Archive | ¡Humboldt Park NO SE VENDE!


Community Victory in Humboldt Park Advisory Committee

Posted on 21 November 2016 by alejandro



Community Victory in Humboldt Park Advisory Committee



Tonight a victory of enormous proportions has been won in Humboldt Park. is is a very sobering victory because we had to expose a fellow human being that for reasons known to her has had a misinformed and misguided opinion about who we are in the Puerto Rican community and our history and the struggles that many of us on daily basis fight to survive and to achieve signicance.

My heart is filled with joy as many members of our community were there, some with their little flags that somebody else had criticized as being cheap.

Their smile tonight was as big as their hearts and believe me tonight some felt that they were important and that their opinions counted.

The room was tense and the expectation that something nasty was about to happen never materialized, at the end the joy of victory was swift and the embraces and the love was heartfelt.

With this victory, we chart a new day in Humboldt Park, a new day in which many recognized our pain and realized that we need to be dealt with respect as fellow human beings. I recognize Jessie Fuentes, Janeida L. Rivera, Xavier Nogueras, Catherine Mueller Serpa, Carol Ann, Michele Miner, Mikey, Jesus the park district supervisor, Alderman Maldonado, Nilda Montanez, Raquel Torres, Pastor Ruben Escobar Pepin, Juanita Irizarry, Carl the garden guy, My mentor Maggie Martinez (You are an inspiration to me) Nancy Diaz, Marilyn Morales, the Park District Department Head and finally Amy Vega who I recognized has tried to bring and respect diversity in area that is difficult because of the realities of our changing communities in Chicago.

Lorena B. Billups Sarah and Pachi your joy and your smiles when we are feeding the geese and ducks live constantly in my heart.

To the Corillo of Humboldt Park you bring me joy and you might not think I see you, but I do and I love you.

Tonight I extend a hand of fellowship to those that don’t see things as we do. Inside our hearts there is forgiveness for the insults that we have received, we ask you to walk in our shoes and join us in the fellowship known as Humboldt Park.

Originally published on

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During 38th Puerto Rican Peoples Parade: Nancy Franco Maldonado’s life Celebrated- Orlando Victims Commemorated- Oscar López Rivera’s Freedom Demanded

Posted on 04 August 2016 by Kevin Garcia

Thousands of people gathered on Paseo Boricua on Saturday, June 18, 2016 to celebrate the life of our very own Nancy Franco Maldonado- who posthoumously served as the 2016 Grand Marshal; to remember the victims of the Orlando, Florida massacre under the slogan “Con Orgullo y Duelo”; to commemorate the 50th Anniverary of the Division Street Riots of 1966. The Parade was led by Ald. Roberto Maldonado and Nancy’s family, and included a large contingent of people in solidarity with those massacred in Orlando and demanding the release of Oscar López Rivera.

Screenshot 2016-08-04 10.54.28

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Fíjate – There Is No Democracy in Puerto Rico: The Farce of the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009

Posted on 07 May 2010 by alejandro

On April 29, the United States House of Representatives approved the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009 or Bill 2499, leading the push for a nonbinding referendum on Puerto Rico’s status with the U.S. Nothing is new and certainly, nothing is certain.

In 1998, the Young Bill passed through that branch of the U.S. legislature by one vote and stalled in the Senate. In response to the inaction of the U.S. government, under the pro-statehood regime of then-Governor Pedro Rosselló, an island-wide and nonbinding referendum was held. The option, “None of the Above” won. Twelve years later, another pro-statehood regime, now under auspices of Governor Luis Fortuño and his right-hand man, Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, who is the island’s only representative to the House, is pushing for another Congressional referendum. This time though, it passed the House by 273 votes, with 169 in opposition. Is this bill really providing democracy to Puerto Rico?

One problem: Puerto Rico has never, ever, in the entire 112-year history of the U.S. occupation of the island, has been allowed self-determination. Every organic act by the U.S. Congress has been without the full consultation of the Puerto Rico people.

