Archive | November, 2015


Posted on 23 November 2015 by alejandro


On Monday, November 2, The Puerto Rican Cultural Center hosted a Human Rights Luncheon with Attorney and Professor Osvaldo Burgos Pérez who is a Human rights attorney in Puerto Rico and serves on the Board of Directors of the ACLU and Amnesty International. In addition, Mr. Burgos Pérez is the spokesperson for CABE, which is a Broad Committee for the Search for Equity founded in 2013. He is also a prominent gay rights and anti-death penalty activist. Mr. Burgos Pérez spoke to the crowd of Puerto Rico’s current $72 billion debt and and said the Island will likely run out of money in a month. He related that unlike United States cities and states, Puerto Rico is unable to file for bankruptcy or restructure its debt unless the U.S. Congress gives such authority because Puerto Rico does not control its economy due to its colonial status. Being a colony, Mr. Burgos Pérez said, prohibits us from acquiring the tools needed to fix the Puerto Rican economy. The Puerto Rican Government has responded by slashing critical social services, including health care services and schools without regard to the human rights violations created by such actions.

Mr. Burgos-Pérez also spoke about the LGBT Human Rights Campaign with CABE, which not only seeks to have the LGBT community tolerated, but included in the nation of Puerto Rico. Mr. Burgos Pérez spoke to the attendees about the difference between tolerance, acceptance and inclusion of the LGBT community in Puerto Rico. He argued that the LGBT community should strive to be accepted in society but more so the LGBT Community must exert its potential to be inclusive and part of the general society. Mr. Burgos Pérez mentioned that we must struggle to make sure that the LGBT Community’s Human Rights are not violated regardless of political, social, civil and religious affiliations. When we reach this point, hence when a violation of Human Rights is committed, the whole society will respond since we have achieved inclusion in the general society.

By Ricardo Jiménez, Puerto Rican Cultural Center Program Director


Osvaldo Burgos Pérez came to Chicago to meet the Puerto Rican community, to offer his solidarity, and to visit political prisoner Oscar López Rivera. Mr. Burgos-Pérez is a gay activist/attorney whose work in Puerto Rico has involved anti-death penalty legislation, HIV prevention, and human rights. He is the past President of the Board of Directors of Amnesty International in Puerto Rico, and is currently the spokesperson for CABE, whose acronym translates as Broad Committee for the Search for Equity. CABE began as an organization lobbying for two bills in the Puerto Rican legislature; one concerned equal protection of the LGBT community the other concerned protection for victims of domestic same-sex violence. CABE is not a LGBT organization, but an eclectic group that includes the Puerto Rican Bar Association, other law groups, social workers, public health workers, NGO’s, as well as LGBT organizations. On the back of this formidable alliance, both bills passed the legislature in 2013. CABE had more work to do, however, so it could not disband.

As the spokesperson for CABE, Mr. Pérez-Burgos attended a reception in his honor in a home on the Paseo Boricua where he met and engaged in a discussion with leaders from Chicago’s Latino LGBT community. Those present discussed immigration reform, HIV/AIDS, racism, as well as anti-LGBT violence. Mr. Burgos-Pérez explained that the Island of Puerto Rico, regardless of political affiliation, was rallying around the excarceration of Oscar López Rivera. He spoke of CABE’s vision to unite disparate struggles into a coherent unmovable force. He invited those in the room (on this side of our Diaspora) to join the increasingly broad movement to free Oscar López Rivera, whom he described as, “The freest man I’ve met – despite his being in jail.”

By Roberto Sanabria, Puerto Rican Cultural Center Board of Directors

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Can we imagine?

Posted on 23 November 2015 by alejandro


Thirty years ago, perhaps even ten, five years ago, this kind of gathering would have been impossible. And if it had occurred, it would have likely been held in one of the traditional centers of the Puerto Rican diaspora—New York, Chicago, or Philadelphia. But today, we are in Central Florida—Orlando, to be exact. The Puerto Rican diaspora has grown and expanded; we are farther dispersed and new pathways of mobility have opened but many doors remain closed. We are gathered today because we are confronted with a crisis. Yet this crisis is not just an economic one. At stake today is the very fate of “los puertorriqueños,” no matter where they reside. Our cherished barrios—from Boston’s Villa Victoria to El Barrio and the South Bronx to Humboldt Park—continue to suffer the weight of systemically imposed poverty, underfunded schools, and raising housing costs due to gentrification. Our anchoring community organizations and grassroots initiatives are, in many places, fighting tooth and nail to survive. In Puerto Rico, as we know, the challenges are many, and they are great. Our ability to impact policymakers has grown, but we are far from where we need to be.

