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Posted on 02 January 2016 by Kevin Garcia

translation by L. Alejandro Molina,

Screenshot 2016-06-08 09.58.51

Gubernatorial candidates for the various political parties in Puerto Rico, as well as the independent candidates, united to call on the president of the United States, Barack Obama, to release political prisoner Oscar López Rivera, who tomorrow- Three Kings Day – marks his 73rd birthday. Manuel Cidre (independent), Alexandra Lágaro (independent), David Bernier (PPD), Pedro Pierluisi (PNP), Ricardo Rosselló (PNP), María de Lourdes Santiago (PIP) and Rafael Bernabe (PPT), joined their voices in a video produced by the not-for-profit film corporation Caserío Films, to send a direct message to Obama, and in English. The video was filmed yesterday at the Ateneo Puertorriqueño by filmmaker Tito Román Rivera, with the help of Alvin Couto and Karla Victoria Pesquera. “We did it as part of the campaign for the release of Oscar López, which we hope will get stronger this year before Obama leaves office. It’s a way to show that this is a call by the people in a unitary act that transcends the political question. It has become a matter of human rights” explained Román Rivera. “We know that Obama has the power. That with a single piece of paper he could sign and grant Oscar’s release. If he’s pardoned several criminals and the Cuban political prisoners, we don’t understand why he hasn’t yet taken the time to release Oscar when his release has become a call throughout the world,” added the director of the documentary ‘El Antillano.’” Román Rivera emphasized that all the candidates were willing to take part in the video and had no qualms with the proposed message. “Each one gave it his/her own color, form, but came out well. Some had commitments which prevented them from showing up, like Pierluisi, who was out of the country, but they did what they could with their cell phones. They all cooperated, were very accessible, and delivered a message of unity,” the producer explained. According to the filmmaker, this act demonstrates that politicians can transcend party lines and unite with a will to achieve an objective. “It’s a cause for hope for us as a people and that is precisely what Oscar represents,” he noted. In the video the candidates appear interspersed, saying the following message was translated into Spanish: “Today I want to urge president Barack Obama to consider the case of the political prisoner Oscar López Rivera. Oscar has been serving a sentence for the last 34 years in federal prison in the United States. Longer than that other patriot Nelson Mandela, whose freedom you once vehemently demanded. I want to add my voice to the thousands of people in Puerto Rico who are asking you, president Obama, to liberate Oscar López Rivera. We are sure that he will abide by the law and be able to share with his loved ones during the rest of his life. The people of Puerto Rico have clamored for his release by presidential pardon, and we expect you will extend it before Oscar reaches his 73rd birthday on January 6th , 2016. I urge president Obama to consider Oscar López’ case. While I don’t condone his actions, it is the ripe time to take action. Exercise your presidential power to set free Oscar López Rivera. It is time for Oscar to come home. Listen to our voices and liberate Oscar as soon as possible. President Obama, do the right thing. Release Oscar López Rivera. Let justice be finally done. We want Oscar home. We want Oscar home.” The video, which includes no credits for recording, editing or production, ends with a call for people to make their own videos and share them on social media with the hashtag #ObamaFreeOscar

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Posted on 02 January 2016 by Kevin Garcia