The Foraker Act of 1900 removed the martial law inflicted on Puerto Ricans since 1898 and established a governor for the island – handpicked by the U.S. President, of course.

The Jones Act of 1917 imposed U.S. citizenship onto Puerto Ricans just in time to draft its men into World War I.

In the 1922, U.S Supreme Court case, Balzac v. Porto Rico (the U.S. changed “Puerto” to “Porto” to fit its linguistic needs after the 1898 invasion), the island legally was defined as “belong[ing] to, but…not a part of” the United States.” That legal standing of being an unincorporated territory has not changed, even with Public Law 600 signed by then-President Truman in 1951, allowing for the island to have a constitution. The only vote of that era was whether Boricuas wanted not to have a constitution or to have one. There was no option for a constitution as an independent or sovereign republic or any other status option for that matter.

By July 25, 1952 (the anniversary of the U.S. invasion) when Puerto Rico officially became the “Estado Libre Asociado” or “Freely Associated State,” and the Puerto Rican flag, which was illegal until then, became the official (and redesigned) symbol of this new “autonomous” territory, some believed that the island reached a new era. Though it was officially removed a year later from the list of colonial positions (at the request of the U.S government, not the Puerto Rican people) from the United Nation’s decolonization committee, the U.S. Congress still is the dominant force on the island. The Puerto Rican Constitution itself says that all Federal Laws supersede island laws. Thus, there is no “free association.” That is a bold face lie!

What is an even greater lie is the idea that Bill 2499 will provide democracy for Puerto Rico. The U.S. Congress has never granted a legally binding (meaning they are obligated to follow through) referendum for the Puerto Rican people to decide our future, despite having full constitutional authority on the island. Bill 2499 does not even provide a binding referendum for the island. It provides a two-step symbolic nonbinding vote. First, whether Puerto Ricans are content with the present status or not. If not, a second vote will be held with the options of Statehood, full Independence, Associated Republic (independence with some matters in the control of the U.S.), or, yet again, “Commonwealth.” To the lament of Fortuño, the “Commonwealth” option was tagged on last minute, which clearly contradicts the first vote, but is a clear message that the U.S. Congress is afraid that people will vote for statehood. Even the estadistas recognize that the U.S. is conducting a colonial enterprise on the island, benefiting through millions of dollars the Social Security benefits that Puerto Rican workers feed into the system, the billions of dollars spent on U.S. consumer products, and the multiple military installations.

Furthermore, what the pro-statehood movement is not telling the Boricua people is that the United States Congress, even if Puerto Ricans one day go insane and vote for statehood by an immense majority, does not have to grant it. It’s a nonbinding referendum! Moreover, even if the path to eventual statehood is made by the U.S. Congress, it could take nearly 100 years, as it did to states like Alaska and New México. Just like the 1922 Supreme Court case, Puerto Rico is like a T-shirt, to be taken off or buttoned up when convenient; it is just property that happens to have 4 million people. True democracy is allowing the Puerto Rican people to decide. Democracy is self-determination, not lies.

by Xavier “Xavi” Luis Burgos

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A Day In Support of Affordable Housing The ¡Humboldt Park NO SE VENDE! campaign collects 451 signatures for Bickerdike’s Zapata Apartments

Posted on 07 May 2010 by alejandro


On April 24 the ¡Humboldt Park NO SE VENDE! Campaign, alongside the Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation (BRC) organizing department, mobilized nearly 70 community residents and activists to collect 451 supportive signatures for the not-for-profit housing corporation’s Zapata Apartments in Logan Square, located along the Armitage Avenue Corridor. The petition drive included a day of conversation about the project, a door-knocking workshop, and two and a half hours of door-to-door canvassing from North to Central Park Avenues and Armitage to Kimball Avenues.

The massive petition drive was organized around the theme of supporting affordable housing in our community. As one volunteer, Ramón Sánchez, 18, stated: “I do support affordable housing. There are some people, like minorities, who need it because of the [bad] economy.”