And yet, thanks to what history has taught us, we know that crises create opportunities. Crises force us to rethink, reimagine; they demand that we make new connections and proposals. We have assembled today to seize this moment and address—from a decidedly diasporic perspective of 5.2 million Boricuas—the economic, environmental, health, and civil and human rights problems affecting the Puerto Rican people. We mean to have a voice not only in the affairs of the Diaspora; we mean to have voice in Puerto Rico, as hermanos y hermanas, separated only by distance and not by identity. Today, I address you as a member of Chicago’s Puerto Rican community, as the executive director of the Juan Antonio Corretjer Puerto Rican Cultural Center, and the brother of Oscar López-Rivera, the longest held political prisoner in Puerto Rican history. I would like to urge us to approach this day with both short and long term interventions in mind. In the short term, we must demand that the U.S. federal government assume responsibility for Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis. Many of the individuals in this room have advanced numerous ways that the U.S. federal government can provide immediate relief for the island. These include allowing Puerto Rico to file bankruptcy, repealing the Jones Act on shipping, facilitating negotiations over refinancing the debt, and the use of the Federal Reserve, as advocated by the Archbishop of Puerto Rico. Each of these strategies entails some degree of complexity, and certainly demand substantial political will. I am certain that our conversation today will explore these and other ways to pull Puerto Rico and our people out of the current economic situation. There are also short term ways to address the looming environmental crisis on the island, from the cleanup of Vieques and El Caño Martin Peña, as well as some ways to intervene in our health crisis. We must, among other issues, defend and expand the civil and voting rights of the Puerto Rican people. Among the human rights issues, I would like to note that President Obama could with the stroke of his pen free my brother Oscar. We have before us a short-term horizon between now and the next presidential inauguration to make a public and political case for his freedom. I hope I can count on your support.

While we discuss these and other short-term strategies, I would, however, urge us to keep in mind our long-term prospects. With the time I have remaining, I would like to highlight a few. Can we imagine the formation of a national Puerto Rican Political Action Committee, which can support Puerto Rican elected officials committed to improving the welfare of Puerto Ricans and other communities in need? Imagine how expanding our electoral representation could contribute to addressing the issues facing our people? Can you imagine the development of a national Puerto Rican voter registration project, where we not only register voters but also educate our community on the “Puerto Rican agenda” we build today and in future gatherings? Imagine the creation of a Puerto Rican caucus at each of the major partisan conventions, which could work to place the issues we identify on the table of the Republican and Democratic parties. Imagine, furthermore, the profound connections we could establish between our educational and cultural institutions? We could connect El Puente in New York to Chicago’s Pedro Albizu Campos High School? We could connect Taller Puertorriqueño in Philadelphia to cultural programing in Orlando and to the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture in Chicago and the many cultural institutions in New York City. Imagine how such connections could affirm the Puerto Rican identity, culture, and educational opportunities throughout the Diaspora. Building on the foundation of El Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, imagine the formation of a network of Puerto Rican think tanks? Imagine if we could harness the institutional and community-based anchor points and scholarly foundations built by several generations of Boricua intellectuals to produce and circulate critical analyses relevant to our realities and aspirations.

Imagine, following this, the creation of a national newspaper or communication hub for the Puerto Rican diaspora, which could give us a forum to communicate developments in our respective cities and states. Imagine us integrating the Puerto Rican diaspora within Puerto Rico. We can follow the models of several Latin American countries, which have actually made space in their congresses for their Diasporic constituencies. How might we, in the long-term, create more spaces of encounter and relationship building between our organizations and those on the island? How might our efforts in economic development, community-building, and cultural and intellectual production intersect with parallel  efforts on the island?

