislative Exchange Council to make sure the status quo would not be changed at all.  For example, ALEC made sure the neo-liberal legislations needed would be enacted at all levels of government.  That’s how anti-immigration, union busting, and anti-public funding laws were being passed at the state and federal levels.

Fortunately, the OWS movement responded and has seized the moment.  It is challenging the status quo and mobilizing the people.  Instead of idleness, there is movement.  And the movement has the potential to create the necessary changes in the political structure and to find solutions that will lead to a better distribution of wealth and for there to be a more just and better system.  If you aren’t a supporter of OWS or a righteously indignated person, become an occupier.  If you want a better and more just world dare to struggle for it.  Dare to struggle, dare to win. En resistencia y lucha, OLR.

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Navi-Arts Fest A Complete Success!

Posted on 09 December 2011 by alejandro


On the weekend of December 3-4, 2011, the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture celebrated its first holiday arts sale event Navi Arts Fest. The event featured arts and crafts from Puerto Rican artists that included Galería Cuca (mixed media), Edgar “El Pintor” (ceramics), Leo Negrón (coconut art) Miguel Arroyo (photography and graphic design), Elias Carmona (photography), Lebster Pabón (paintings), Between Rags and Dolls (hand made rag dolls), Zoraida Rivera Tañón (artisanal coquito), Mr. Myke (urban art) and El Quijote Bookstore.

On Saturday, December 3rd, Navi Arts Fest, kick off with the musical flavor of La Trova del 31 at noon. The presentation of Adolfo Colón’s book Pasto y Maleza and the musical presentation of the up and coming bomba group Buya.  Later on, IPRAC hosted two amazing parrandas, received with one of the López family’s sweetest recipes of ‘leche con jengibre’. The first traditional parranda sponsored by ¡Humboldt Park NO SE VENDE! and the second one by the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center’s traveling parranda led by los pleneros of Nuestro Tambó.

The event concluded with an amazing children’s workshop led by Happy Kids Chicago on Sunday afternoon. This joyful celebration brought many Puerto Ricans together, like back home, enjoying excellent music, arts, delicious holiday treats, gifts and good memories.

by Brenda Figueroa

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DSBDA Welcomes New Business to Paseo Boricua

Posted on 09 December 2011 by alejandro

Great news for Paseo Boricua as we end the year on a plus with the opening of two new businesses. La Cosecha (2701 W Division St.), which opened in September for Fiesta Boricua is now fully loaded with fresh produce. They have fine Puerto Rican coffee like café Don Pello from Ciales, Puerto Rico. They also have ahí dulce, fresh plantains (green or maduros), as well as other favorites from la cocina criolla. La Cosecha also has fresh fruit and a juicer where you can get amazing freshly squeezed orange juice to go.

La Cosecha’s reopening brought in lots of support from community residents and workers, as well as several restaurant owners like Victor García from Papa’s Cache, Pablo Espinoza, owner of Nellie’s Restaurant, Roberto Tañón, owner of La Bruquena Restaurant, and Jaime Cruz, owner of Latin American Restaurant. All were there to take advantage of the fresh produce that La Cosecha has to offer.

La Cosecha wants to provide fresh produce at affordable prices to an area considered a food desert. It also seeks to provide an alternative diet to those residents who suffer from diabetes and asthma.
DSBDA also welcomes Architechs Inc. that officially opened last week and is located at 2541 W. Division, on the site of a long-standing blighted building which has been refurbished to include rod-iron balconet, French doors, lamps and a wood colored storefront. President Eswin Guerra says that Architechs Inc. is a design and build company or one-stop-shop for planning and building projects. Eswin Guerra is a graduate of Northeastern Illinois University and attended the UIC School of Architecture as well as the National School of Superior Architecture of Versailles. For more information on Architects Inc. visit their website at:

by Eduardo Arocho

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Humboldt Park Observes World AIDS Day

Posted on 09 December 2011 by alejandro

On December 1st Vida/SIDA joined communities across the world in commemorating World AIDS Day, a day to honor the lives of the 33 million people who have died from AIDS-related illnesses and the 90,000 others who continue to live with HIV/AIDS.