Although, the ¡Humboldt Park NO SE VENDE! Campaign focuses primarily in the Humboldt Park community through the organizing of residents to support the development of Paseo Boricua, the organization holds onto the idea that an attack on affordable housing anywhere is an attack on affordable housing everywhere. Nowhere is this truer than in the recent onslaught of misinformation surrounding Zapata Apartments promoted by self-interest groups and individuals such as the so-called “Armitage Neighbors Together” (ANT).

In 2003 community-led planning sessions by the Logan Square New Communities Program identified a shortage of affordable rental housing near under-enrolled elementary and middle-schools. BRC was asked by the Logan Square Neighborhood Association to be the developer of this much needed housing. As Executive Director of BRC Joy Aruguete eloquently stated, “All of our projects are at the behest of community residents.” For 42 years, the aforementioned housing organization has done just that, building about 1,000 rental units of affordable housing in communities such as West Town, Hermosa, Logan Square and in Humboldt Park, where it recently completed its massive three-building La Estancia project on Paseo Boricua.

Zapata Apartments has been in the process for nearly five years and just when it was gaining steam, ANT emerged with a long-awaited attack, even going as far as suing the city of Chicago for supporting the project. Throughout the years BRC has met with thousands of community residents in the area, even those who initially opposed the project. “We have no reason not to meet those who are anti-affordable housing,” said Aruguete. However, it is not dialogue that this opposition is seeking. Many of ANT’s members are real-estate developers angry at the prospect of a community developing on its own terms without the need for the ridiculous profits of condos that have displaced thousands of working Puerto Rican and Latina/o families from Logan Square and Humboldt Park.

In a lawsuit filed just moments after ANT officially applied for a non-profit status, the group claimed that the Zapata was an “unconstitutional re-zoning of certain property” and includes “invidious spot zoning,” or in other words, complete disregard of the surrounding nature of the community. In actuality, the project itself will fill lots that have been vacant for two decades with 1-3 bedroom apartments and even a play lot for community youth. Furthermore, the possible tax revenue generated from the project could reach up to $72,000 a year, when there was once none.

Also, the units will be priced 50 percent below of the median area income. In response, BRC addressed the major concerns specified in the lawsuit and is still continuing with the zoning process. The petition that they have put out also seeks to gain some Tax Increment Financing (TIF), a rare occurrence for affordable housing in Chicago, for a project in the 35th Ward.

by Xavier “Xavi” Luis Burgos

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Fíjate: Is Latina/o a Race?

Posted on 18 April 2010 by alejandro


Xavier “Xavi” Luis Burgos

“I’m going to put Black as my race,” says Andrew Torres, 16, a student of the Barrio, Arts, Culture, and Communications Academy after school program in Humboldt Park. “But, you look white and got red hair!” I exclaimed with a smile of interest. “Yeah, but don’t Puerto Ricans got Black in us?” he responded with a look of confusion. “Yes we do,” I said.

The U.S. Congress requires for the counting of every person in the United States every 10 years and the U.S. Census Bureau puts a lot of work in making this happen. After everyone is counted the results play a very large role in deciding on how much funding is allocated to schools, special projects, political representation, among other important things. In many ways, the relationship between the government (on all of its levels) and communities are determined by who and how many live in those areas. For Latinas/os, the census plays a unique role.

Now that “Hispanic” and “Latino” are official options in the census since 1970, they are still ethnic options, not race options. In other words, the U.S. government recognizes that there are Latinas/os in the U.S. (now more than 40 million of us and growing!) but we are not at the level of “white,” “Black,” or “American Indian” as a category.

First of all, the idea of race is different in Latin America. My student could easily pass for white, but his entire life is not that of a white person, but of a Puerto Rican growing up in Humboldt Park among people of color. He also recognizes that Puerto Ricans are a mixed people – Taíno Indian, European, and African. The U.S. Census Bureau’s neat categories do not fit the Puerto Rican or Latin American reality of a beautifully mixed people. That is why we are forced to choose, but is that choice really reflective of our history; of our experiences?