Even more broadly, and ambitiously, how can we reimagine our position as Puerto Ricans in this new century. In my view, this gathering today is a historic achievement; one which I hope can set into motion new possibilities to address historical problems and chart a more equitable, inclusive, and ethical route. The national poet of Puerto Rico, Juan Antonio Corretjer once wrote, many years ago, about a “futuro sin falla.” That is precisely the kind of future we must build. And I believe that building such a future has hemispheric, if not global, implications. We have an opportunity—as diasporic Puerto Ricans, Latinos, and Caribeños—to help realize Simón Bolivar’s dream, a dream that extends across Nuestra America, as the great Cuban revolutionary, José Martí once described it. May today be the beginnings of something much, much greater than we can imagine.


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Celebrando Nuestra Raza with Antonio “Tony” Irizarry’s 90 Years of Life, Courage and Gentility

Posted on 23 November 2015 by alejandro

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On Sunday, October 11, community leaders gathered to celebrate the birthday of veteran community leader, Antonio “Tony” Irizarry, a pioneer in celebrating Latino culture and history. He has made his birthday a celebration of Día de la Raza inviting musicians representing music of the Americas and of honoring community leaders. Sandra Wilson opened the event, followed by Tony’s opening remarks about el Día de la Raza. He reclaimed the historic struggle of many peoples to inspire the call of a united force. Ray Rubio, by request, sang El Viejo for Irizarry, which was followed by his wife’s recital of Llorens Torres poem. José E. López, Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, among other community leaders, made celebratory remarks.

The event concluded with the honoring of Freddy Reyes with the Golden Premio Nuestro. While Irizarry has given the award many times over the years, this one went to Reyes for his extensive contributions to the Puerto Rican and Latino community.

By Erika Abad

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Vida/SIDA Participates in Northwestern University’s LGBTQ Health Conference

Posted on 23 November 2015 by alejandro

On October 31st, Vida/SIDA staff attended the 4th Annual LGBTQ Health Conference “Bridging Research and Practice” at Center on Halsted. This year’s conference was focused on creating a dialogue between researchers and practitioners by integrating both research findings and public health applications into each oral and poster presentation and workshop. The LGBTQ Health Conference is an interdisciplinary translational research conference that brought together research, public health professionals (practitioners), social workers, psychologists, and counselors, as well as other health-related professionals, further aiming to foster professional development and networking opportunities.

Researchers and practitioners at all levels, from students to established professionals, were welcome. Sessions were designed for scholars conducting applied or translational research with LGBTQ populations and practitioners working with LGBTQ individuals and communities. The conference was co-organized by the Impact Program at Northwestern University, with which Vida/SIDA has partnered to conduct research projects— including the ChiGuys Study. Participants spoke about working on research projects and community engagement with youth as part of the research process. Gustavo Varela, from Vida/SIDA, was able to attend workshops and seminars about MSM, their health needs, the advances in medication, & PrEP. The information learned was helpful to inform his work with Latino MSM. Gustavo also conducted a poster presentation titled “Implementing Comprehensive Risk Counseling Services (CRCS) with High Risk, HIV-Negative, Latino MSM in a Community Setting: Lessons Learned from Proyecto Social,” where he spoke about how PRCC-Vida/SIDA has been implementing this evidence-based intervention with the Latino community of Chicago. The poster was co-authored with Paisley Williams, Vida/SIDA Program Manager, and Mayra Estrella, Director of Vida/ SIDA. Gustavo also spoke about all the services our clients are able to receive through PRCC by enrolling in CRCS, and how the IMPACT program from Northwestern University has been conducting the evaluation process with PRCC as a community partner. Vida/SIDA would like to thank our IMPACT Program for the opportunity to participate in the event. Also, congratulations to Pedro and Gustavo on their work to improve the health and lives of Latinos in Chicago.

