Archive | November, 2013


Posted on 22 November 2013 by alejandro


by Eduardo Arocho

Born and raised in Humboldt Park, Javier Anaya is a Puerto Rican who is investing in his neighborhood and moving in rather than moving out. He has purchased a property on Paseo Boricua (2448 W. Division Street) and is renovating it with plans to move in with his family.

Javier graduated from Wells H.S. and enrolled in the College of Office Technology. Soon after he received his Real Estate license in 1996 and has been working as a Real Estate Broker for Century 21 for the past five years.

Anaya has raised three boys who were all born in Norwegian American Hospital. His oldest, now 21 is a student at Western Illinois University, his 18-year-old son is a student at Harold Washington College and his 6 year old is in first grade.

“I am proud of the fact that all my sons have been born and raised here in Humboldt Park”, says Anaya who is rehabbing a two flat he recently purchased on Division Street. Once rehabbed it will have two apartments, one of which is where Anaya will be moving in with his family. “I don’t believe that in order to be successful that I have to leave my neighborhood,” says Anaya with certainty.

Javier’s other passion is volunteering as an outreach worker for the past 8 years. He has been part of an organization called Both Sides of The Park, which helps high-risk youth and young adults to find alternatives to gangs and violence. He plans to open an Empowerment Center in the Storefront of his new building to serve this population. “Young people are without role models and that hurts our community. They need positive role models, hard working people that they can see on a daily basis and imagine possibilities for themselves and their community”, says Anaya.


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Gutiérrez reads from his memoirs to capacity in Eastcost City Tour.

Posted on 22 November 2013 by alejandro



Congressman Luis Gutiérrez talked to over sixty students and faculty at Yale University this past Friday about his newly released memoir and the journey he endured as a Latino going to Capitol Hill.  Sponsored by Despierta Boricua, Yale’s Puerto Rican Student Association, and La Casa Cultural Julia de Burgos, the university’s Latino cultural center, Congressman Gutiérrez was invited to speak and share his story with the Yale community.  Reading an excerpt from his memoir and connecting the story to his motivation to pursue higher education, Congressman Gutiérrez talked about when he moved to Puerto Rican and saw that Puerto Ricans held various successful careers from governor to school teacher.  “I saw this whole world where myths about Puerto Ricans were just broken when I recognized all those things I could be,” Gutiérrez explained.

The representation of Latinos in positions of power inspired him, and his presence at Yale motivated the audience.  His immediate connection with the audience had everyone at ease, and thinking deeply about the points he brought up.  Hearing Gutiérrez talk, Dean Rosalinda Garcia, associate dean of Yale College and Director of the Yale Latino Cultural Center, said, “he’s just another person; he could be your uncle or your cousin, and I think that’s really inspirational.  As a dean of students, I take a lot of pleasure in bringing leaders like that on campus because it allows our students to see themselves in Latino leadership.”

“Having him at Yale and seeing how relatable he is to us all makes me realize the work that my peers and I are doing will not be in vain,” William Genova, president of Despierta Boricua said.  “We stand on the shoulders of amazing Latinos that have come before us, and the work that the Congressman and so many other have done for our communities gives my generation the opportunity to continue uplifting our people even farther.”



The call came in from a Connecticut congressman’s office: an aide described how much Congressman Luis Gutiérrez means to his office — how the issues Gutiérrez fights for are close to this politician’s heart. Our event at Real Ways, an open interview with Congressman Gutierrez led by WNPR’s John Dankosky, was quickly approaching, and we wanted to make sure the word was spread. ‘Can I send you more information?’ I asked the aide. “I’m all set, we’ve received 6 emails about it from various immigration reform groups in the area.”

Congressman Gutierrez being in Hartford was big news, his presence and his message important to many. Half an hour before the event began our space overflowed with young families. It was a crowd we don’t have the privilege to see enough of here; they came for the congressman—he came for them—and as they took their seats the energy in our space was palpable.

Real Art Ways is situated in the Parkville neighborhood of Hartford, a culturally diverse area with a significant Puerto Rican population. It was enlivening to welcome our neighbors in this way, to present a leader who fights to bring the issues that matter to us to the national stage.

And then the phone rang.

Halfway through the event several audience members began to stir with excitement. Congressman Gutierrez, a champion of Puerto Rican self-determination, opened the evening by calling for the release of Oscar Lopez Rivera, a Puerto Rican Nationalist and political prisoner serving a 70 year sentence for a nonviolent crime. And then – right in the middle of the interview – Oscar was calling in! We’d like to believe it was all preordained, and given the magic of the evening, who’s to say it wasn’t?

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Posted on 21 November 2013 by alejandro


AmeRican, defining myself my own way any way many  ways,

Am e Rícan, with the big R and the accent on the i! 