I consider myself a “Black” Puerto Rican – my African ancestry is more obvious in my skin-color and facial features more so than other Boricuas, but is my experience the same as an African-American? What about my uncle Junior? He is very light-skinned, but was called “spic” when he was in the South because they knew he was not white. Is he going to put “white” on the census?

It also must be noted that being Puerto Rican is different from being Mexican or Dominican or any other ethnic group from Latin America. The grouping of all these different nationalities into one category like “Latino” is limiting, but making them all separate races will not solve anything. “Latino” is empowering. There is much that makes us distinct, but there is so much that binds us. The great show of solidarity between the Puerto Rican and Mexican communities in the Immigration Movement proves that.

In the end, my people, put on the census that you are “Latino” and do it proudly. We all must be counted – only then could we tell this country that we are a people to be recognized and our issues must be taken into account, from immigration to gentrification. Also, make sure you put what Latina/o grouping you are from. In communities like Humboldt Park, which is experiencing displacement because of rising rents and property taxes we need to know how many Puerto Ricans are still here so we can continue to build what we have struggled so much to build. Those Paseo Boricua Flags are not going anywhere! “¡Boricua, Házte Contar!

As for the “race” question, put what you like. I put “other/ mixed” because that is what I/we are. As a Mexican educator put it, we are la raza cósmica, the cosmic race.

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Fíjate – I’m more Puerto Rican than you…

Posted on 16 January 2010 by alejandro


Xavier “Xavi” Luis Burgos –

As I have previously addressed in this column, the issue of Puerto Rican identity – especially for those who are from the Diaspora, i.e “Diasporicans” (Boricuas in the U.S.) – is a complicated topic and even a painful one to discuss. Who defines who is and is not Puerto Rican? Why do Puerto Ricans, who are second and third generation, some of who cannot speak Spanish and many who have only seen the island in photographs, proudly display the flag on everything, from tattoos to car stickers? Are Puerto Ricans on the island really in a privilaged place, in terms of knowing who they are and where they stand as a people?

To research these questions, I turned to  none other than Facebook, the social networking website, to began a discussion. I began it with a statement that I do not believe (and it will explain itself as you read), but wrote to stir peoples’ minds and emotions. I hope the comments selected will enrich your opinions and thoughts on Puerto Rican identity. The following is an abridged (and grammatically correct) version of what transpired vis-à-vis Facebook:

Me: I’m more Puerto Rican than any Boricua born on the island because I have had to fight for my identity instead of having it handed to me…

Diasporican #1: AMEN!!!! How can I even begin to explain that to others??

Islander #1: Everyone has their own experiences… I don’t know if you are more Puerto Rican, but ultimately it is the way you feel…

Diasporican #2: It’s interesting you say that because I’ve had this discussion with my cousins on the island, and they just don’t get it.

Islander #2 (my aunt): And of course I disagree with you at least 50% of the way. You know your history, you fight for Puerto Rican rights in Chicago, you live the flavors. You might be more Boricua than some, but not most. There are a couple of people that discredit our island but most of us love our background, we do have a love-hate relationship with Puerto Rico, but you have to live here (not read about it or experience it during vacations) to understand that. That’s why no one from here will ever understand or accept when you say you’re more Puerto Rican than the ones living here, but if that’s how you feel, okay.

Islander #3: You think we have not fought for our identity Xavi? You don’t think as a Puerto Rican I struggle everyday to show these mofos we exist? You don’t think it hurts when I see maps in history books that don’t even have the island on it? You think our identity is handed to us just because we were born en la isla? La isla, it’s already a dilemma, my man. It’s even harder, you know why? Because I was born in a place like no other, with our own traditions, culture, climate, people, our own self; yet, we are not recognized. We are “La isla del Encanto” con el desencanto de no ser nada. Ni esto, ni lo otro. We, too, have to fight for our identity, much more than anybody. ¿Dónde nació Pedro Albizu Campos, Ramón Emeterio Betances, Juan Antonio Corretjer? No fue en New York, no fue en Chicago; yet, this are los proseres, the ultimate fighters of our independence, the people you emulate. ¿Dónde nació Lolita Lebron? Donde nació Filiberto? Who organized and said to La Marina, “Salte pal carajo de Vieques?” Nobody gave me my identity, nobody gave nobody anything. You could be from NY, CHI, Puerto Rico; if you identify yourself as a Puerto Rican, you are still looking for your identity and ESPECIALLY if you were born in Puerto Rico.