On Thursday, approximately 150 Humboldt Park residents, community leaders, and youth from three area high schools gathered at La Casita de Don Pedro for the altar and candle lighting ceremony to honor those who had passed away from AIDS related illnesses in the community. José E. López, Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, and State Representative Maria Antonia “Toni” Berrios spoke about the importance of supporting people with HIV and fighting homophobia within the Latino community. The group marched in a procession to Roberto Clemente High School holding candles, carrying signs that read “Fighting for a Cure”, and calling out the names of those who had passed away.

Also, partaking in the World AIDS Day event was the With Me Comes a Cure [WMCC] program of Vida/SIDA. This HIV/STI Initiative, which is geared for youth between the ages of 13-24, is a collaborative effort between Vida/SIDA, the Community of Wellness, and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. For World AIDS Day, WMCC sponsored a t-shirt contest for high school students from Clemente, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, and Aspira; the students where asked to submit designs with a message relating to World AIDS Day and HIV/AIDS.
Following the vigil, everyone gathered at Roberto Clemente High School for the reception dinner.

The program included a presentation from Dr. Jaime Martínez from the Core Center, about treatment barriers unique to HIV-positive immigrants.  Zenaida López, Associate Director of Vida/SIDA, announced the winner of the t-shirt contest, followed by a female drag performer, Venus, who delighted the crowd with a colorful performance.
Armando Esquivel from Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos was the winner of the t-shirt contest and the runner up was Luis Ramírez from Clemente. The winning design was printed on 150 t-shirts, and to close the event, t-shirts where passed out to all those in attendance.

Vida/SIDA and community partners are working to educate the community about HIV transmission, encourage safer sex practices that can prevent new cases, and help those who are positive, access affordable and respectful care.

by Cassandra Avenatti

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Behold, the Boricua Diaspora

Posted on 09 December 2011 by alejandro

Envision, for a moment, a soundless and barren urban landscape, encroached on by a harrowing, opaque sky and bright, white snow mystically descending from the heavens, with only dim street lights to guide a path. Your awe-struck eyes gaze upon the overwhelming swarm of small, cold particles engulfing the air, swirling with the wind in a synchronized, rhythmic movement, rapidly melting on sun-burnt skin. Finally, your mind collides with the cognizance that this shall be the eternal home of lineages unrealized and that Puerto Rico is a land of no return. What a sorrowful and beautiful genesis to a narrative laid before us; the setting of the stage of an epic and incomparable tale of tragedy and greatness unforeseen.

Such was the experience of thousands of pioneras/os, like my grandmother, who endured a particular migration decades ago; there were many before and many after them. In whatever time we locate the conception of a diaspora that owes its existence to a U.S. government-sponsored colonial enterprise, we must descry the fact that subsequent generations, physically distant from the island, continue to identify as Boricua. Some merely say that one can still be Puerto Rican even if residing outside Puerto Rico, as if the island is lending us magical keys to a locket of authenticity. In many ways, to be Puerto Rican is to be a part of our diaspora. In other words, there is a distinctive Puerto Ricanness in the U.S. and the island is just one (important) piece in a complex and colorful mosaic of cultural ruptures and innovations.

No matter if God decides to rid our little chaotic island
from its uncertain misery
and sends a wave of destruction from the very
waters that brought us our oppressive history
and sinks Borinquen to the water’s floor
our story will be narrated by the jíbaros on the  moon

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Unfortunately, our communities are burdened with institutions, artisans, and educators who make it a point to extract the political from the cultural. Puerto Rican cultural consciousness is inextricable from the political. When the dwellers of the island and the diaspora began to understand themselves and their cultural productions as distinctively, unmistakably, and uniquely Boricua, they simultaneously understood, due to a subordinate sociopolitical status, the danger in making such claims. In essence, Puerto Rican culture and identity is a product of resistance. Thus, to be proudly Boricua, is to be solemnly defiant. To affirm a puertorriqueñidad is to thwart the processes that seek our destruction. But, many of our institutions, artisans, and educators present the world with sanitized, nostalgic, and island-centered artistic representations detached from our lived experiences in the U.S. Most, but not all, contemporary art by the Puerto Rican Diaspora is thus without purpose or direction.