by Samir Chopra FOR ALMOST four years now, I have worn a shirt bearing the legend “Libertad Oscar López Rivera Ahora”. This portable messenger was a parting gift from a Puerto Rican family whose vacation cabin abutted ours on a beach on the island of Culebra; my wife befriended them one night, and we were, much to our delight, taken in as honorary family members. It was the first I had heard of Oscar López Rivera. On rare occasions, someone – a Puerto Rican student in a political philosophy seminar, a graduate student in a university library, a Puerto Rican family in Brooklyn – recognizes and acknowledges the man on the shirt and offers me congratulations. Perhaps the Spanish inscription – an epiphany of otherness – places him in a greater anonymity than the one he already suffers. Oscar López Rivera is undeservedly the most obscure of American political prisoners. A former member of the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN), a clandestine paramilitary organization that advocated political independence for Puerto Rico, López Rivera is serving the 34th year of a compounded 70-year sentence for seditious conspiracy plus conspiracy to escape. He was offered clemency by President Bill Clinton in 1999, but rejected it. Now 72 years old, he remains in a federal prison. López Rivera’s imprisonment, just as his homeland’s political status, remains a mystery to most Americans. But they, and his refusal to accept clemency, entail a political and moral crisis that cannot be looked away; his case and the history that backgrounds it force a searching reexamination of what it means to be American. López Rivera reminds Americans of a colonial and imperial past whose contours are still visible. Despite a stingy record for commutations and pardons, President Barack Obama could and should use his constitutional powers to commute Oscar’s punitive sentence and grant his immediate release. For the past few years, the Cabanillas of Houston, a successful middle-class immigrant family, proudly Puerto Rican, have made López Rivera’s release their enduring cause. The Cabanillas’ campaign joins the tireless work of Puerto Ricans on behalf of their political prisoners, for every decade since 1898 has seen independentistas in prison. Those on the “outside” have persisted in fighting for their rights and their freedom. These struggles have led to US presidents commuting sentences of Puerto Rican political prisoners: Harry Truman commuted the death sentence of Oscar Collazo in 1952; Jimmy Carter commuted the sentences of Nationalist Party prisoners in 1977 and 1979; and Bill Clinton did the same with the sentences of López Rivera’s codefendants in 1999. Some of the activists who worked on those campaigns still work to free López Rivera. They include the human rights group Comité Pro Derechos Humanos and the People’s Law Office; they helped create the environment into which the Cabanillas family entered. Their combined efforts and commitment to free López Rivera have elevated his struggle to American consciousness; they have compelled me to write this essay. La Isla Bonita Puerto Rico has been a US possession since it was “acquired” — in the usual colonial fashion, through armed disputation — from Spain in 1898. Puerto Ricans became US citizens in 1917, just in time for 20,000 “Boricuas” to be drafted to serve in World War I. Almost a century later, Puerto Ricans living on their island are not allowed to vote in presidential elections; Puerto Ricans have attained neither statehood nor independence. Along the way, they have suffered the indignity of a ban — imposed in 1948 — on owning a Puerto Rican flag, singing a “patriotic song,” or advocating for independence. Their curious political status, a “United States territory,” which is not a state, but whose residents are given automatic US citizenship, ensures economic and political exploitation by the “mainland.” Today, Puerto Rican demands for full political and legal rights resurrect a debate whose most radical form is a fading memory. During the 1960s and ’70s, young Puerto Ricans in the US — inspired by the global anticolonial and national liberation movements that gave those decades their most distinctive political imprint — railed against the terrible triad of colonialism, racism, and exploitation embodied in American sovereignty over Puerto Rico. Even as young Americans — including López Rivera, who had moved to Chicago as a teenager — were drafted for the war in Vietnam, the discourses and actions of Puerto Rican independentistas continued in the US. On returning from Vietnam — where he earned a Bronze Star for his service — López Rivera plunged into the political activism and community actions then underway in his Chicago Latino neighborhoods; he founded cultural centers and high schools, and, as a community organizer, helped establish rehabilitation programs for drug addicts and prisoners. Armed clandestine political organizations — like FALN, one among many that had sprung up in Puerto Rico — represented one pole of Puerto Rican political movements; its tactics — which did not eschew violent direct action — placed it a rung higher in the ladder of political escalation. Between 1974 and 1983, FALN claimed responsibility for over a hundred bombings of military, government, and economic targets in and around Chicago and New York, which caused the death of six and injuries to dozens (there were no deaths or injuries in Chicago-area bombings). FALN’s bombings — accompanied by demands for the release of fellow independentistas serving sentences in US prisons for their activism in the 1950s — starkly highlighted Puerto Rico’s colonial status; they informed the US it was viewed as a malignant occupier in zones it might have imagined national territory. These bombings did not lack justification as self-defense: the infamous 1975 bombing of the Fraunces Tavern in New York, for instance, was a direct and explicitly identified response to the January 11, 1975 bombing in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, where a CIA-trained operator detonated a bomb causing the death of two independentistas and a child and severely injuring ten others. In modern parlance, FALN was a “terrorist” group. They were treated accordingly. In 1980, 11 men and women, allegedly members and leaders of FALN, were arrested and charged with seditious conspiracy — to oppose US authority over Puerto Rico by force — and related charges of weapon possession and transporting stolen cars across state lines. López Rivera was named codefendant in the indictment. The accused — after being tried in a Federal District Court — were given prison sentences ranging from 55 to 90 years. Judge Thomas McMillen regretted not being able to give them the death penalty. In 1981, López Rivera was arrested after a traffic stop, and after being tried, was sentenced — again by McMillen — to a prison term of 55 years. Like his other codefendants, he was not charged with participating in FALN bombings that caused loss of life (though one prosecution witness testified that López Rivera had taught him how to make bombs). In 1987, López