Me: I’m loving this discussion. I do have to say that identity is much more complicated than anything one thinks. I, myself, began this discussion with an essentialist view of identity… and I did it on PURPOSE. Do I believe Puerto Ricans on the island or in the Diaspora are more Puerto Rican than each other? NO! Because we are a nation of 8 million, not just 4 million, on the island or in the Diaspora. The point of initiating this discussion was to: 1) To prove to everyone, even my dear Titi, that it is painful and wrong to say a person is “more” than someone else, especially in terms of identity and 2) To see the different reactions between my friends, who were born or live on the island and those who are “Diasporicans.” The differences are clear. All those who were born or live on the island reacted negatively to what I had to say while my fellow “Diasporicans” cheered me on. Isn’t that ironic? LOL

Me: Oh, and by the way, even though I agree with you 100%, Lolita Lebron joined the Nationalist Party in New York City. The campaign for the freedom of the five Nationalists began in Chicago, the last grouping of Puerto Rican Political Prisoners were almost all born in Chicago or in New York, and the campaign for their freedom started in Chicago. Betances wrote his most eloquent writings in Paris and Hostos did so in the Dominican Republic and Chile, and Juan Antonio Corretjer wrote “Boricua en la luna” about Boricuas in Chicago, which is the greatest proof that without the Diaspora, Puerto Rico would be incomplete. Oh, and the Vieques movement would not have been successful if it wasn’t for the compañeros in the U.S.

Islander #2 (my aunt): Well, I think you’re full of it. Even if you were trying to make some kind of experiment, of course we were going to get offended. It’s like if I say I’m more American than any soldier who has served in Afghanistan or Iraq. But you’re right; there is a difference between Puerto Ricans who live in the U.S. than those who live here in Puerto Rico. We think it’s very funny when you people demand liberty, equality, march, and complain about our social/democratic issues when all you know is due to books and newspapers. When you all move here, work here, and contribute here, then we can actually talk more seriously.

Me: Ok, Titi, let’s take back that Puerto Rican flag you hold so dear and bring it back to New York where it was made. When you’re willing to do that, then I’ll say what you wrote makes sense. Also, who’s “you people?” Let’s not be essentialist here and regroup everyone into one experience and category. I guess my “experiment” didn’t really work, because you still feel you have the right to define who’s a “true” Puerto Rican…

Through observations, I believe that the two things that elicit the most discussion from Puerto Ricans and even divides the Puerto Rican family is the conversation on puertorriqueñidad and the status of Puerto Rico. In terms of identity, as you have read, there is no easy way to describe what constitutes a “true” Puerto Rican and what criterion exists to allow someone into the category of “Boricua de pura cepa.” But here is some food for thought: when one actively excludes people from a community, you are actively developing feelings of anger, sadness, and confusion. However, one also fans the fires of empowerment and affirmation. It is like when my grandmother came to the U.S. in 1967 and was “greeted” with racism. In turn, she held onto her Puerto Rican roots and worked to instill in her children and grandchildren the beauty of being Boricua, even though most were not born there. It pushes me to tears when some of my cousins call me “American” instead of what I truly am. How can you tell a little boy, with a smile on his face and a Puerto Rican flag, during a hot summer day during the parade that the symbol he carries does not represent him? And that is why the “Diasporicans” cheered me on in the discussion. They, too, know the pain of being ignored, the love they feel for a country that sometimes wants to forget that half of its citizens left the island, but those same citizens will have Puerto Rico in their hearts and memories, forever.