-Tato Laviera, “AmeRícan”

Although in his final years Tato Laviera lost his sight, he could intuit more than most could observe, and was able to register and transform the energy in a room and the mood of those around him. I met Tato almost a decade ago following a presentation he gave at DePaul University. It was 2005. That evening, he was to be the feature at a poetry event at Café Teatro Batey Urbano, a grassroots youth space, new, only in its third year of existence. I quickly learned in the car ride to Humboldt Park that, in the company of Tato, spontaneity was the rule. I watched as mundane words exchanged in conversation came alive, as Tato, perpetually composing prose, dissected syllables and played with meanings, intersecting languages, and dialects in a fashion too unruly and iconoclastic to be characterized as “Spanglish” or worse, “bilingual.” Language, for Tato, was not simply an inheritance, but an invitation. He loved to speak, I think because of his ability to humor, to call forth responses, often in the form of nonverbal gestures expressed through laughter, shifts in a seat, and the chorus of sustained applause his readings inevitably produced. But he also loved to listen, to hear personal stories, and when they were not forthcoming – which they rarely were in my case – he’d shift his Panama hat slightly and probe like a good journalist.

I had the privilege of working closely with Tato for a number of years following his first visit to Paseo Boricua, that same passageway that had enthralled the legendary Pedro Pietri in his last visit to Chicago. Tato undertook, unknowingly (I believe) the very project that the famed author of the “Puerto Rican Obituary” had desired to do. Both of these Nuyorican literary giants expressed a deep and humbling curiosity about the Puerto Rican experience in Chicago. What accounted for its rhythms and mythologies? Indeed, Tato would frequently tell me that he was going to figure out, no matter how long it took, the source of the unabashedly Puerto Rican spirit he felt in Humboldt Park and Paseo Boricua. I fear that he was too modest to have realized the many ways he energized that very spirit and left his signature on it.

I am not certain how the idea emerged, but the following year, months before we would celebrate the 40th anniversary of the “Division Street Riot,” the Puerto Rican Cultural Center contracted Tato to write and direct a play on this historic event. A talented group of Batey Urbano youth worked with Tato in intense rehearsals over several months and weeks to give life to the “The Spark.” Over a hundred people attended its premiere, held just days before the Puerto Rican People’s Parade on Division Street. Through the characters of “Pa’Lante,” “Asimilada,” “Young Lord,” “Hábito,” and others, a history almost forgotten was recovered and retold that evening. For as the cast chanted, “No justice, no peace, el silencio nos mata aquí.”

In delving into that history, pieced together through conversations and newspaper clippings, I think he began to make sense of the stubborn pride of the community he came to know so intimately. Afterwards, he told a Chicago Tribune reporter, “We hope to promote a dialogue and discussion about the fate of Puerto Ricans in this city.” True to its namesake, the play was a catalyst for further investigations and productions. Never satisfied by small ideas, Tato imagined four plays. The following two summers he respectively crafted the “1977 PR Riots” and “Bandera a Bandera,” which explored the birth of Paseo Boricua in 1995. The final play, entitled “The Gentrifiers,” sadly never came to fruition, although he never ceased to remind me that we had unfinished business.

The title of the final, unwritten play would have dramatized the contemporary moment and the ongoing struggle to preserve a Puerto Rican barrio in the Windy City. The theme of gentrification and displacement was not foreign to him; Tato had experienced the demise of the Lower East Side and yuppie encroachments throughout Spanish Harlem, where he last called home. We will never know how he would have chosen to represent our fight against gentrification, or even how the series of plays would have concluded. Did Pa’Lante and his fellow activists triumph? Did Paseo Boricua persist and persevere? Those questions, however, remain for the real life actors that inspired Tato’s characters.

I last saw Tato a couple of years ago at Brown University. He was one of the main features of that year’s “Puerto Rican Week.” Now more comfortable sitting than standing, he shared his gifts with a room full of undergraduates, who quickly became enamored by his smile, energy, and wordplay. His words evoked bomba drums, street hustles, and Boricua pride, moving bodies and souls with his relentless cadence. At his insistence, a few poets and I opened for Tato. After dodging so many of his previous requests, I agreed to rap a couple verses. After I finished, he tugged my arm and told me, as heartily as he could, “You’re good, man!” You see, Tato believed us all to be poets; he also believed us to be much more than we allowed ourselves to be.

As he should, Tato will be remembered for his mastery of language and imagery, his defiant affirmation of Blackness and our multi-inflected tongue, and for his challenge to narrow, essentialist conceptions of Puerto Rican identity. He will be celebrated as one of the founders and stalwarts of the Nuyorican literary movement, a visionary chronicler of our Diasporic experience. But in this, he was more than a poet. He was also a teacher, a mentor, and a friend. Un patriota who left us far too soon, like our very own “Chitown Brown,” David Hernández.

Tato will be greatly missed by the many he met, worked with, or touched in Paseo Boricua and throughout his life’s travels. And yet, we can draw strength and joy from the fact that he is now in that Boricua pantheon, already busy writing, performing, and inspiring –because even there he is needed. At this very moment, he is leading our ancestors in reciting his poem, “Boricua”:


We are a people

who love to love

who are loving

lovers who love

to love respect.


by Michael Rodriguez

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12th ANNUAL HAUNTED PASEO HALLOWEEN FESTIVAL Featuring Healthy Treats for Children of All Ages

Posted on 21 November 2013 by alejandro

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 12.29.49 PM

On October 31, 2013, Division Street Business Development Association & Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School hosted the 12th Annual Haunted Paseo Boricua in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago. Community organizations and businesses opened their doors to hundreds of families in the spirit of a culturally inspired Halloween celebration. Despite the deceptive rain, costumed children of every age were able to enjoy good treats and activities tailored for them at each inviting station.