By Pedro Mercado, Gustavo Varela, & Mayra Estrella

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With over 350 participants and 30 elected officials from 17 states-The Face of the Puerto Rican Diaspora is manifested in Orlando Gathering

Posted on 23 November 2015 by alejandro

Demands include:

• Hold US Gov’t Accountable for Island’s Fiscal and Environmental Crisis • Health equity for Puerto Rico • Freedom for Oscar López Rivera

A contingent of Chicago Puerto Rican leaders joined over 350 members of the Puerto Rican diaspora in Orlando, Florida on October 13-14. After many months of planning and negotiation, this unprecedented event provided a unique and sorely needed space for discussion and debate on issues of great importance to the Puerto Rican nation. These issues included Puerto Rico’s current economic and fiscal crisis, healthcare reform, the environment, civil rights, and the campaign to free Oscar López-Rivera. More broadly, this gathering in Orlando signals a growing unity among members of the Puerto Rican diaspora and growing interest in the formation of a national Puerto Rican agenda. Indeed, among those present were 21 Puerto Rican elected officials, including Congress persons Nydia Velázquez (NY), Luis Gutiérrez (IL), and (via Skype) José Serrano (NY). Congresspersons Alan Grayson (FL) and Brendan Boyle (PA) were also present in solidarity. Participation by the local Puerto Rican population and leadership of Central Florida made its presence felt throughout the gathering. In the months to come, La Voz will continue to report on new developments set in motion by this historic event. La Voz del Paseo Boricua is proud to reproduce the following articles which include one of the opening statements of the gathering debut by José E. López, and an article reproduced from Claridad written by Enrique Fernández Toledo, former senior policy analyst for Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez, as well as two other pieces on the topics covered in the Orlando event.





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Puerto Rican Education and Social Justice: Promoting Transformative and Emancipatory Forms of Knowledge

Posted on 20 November 2015 by alejandro

On Friday, October 23, the Puerto Rican Studies Association held its 3rd Biennial Symposium and Business Meeting at the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture in Chicago. The theme for the symposium was “Puerto Rican Education and Social Justice: Promoting Transformative and Emancipatory Forms of Knowledge.” It included presentations by Chicago-based scholars and educators, as well as those researching Latin@ educational issues throughout the nation. In the morning session, Dr. Cristina Pacione-Zayas, Education Director of the Latino Policy Forum and Co-Chair of the Puerto Rican Agenda, shared her research focused on the history of community activism and educational reform efforts at Roberto Clemente Community Academy. Dr. Aurora Chang, Assistant Professor of Education at Loyola University, provided an overview her work, which draws on the Latin American and Latin@ tradition of testimonio to explore the experiences of undocumented students as they navigate their educational journeys. This session ended with a presentation by Dr. Alejandro Carrión, who is currently a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Latina and Latino Studies Program atNorthwestern University. Carrion discussed his ongoing research focused on the transition from high school to college for Latino males in the Bronx, NY. The afternoon session included presentations by Dr. Angela Valenzuela and Mr. Marvin García. Valenzuela, a Professor of Education at the University of Texas at Austin, described her work as Director of the National Latino Education Research and Policy Project. García, a Northeastern Illinois University Board of Trustees Member and former Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School Principal, spoke about the Humboldt Park Community as a Campus initiative. This initiative seeks to harness community assets to build educational pipelines from Pre-K through higher education, while also strengthening relationships among schools, families, and their surrounding communities.

The symposium ended with a tour of Humboldt Park, which introduced audience members to the various efforts toward educational reform and community uplift in the neighborhood. It is not by chance that a symposium focused on Puerto Rican education, social justice, and the promotion of transformative and emancipatory forms of knowledge was held in Humboldt Park. The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture is located along Paseo Boricua, which has become not only a central hub in the Puerto Rican diaspora, but also a crucial site for urban educational struggle. When I began my doctoral studies in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago a little over a decade ago, with the goal of studying race, language, and education, my participation in the work of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center and partner organizations immediately became just as important to me intellectually as my work at the university. My Ph.D. advisors were initially worried that I was spending too much time in the community.

They felt that this was a distraction from the theoretical work that, in their view, could be best accomplished through hours spent in the library. However, they did not understand that I learned just as much from scholarly readings about the neoliberal restructuring of cities as I did from participating in the Humboldt Park Participatory Democracy Project, an anti-gentrification campaign; I re-analyzed theories of codes witching, linguistic hybridity, translation, and ethnolinguistic identity by becoming part of the editorial team of La Voz del Paseo Boricua, this community’s bilingual newspaper; I reconsidered conceptions of urban education as a site of social reproduction and stratification by teaching a civics course at Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School; and I was able to develop novel insights regarding coloniality and anti-colonial praxis by tracking the transformation of Division Street from an internal colony to a space of resistance, as well as the radical act of inviting populations written out of history to view themselves as historical actors.