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Singing Plena in the Snow: Paseo Boricua Parranda Puertorriqueña 2009

Posted on 16 January 2010 by alejandro


Xavier “Xavi” Luis Burgos –

Nostalgic for the sweet sounds of Boricuas singing and playing music outside your door during the Christmas season? Miss the smell of roasting lechón and the echoes of scratching güiros? For the past two years the ¡Humboldt Park NO SE VENDE! campaign has organized the Paseo Boricua Parranda Puertorriqueña, a special Puerto Rican tradition full of music and food, in order to promote Paseo Boricua as a safe, culturally relevant, and family-oriented space during the holiday season. ¡Humboldt Park NO SE VENDE! is an organization that works to connect housing resources to longtime community residents who are threatened by displacement (i.e. gentrification) and raise community consciousness on the issue.

In its third year, the Paseo Boricua Parranda took place on December 19, around the anniversary of the adoption of the Puerto Rican flag.  Over 100 participants visited nearly two dozen businesses down Division Street while traveling the parranda route, including an endearing visit to the Teresa Roldán Paseo Boricua Apartments for the elderly and the Institute for Puerto Rican Arts & Culture.

During the chilly and snowy evening, the event began at La Estancia Apartments with over 30 people enjoying hot chocolate, Puerto Rican pastries, and literature related to the parranda and its history in this community. The local bomba y plena group, Nuestro Tambó, serenaded the eager parranderos with mostly traditional Christmas plena songs, including Dame la mano paloma, but also added two new songs created by the NO SE VENDE campaign, with lyrics related to the struggle to preserve the Puerto Rican community in Humboldt Park.

As the singing and dancing parranderos visited each community business, receiving food and drink in gratitude for the mobile party, the group grew larger and defiant of the cold. What began as a relatively small group grew to over a 100 people who paid homage, with music, food, and waving Puerto Rican flags to dozens of community pioneers at Teresa Roldán Paseo Boricua Apartments, an affordable housing complex that remains a symbol of hope and resilience for the longtime residents of Humboldt Park. The event ended at the Institute for Puerto Rican Arts & Culture for the closing of its “EsCultura” exhibition of Puerto Rican sculpture.

The ¡Humboldt Park NO SE VENDE! campaign continues to plan events such as the parranda, which has potential to connect important resources to longtime community residents, support community businesses, preserve Puerto Rican traditions and experiences, and to promote Paseo Boricua as a historical center of Puerto Rican life in Chicago that is worth maintaining and building.

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Fíjate– Those Who Opposed Pastor De Jesús Just Didn’t Get It!

Posted on 30 July 2009 by alejandro

Rev. Wilfredo De Jesus

Rev. Wilfredo De Jesus

by Xavier “Xavi” Luis Burgos

For the past few weeks now there has been quite a few news coverage (especially with a firestorm from the “blogging community”) on the possible new Alderman of the 26th Ward, Rev. Wilfredo “Choco” De Jesús of New Life Covenant Church. Sadly, much of this coverage has been negative.

When I first discovered that longtime Alderman Billy Ocasio was resigning in order to join the Governor’s cabinet and that he chose Pastor Choco as his replacement, I thought “this could not be a better choice!” May I ask, which Puerto Rican led institution in Humboldt Park has hundreds of members who are able to promote and organize such a electoral campaign? Next to none! Which community has been able to engage a church and a pastor in important social issues, from community preservation (look at all the real estate New Life has saved from greedy developers!) to immigration reform (by a Puerto Rican church, nonetheless!). In the last few elections in the 26th Ward, which is facing the displacement of its longtime residents (gentrification), we have been bombarded with puppet candidates who wanted to only serve the interests of greedy real estate developers and other anti-Paseo Boricua forces. Of course, some people remained myopic.