 The festival included 14 “halloweenesque” stations with various traditional scary themes infused with a bit of Puerto Rican culture such as: a Haunted Casita, Scary Graveyard, Spooky Dancing & Thriller Stations, Healthy Treats Station, and the infamous and devilish Puerto Rican VEJIGANTE Station.

 This is the first year that Haunted Paseo launches the initiative “Healthier Treats for Healthier Kids” a campaign to inform children and their families about moderation and healthier snacks choices. As part of the process we encourage our businesses to offer alternatives to candy in order to help prevent diabetes and obesity among our youth and in our community.

 This event is being co-sponsored by: Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos H.S., West Town Bikes/Ciclo Urbano (Boys & Girls Bike Club), AfriCaribe Cultural Center, The Puerto Rican Cultural Center, Batey Urbano, Roberto Clemente High School, Muevete – Diabetes Empowerment Center, VIDA SIDA, The Chicago Park District, Alderman Roberto Maldonado (26th Ward), Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, Barreto Union League Boys & Girls Club and The Greater Humboldt Park Community of Wellness.

by Brenda Torres

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The Rescue staff and our Latino LGBTQ youth residents

Posted on 21 November 2013 by alejandro


Employees of The Rescue / PRCC and our young LGBTQ Latino residents.

We are excited to receive the great news that the Illinois House of Representatives voted 61 has 54 votes last November 5, 2013 in favor of the marriage between people of the same sex and thus has been shown to support our LGBTQ community; it is a great happiness to know that Illinois has become the tenth state in supporting this junction.

This is a great achievement for the LGBTQ community … but personally to the Director of the rescue program that since 2010 has been supporting equal rights for LGBTQ community.


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“Rafael Tufiño Way” in El Barrio N.Y.

Posted on 05 November 2013 by alejandro


(October 18, 2013) The “Painter of the People,” Rafael Tufiño, has become the first New York City-born visual artist of Puerto Rican decent to have a street named in his honor. The tribute became a reality through the unrelenting efforts of Architect Warren James, El Barrio community and arts activist Deborah Quiñones, and NYC Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Representatives from our artistic community and local political camps gathered with members of the Tufiño family that included some of his grandchildren at the NW corner of 103rd Street & Lexington Avenue. In a ceremony filled with joy, acknowledgements and poetry, a new street sign “Rafael Tufiño Way” was unveiled. ( See proceedings: )

Among them was Tufiño’s daughter Nitza who has continued his artistic legacy in her own right. She expressed her deep gratitude to those present and to the media for the honor bestowed on her father. A vivid portrait of Don Rafael painted by her is currently part of an exhibition titled “Flights of Fancy”at El Taller Boricua. Nitza Tufiño has become a major advocate for the arts in El Barrio (East Harlem, NYC).

After the street naming ceremony, a reception was held @ El Taller Boricua, housed in the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center, 1680 Lexington Avenue (105th & 106th Street), NYC.


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Prominent Nuyorican Poet Tato Laviera Dies

Posted on 05 November 2013 by alejandro


By Ivette Romero

Repeating Islands (November 2, 2013)

Many of us are mourning the passing of Puerto Rican writer Abraham Laviera (better known as Tato Laviera), a lead poet, musician, and composer of the Puerto Rican diaspora. He died this morning at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City at age 62. Laviera had spent several months in a coma, due to health complications related to diabetes.

Born in Santurce, Puerto Rico (1951) Laviera emigrated with his mother to New York City when he was nine. He settled with his family on the Lower East Side, where the streets were a source of inspiration for his art. The writer studied at Cornell University and Brooklyn College, but never completed his studies.

His first book was La Carreta Made a U- Turn (1979), a critical response toLa carreta, a book by Puerto Rican writer Rene Marqués. In 1985 he published AmeRícan, a much-acclaimed celebration and tribute to ethnic diversity. Other publications include Enclave (1985), Mainstream Ethics Etica Corriente (1988), and Mixturao and Other Poems (2009).

In addition to his work as a writer, Laviera stood out as a community leader, as director of the University of the Streets initiative, which helps low-income youth and minorities get to college. In a press release, New York City councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito lamented the death of the artist, whom she described as one of the most influential Nuyorican poets and novelists. Mark-Viverito said,

“His beautiful words, which flowed rapidly between Spanish, English and Spanglish, recounted the experience of millions of Puerto Ricans who migrated and grew up in the United States. His love for his community, El Barrio, could be felt in each one of the verses he wrote.”

The councilman said that she will find a proper way for El Barrio to pay tribute to the life and work of Laviera, one of the most important writers of the Puerto Rican diaspora.


RelatedFor original article (in Spanish), see

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