When I became the first Puerto Rican male to obtain my Ph.D. in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago, finishing more than a year and a half before anyone else in my cohort, the theoretical and practical value of my work in Humboldt Park was rendered visible. Now, as an Assistant Professor of Education and Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University, I continue to look to the work in this community to rethink approaches to culturally responsive pedagogies, which are too often implemented in ways that simply seek to validate people’s “diversity” while using their practices as starting points on the bridge to learning “real” knowledge. Humboldt Park is not simply a petri dish, test site, repository of ethnographic data, or starting point, but rather a key space of knowledge production. This was certainly the case for my work, focused on the co-articulation of language and race among Puerto Rican and Mexican students in a nearby high school. My book based on this work, titled Looking like a Language, Sounding like a Race: Inequality and Ingenuity in the Learning of Latin@ Identities, is scheduled to be published by Oxford University Press next year.

The work here has also inspired my future research, which explores institutional interdependence in urban contexts, or what leaders here call urban social ecology. From this ecological perspective, we can apprehend interconnections among the various practices that constitute everyday life, including education, housing, employment, spirituality, and arts and culture. The current challenges facing Puerto Ricans across the Diaspora point to the need for new ways of defining problems, as well as new ways of imagining and enacting solutions. I submit to you that this community, which has developed unique approaches to facing educational inequalities by simultaneously working within the main stream public school system, creating alternative models, and refusing to isolate education from the range of people’s fundamental needs, is a powerful site in which to do this work of redefining, imagining, and enacting.

by Dr. Jonathan Rosa

Dr. Jonathan Rosa is Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Education and Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University. His Ph.D. is from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago and is currently a Ford Postdoctoral Fellow in residence at Northwestern University’s Latina and Latino Studies Program.

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Promoting Deep Learning for 21st Century Citizens Who Will Shape the Greater Humboldt Park Community

Posted on 20 November 2015 by alejandro

The Humboldt Park “Community as a Campus” (CAAC) plan is a comprehensive education initiative adopted by the Community Action Council of Humboldt Park Chicago and endorsed by the Chicago Public Schools. The CAAC seeks to create a community-wide educational pipeline from Pre-K to 16 that will be framed within the precepts of the International Baccalaureate (IB) academic standards and will be supplemented with community wrap-around services.

The centerpiece of the CAAC initiative is the revitalization of Roberto Clemente Community Academy and the enhancement of the elementary feeder schools. Of the original 17 elementary Clemente feeder schools designated to be in the CAAC plan, three were closed after the 2012-2013 school year. In all, 8,700 students from preschool to high school will be impacted. As a resource for school improvement, three education institutes (Teacher/Administrator, Parent Popular and Youth Leadership) will be created to work collaboratively across the CAAC. The institutes will enhance educational offerings and outcomes, increase parent engagement and continuing education opportunities, and provide youth opportunities to participate in civic leadership initiatives, as well as pathways to educational success.

The CAAC, which is seven years in the making, has garnered the support of the community and a wide variety of institutional partners. The CAAC will respond to the academic and workforce needs of all learners, preparing 21st century citizens who will shape the future of the greater Humboldt Park community.

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NMPRAC Fundraising Gala with Grammy Winner & Salsa Singer Gilberto Santa Rosa & Artist Oscar Luis Martinez

Posted on 20 November 2015 by alejandro

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Celebrating their 2nd annual Raices: A Celebration of Our Roots gala on Sept. 24, The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture (NMPRAC) pulled out all the stops. The atmosphere was electrifying, full of Trio music, Bomba and Plena, salsa dancers, and a fashion show. The night was capped off with one of the best salsa bands in Chicago. A list of who’s who was present and enjoyed some of the best Caribbean food this side of Puerto Rico, coffee and quesitos. This was the backdrop for what proved to be a memorable evening celebrating our vibrant culture.