A few weeks ago, I was one of 20 of the mostly Puerto Rican representatives of different community organizations that work on LGBTQ issues who attended a meeting at La Bruquena restaurant a few weeks ago with Pastor De Jesús. The meeting was allegedly called in order to better understand the Pastor’s views on LGBTQ issues. The biggest surprise though was that the vast majority of those who attended did not live in the 26th Ward! Actually many those in attendance represented organizations that did not completely focus on the Humboldt Park community or the 26th Ward. Interestingly enough, it was from those who did not live here that questions about important community issues like gentrification, the development of Paseo Boricua, violence, and education …etc were absent. The only thing on their minds was this: “You are an evangelical pastor, therefore you hate gay people and you hate us, don’t you!?” Up to that point I have never seen a group of people so concerned by just one issue – which is not surprising if you do not live or work in this ward.

Nonetheless, it was from those activists who live and work in this community, who organize LGBTQ events (which most of De Jesús’ discontents do not attend), and fight homophobia and transphobia on a daily basis in the schools, programs, and institutions of Humboldt Park, that a real dialogue took place. In my experience, Humboldt Park and Paseo Boricua has become such a welcoming space for LGBTQ Boricuas and Latinas/os and that just did not happen because of the “Boystown elite” opened people’s eyes. Look at Vida/SIDA as a community institution – where else do you see so many openly lesbian, gay, and transgendered people freely doing outreach to all the members of this community? Where else would there be a transgendered Queen for a major parade other than the Puerto Rican Cultural Center’s Desfile del Pueblo/ Puerto Rican People’s Parade every June? People have struggled and died to make LGBTQ Boricuas and Latinas/os feel welcomed in their OWN community so we would not have to suffer in the racist, sexist, and elitist so-called “Boystown.”

To all of De Jesús’ discontents, there are a few things to take into consideration. Which evangelical pastor would meet with a group of LGBTQ leaders? Which evangelical pastor in Chicago would explain herself/himself on her/his beliefs to such a group? Which evangelical pastor would support the construction of a gay homeless shelter in Humboldt Park? He may believe things that I disagree with, but in the end, there is room for common ground, common understanding and respect, and for struggle and engagement. That is what participatory democracy is about.

Another point to consider is that, for those who live and work in the 26th Ward would know that a great and visionary Alderman like Billy Ocasio would never choose a replacement who would not work for and support the diverse experiences of his residents and the major initiatives of this community. Sadly, some have eaten the apple and have abandoned his legacy and vision.

Furthermore, without a community there will be no struggle to engage people (leaders or residents) in anything. As the Puerto Rican (and Latina/o) community continues to suffer gentrification then the forum in which to dialogue about important issues such as these becomes less and less available. It just becomes talking heads speaking to an imaginary community. If the Puerto Rican community is desecrated then where will all the LGBTQ Boricuas be? Boystown! Ha! Puerto Ricans were gentrified from Lakeview decades ago. For those who claim to be “Latina/o leaders” take this into consideration: Being a “Latina/o leader” means nothing if you do not have a community to lead. The next Alderman (or Alderwoman) of the 26th Ward will have to understand that in order to truly lead our community into a brighter future. ¡Fuácata!

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[lang_en]Fijate– Bikes, Yuppies, and Internet bochinche[/lang_en]

Posted on 25 May 2009 by alejandro


Xavier “Xavi” Luis Burgos

“I am going to have a VERY hard time being at the Ciclo Urbano event if the No Se Vende people are talking about wanting white people to get the hell out in front of my children and waving Puerto Rican flags in our faces, ” wrote a new resident of Humboldt Park in an e-mail to the head of West Town Bikes on April 23.

Thus began a comedic fiasco well deserving of the title given to this commentary, but here is some background information first.

Humboldt Park, in the last few years, is a community where homes, full of memories, are bulldozed and gutted, where families are pushed away by ridiculous increases in rent and harassment by greedy developers and city inspectors, and age-old murals are covered-up.