Yes, there are many possible routes and trajectories, but one thing must be clear: there needs to be an aesthetic attached to an ongoing process to cultivate a non-assimilationist, diaspora-specific, solution-proposing, and culturally affirming agenda. In order for it to be meaningful, this aesthetic, utilizing photography, painting, literature, poetry, film, theater, sculpture, music, dance, and song, must be by and for our people and rooted in our communities (both historic and new).
If we construct a New Boricua Diaspora aesthetic we can, with greater clarity, understand who we are and map out possible directions. Quite simply and unequivocally, we can begin to recognize and honor our beauty, particularities, and greatness and heal wounds of self-hate and cynicism. This, for what it is worth, is an invitation to dialogue and to create. Who shall heed the call? Whose art will proclaim, “Behold, the Boricua Diaspora, in all its lamentations, in all its glory”?

by Xavier “Xavi” Luis Burgos/Photo by Perla de León in 1977.


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Piri Thomas,The Death of a Boricua Literary Pioneer

Posted on 09 December 2011 by alejandro

“Softly, Puerto Rican, you ain’t alone,
Muchos están contigo and
you’ve got a home….

…Flex your breath of life,
talk about your breeze
and forget you nots.
Write your say
about sidewalks dirty.

Scribble your mean message
on dingy hallway-walls.
Express your aptitude
and limit not its call.”
(From Softly, Puerto Rican, You Ain’t Alone by Piri Thomas)

On October 17, 2011, Piri Thomas, a pioneering cultural champion of the Puerto Rican Diaspora, died at the age of 83. Poet, novelist, and vocal witness to the plight of the underclass, Thomas is considered the father of a Spanglish linguistic tradition and modern Boricua letters. But more importantly, he constructed an incredible legacy on which a modern Latina/o literature was built upon.

As demonstrated in his work, racism was an important fixture in the social development of Thomas’ life. Born in 1928 in El Barrio, New York City to Puerto Rican and Cuban migrants, they gave him an anglicized name, John Peter Thomas, in an effort to assimilate the family. His mother called him “Piri”(the Spanish pronunciation of “Petey”) as a nickname. Growing-up, he battled white ethnic gangs and struggled with his skin color and West African features due to the favored treatment given to his light-skinned siblings from his father. Subsequently, he endured drug addiction, homelessness, and prison.

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Much of these experiences were chronicled in his most famous work, Down These Mean Streets, published in 1967, that places front and center discussions of the systematic origins and abuses facing our communities. As a result, his autobiography not only empowered the Boricua diaspora to produce its own unique literature, but validated the new cultural and linguistic expressions that the children of Boricua migrants were developing, like Spanglish. Without a doubt, Thomas was brave to write in a form and style that did not accommodate to the expectations of the white U.S. literary establishment. In other words, he ensured that our stories had to be told from us and in the way that we tell them. Therefore, the Nuyorican Movement and contemporary Latina/o literature are products of Thomas’ tenacity and eloquent ferocity.

I remember still the awe-struck feeling of reading Down These Mean Streets in high school, deeply relating to his testimony of how dark-skinned Boricuas are devalued and the inhumanity of prison. And more importantly, my culture and my context was honored and respected in a world where we are rendered invisible or hopelessly delinquent. For many Boricua and Latina/o youth Piri Thomas contributed to the understanding of our social context and ourselves, stimulating a sense of hope and pride for which we shall be forever indebted.

by Xavier “Xavi” Luis Burgos


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Paseo Boricua is Filled with Treats

Posted on 09 December 2011 by alejandro

Hundreds of children filled Division Street again for one of the most fun-filled, family friendly events in Humboldt Park. The 10th annual Haunted Paseo Boricua is giving new meaning to Halloween in our community. Businesses opened their doors to costumed treat-seekers of all sizes, but this was no average trick or treat activity. Several landmarks like the Casita de Don Pedro was converted into a haunted cemetery. Batey Urbano had their usual scary basement and La Cosecha Fresh Produce Market handed out healthy candy that included a Ritz cracker with a delicious avocado and chocolate topping. Yum, Yum!! This year’s Haunted Paseo also had a skate and bicycle park zone on Campbell Street. Ciclo Urbano and Barreto’s Boys and Girls clubs did a small parade with their custom decorated bikes along Division Street to the delight of many.

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Division Street Business Development Association wants to thank its many partners for helping put on a great and safe event including: Alderman Roberto Maldonado 26th Ward, the Puerto Rican
Cultural Center, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School, Ciclo Urbano, the Chicago Park District, 72 Block By Block, COMCAST and all of the volunteers who helped make this a wonderful event.

By Eduardo Arocho


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