If that wasn’t enough, Ana Belaval from WGN’s Around Town set the stage for the presentation of the first ever National Puerto Rican Awards called THE CEIBA. Celebrating his birthday, the first recipient had the original vision to create a museum out of a dilapidated horse stables building, world-renowned artist Oscar Luis Martinez. NMPRAC also opened his long awaited long awaited exhibit, “Metamorphosis of Divine Entanglement”.

The second Ceiba Award recipient flew in from Puerto Rico to receive his award, “El Caballero de la Salsa”, Gilberto Santa Rosa. Gilberto humbled by the award, surprised the audience when he did an acapella rendition of “Mi Viejo San Juan”. The Ceiba award will be given out annually to individuals who have demonstrated their deep roots in preserving Puerto Rican arts and culture. The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture is open Tuesday- Friday 10am-4pm and Saturday 10am-1pm. Information: 773.486.8345,



Photos Credit: Imelda Valencia. 2015 Ceiba Award Recipients: Oscar Luis Martinez and Gilberto Santa Rosa

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22nd Fiesta Boricua Rocks Paseo Boricua

Posted on 19 November 2015 by alejandro

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The 22nd Fiesta Boricua de Bandera a Bandera was another huge success. This year , many of its traditional aspects such as the celebration of the “Mejor de Nuestro Pueblos” represented by Cayey, lo “Mejor de Nuestro Barrio” represented by Orlando, FL. Misa Jíbara officiated by Father Raul, and musically accompanied by Grupo Aroma. In terms of lo “Mejor de Nuestros Barrios”, several activists Jimmy Torres Vélez, organizer Marcos Vilar and community activist Zoraida Andino Rios, and the legendary salsero Domingo Quiñones, traveled from Orlando to highlight the Saturday closing musical event. Cayey was represented by Mayor Rolando Ortiz Velázquez, who headed a delegation of nearly 200 cayeyanos, and learned that Mayor Rahm Emanuel, through a proclamation, designated Sept 5 & 6 as Cayey Days in Chicago. Cayey also treated Chicago’s Puerto Rican community with the music of Alambre Dulce. Sunday’s closing musical act, was headlined by Orquesta Macabeo, interpreting the latest musical expressions of the millennial generation of Puerto Rico.

The 2015 Fiesta Boricua added new dimension to the traditional celebration. This included the following:

* A car, bicycle and motorcycle show

* A second stage on Campbell and Division, sponsored by Papas Cache featuring local musicians;

* A magnificent, colorful jamboree parade with the Banda Municipal de Cayey and the cabezudos of Pedro Adorno, representing the figures of Roberto Clemente, Julia de Burgos, Segundo Ruiz Belvis and Oscar López Rivera.

An aesthetically pleasing mural by Christian Roldan welcomed the Cayeyanos with an image of Cayey’s native son, the artist Ramon Frade.

The above additional activities made the 22nd Fiesta Boricua another amazing achievement in the altitude of cultural expressions in our community, but it would not have been the same without the delicious food, the improvised dancing, the multiple expressions of creations of the country’s artisans, and the bombazo at La Casita de Don Pedro. It was a celebration of our community’s life and creativity as well as a cultural immersion for the many non-Puerto Ricans who enjoyed the weekend on Paseo Boricua.

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Photos Credit: Ivan Vega, Elias Carmona & Charlie Billups

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More than 300 in attendance Noche Jíbara celebrates Cayey and Honors Josefina “Fifo” Rodriguez

Posted on 18 November 2015 by alejandro


On Friday, Sept. 4, more than 300 gathered at the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture to honor the municipality of Cayey representing el “Mejor de Nuestros Pueblos” as well as to honor the memory of Josefina Rodríguez.

The evening event included a welcome by Puerto Rican Cultural Center Executive Director, José E. López, of the Cayey delegation, which was headed by Mayor Rolando Ortiz Velázquez. Gifts were exchanged and the Mayor gave a brief but powerful message of the importance of the memorable community celebration. This was followed by an engaging and dramatic presentation by the Municipal Band which captivated the audience.

The program ended with the homage to Josefina led by the poet Carlos Quiles and the musical group from Cayey, Alambre Dulce. 

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