It is in this current reality that West Town Bikes, which is a mostly white-owned and frequented bike shop in Humboldt Park, decided to open-up a shop on Paseo Boricua. And with surprise of some, all this took place with the strong support of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center (PRCC). Why, you must be thinking, would an organization like the PRCC, which has been a leader in promoting and maintaining a Boricua cultural and business corridor along Division Street, facilitate this business’ arrival here?

Well, one of the answers is because Puerto Ricans bike too! Puerto Ricans in Humboldt Park also have huge health disparities, which has pushed-up the rates of diabetes, obesity, and cancer. The PRCC also has programs like CO-OP Humboldt Park and Muévete, which work on the issues of health, including promoting physical activity. And most importantly, it is because being pro-Puerto Rican does not mean being anti-white or anti-new resident.

Those Paseo Boricua flags are gates of welcoming and gates of dialogue. West Town bikes respects what the Puerto Rican community has worked so hard to create on Division Street and decided to join the dialogue with its new shop, Ciclo Urbano. They also planned to celebrate this new relationship by organizing a large procession from their old location with the PRCC’s Humboldt Park NO SE VENDE! Campaign (HPNSV). However, not all new residents, including the one who sent the e-mail, is as respectful or understanding of all this.

The e-mail’s author (who I will call “angry neighbor,” since her personal identity is insignificant, but her actions are representative of a greater problem) also complained that HPNSV practices “reverse racism” and has a “nationalist platform.” The angry neighbor made it a point to proudly claim that she was white, despite the fact she is “half Hispanic” (her words), as a way to connect with the head of West Town Bikes. To sum it up, the e-mail’s tone was along the lines of “we need to do something about these Puerto Ricans.” West Town Bikes did not buy it, and we all enjoyed a procession on May 1 that involved over 200 people.

Sadly, divisive tactics like those of angry neighbor is something that will only further destroy all the work that people have put into developing Paseo Boricua. There is an ever-present sense of “yuppie isolationism,” where many angry new residents, longing for another Bucktown, seek to replace Paseo Boricua with their own visions of community instead of working with the existing community.

In the “city of neighborhoods” – a slogan that emerges from a horrendous history of racism and urban segregation – one can explore the world in only a few miles and a few minutes. In this global city one can find Pilsen, where México lurks in old Czech architecture and Bronzeville, the historic center of the “Black Metropolis.” One could also hear the loud sounds of Café Colao coffee brewing behind its counter, snapping its customers back to la isla.

Once I gave a tour of this community to a group of young basketball players from Puerto Rico, who never stepped foot outside the island. While I explained the meaning of some murals and pointed to the iron emblems detailing symbols of Boricua culture on the light poles, I overheard whispers of excitement: “Wow, I feel like I’m in Puerto Rico. I feel like I’m home.”

The communities that I mentioned suffer from stains of ghettoization, places where people of color were forced to occupy, but are beginning to experience cultural and economic rebirth – development from the vision of its longtime residents. Sadly, Chicago, like most U.S. cities, is on a path of Disneyland cookie-cutter dreams– a metropolis of Lincoln and Wicker Parks for miles and miles. Like Pilsen and Bronzeville, Paseo Boricua and all of Humboldt Park, is in the path of the slow-moving bulldozer called gentrification. Our destruction will only please people like the angry neighbor and that is why we cannot let it happen anymore.[/lang_en]

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[lang_en]Recent Book Highlights Struggle To Save Community Mural – La Crucificación de Don Pedro Albizu Campos[/lang_en]

Posted on 28 February 2009 by alejandro


Roz Diane Lasker and John A. Guirdy recently published the book, Engaging the Community in Decision Making, summarizing how five community partnerships attempted to address the growing field of community participation, which promises to include formerly excluded community members from decision-making process. One chapter of the book is dedicated to the saving of the Humboldt Park Mural, La Crucificación de Don Pedro, located on the corner of North Avenue and Artesian Street. The chapter deals with the community’s attempt to save the mural against the backdrop of the forces of gentrification and the intersection of the work by Alderman Billy Ocasio, Near Northwest Neighborhood Network (NNNN) and the Puerto Rican Cultural Center.[/lang_en]

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