Rivera was sentenced to an additional 15 years for conspiracy to escape; in shades of the modern FBI entrapment of young Muslims in the US, this was a plot conceived and carried out by government agents and provocateurs. In 1981, the average federal sentence for murder was 10 years; in 1987, the average sentence for an actual escape from prison was less than two years. The Dangers of Sedition The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 remain a blot on American democracy; John Adams deeply regretted — till the day of his death — being their prime mover. The crimes they charge citizens with — and the notion of a political dissident imprisoned for holding political beliefs supposedly dangerous — are an embarrassment for democracies. The very idea of sedition induces puzzlement in a student of politics: how can a liberal democracy punish the entertainment of beliefs? The contemporary illegitimate child of those Acts, the charge of seditious conspiracy (18 U.S.C. § 2384), which indicts American citizens for planning to revolt in concert with others, was conceived during the Civil War but, in actual application between the 1930s and 1980s, only found one target: Puerto Rican nationalists. The accusation of seditious conspiracy is political: nothing enrages the patriot like the seditionist. He is a fifth columnist, a cancer on the body politic. The seditionist assaults the idea of the nation and offends our sensibilities by proclaiming that our idols have feet of clay. Sedition incites rebellions by encouraging citizens to rise up against their state; the existence of the seditionist is a threat to the public and psychic order underwritten by nationalist sentiment. In the old days, those who spoke against dominant paradigms, who placed the earth at the center of the universe and the like, were tortured, torn apart by mobs, burnt at the stake. Unsurprisingly, we find religious fervor in the prosecution of this variant of political heresy. Nietzsche described the punishment felt suitable for this kind of citizen as: A declaration of war and a war measure against an enemy of peace, law, order, authority, who is fought as dangerous to the life of the community, in breach of the contract on which the community is founded, as a rebel, a traitor and breaker of the peace, with all the means war can provide. The seditionist is a preacher too; he seeks to convert, to include others in his cult. These are made more sinister by the application of the term “conspiracy”: concerted planning with those of like minds. Ideally, a seditionist would be exiled or killed; the next best option is removal from public sight. At his trial, López Rivera — invoking international law — asserted that the US colonization of Puerto Rico was a crime against humanity. This language hearkened uncomfortably to the 20th century’s worst excesses. López Rivera thus declared himself a combatant in an anticolonial war to liberate Puerto Rico and invoked prisoner of war status. He noted that courts of colonial powers are prohibited from criminalizing anticolonial struggle. He also asserted that US courts had no jurisdiction to try him as a criminal; by rejecting their legitimacy, he placed himself in fundamental opposition to the United States, a nation of laws. Most insultingly, he demanded remandment to an international court and turned away from the blessings of the American republic, preferring the justice of the unexceptional world to the injustice of the exceptional nation. He presented no defense — he did not disavow his activities — and pursued no appeal. Like other Puerto Rican independentistas in US prisons, López Rivera became a political prisoner, punished for political beliefs and associations. Political prisoners are inviting targets for rhetorical and physical abuse. This process began when López Rivera received the scorn and the open dislike of the trial judge. Then, over the years, he was described — by the US law enforcement agencies, the FBI, the Bureau of Prisons, and the Parole Commission — as a “notorious and incorrigible criminal,” “a predator,” and “the worst of the worst.” This rhetoric served as precursor to, and accompanied, torture. López Rivera was transferred to maximum security prisons where for 12 years he was subjected to solitary confinement and sporadic sleep deprivation. “Torture” is a term that should make Americans uncomfortable, but in these post-9/11 days it does not; we have been instructed it is necessary to preserve the nation state, a village that needs burning to protect it. All torture is refined by its perpetrators; López Rivera’s captors are no exception. In 1998, after a dozen years in isolation, he was required to report every two hours to prison guards. This situation was to last 18 months. It has lasted 17 years. His cell was constantly searched, his reading and art materials confiscated and destroyed, and visits from family stopped. López Rivera’s speech was placed under totalitarian control: for almost 20 years, the Federal Bureau of Prisons — unsurprisingly claiming “security” concerns — denied media requests for interviews before relenting in 2013 to allow telephone interviews. The censorship still applies to in-person and on-camera interviews. These bans reek of governmental insecurity; they speak of a state afraid to hear its prisoner’s voice. In 2011, at his parole hearing, a chained and handcuffed López Rivera heard live testimony from a wounded survivor and family members of the victims of the Fraunces Tavern bombing. Their cascade of vitriolic testimony ensured that he was not released. But López Rivera was never accused or convicted of actions related to the Tavern bombing; the testimony’s service as a basis for the parole commission’s denial of parole was a legal atrocity. His parole is due for reconsideration in 2026, when he will be 83 years old. The United States’s tactics worked: they “disappeared” López Rivera. In 1999, Bill Clinton commuted the sentences of some of López Rivera’s codefendants and offered a conditional release to López Rivera: that he serve an additional 10 years in prison. López Rivera turned it down; he would not abandon his codefendants, Carlos Alberto Torres and Marie Haydée Beltrán Torres, not included in the clemency offer. López Rivera’s refusal to accept commutation not extended to his partners was a defiant act of political solidarity and a protest against the illegality of his sentence. With these gestures, he ensured a continuance of the struggle that brought him to jail in the first place; the symbolic weight of his incarceration pressed down heavier on American consciousness. The Cabanillas By 2011, Fernando Cabanillas was enjoying the fruits of a long and successful career as a clinical and academic oncologist specializing in the treatment of lymphomas at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. After moving back to Puerto Rico, his work as director of the Auxilio Mutuo Cancer Center in San Juan left him little time for politics. His daughters Maru and Marian had found successful careers in Houston; his teenage grandson Raul gave him ample joy. His wife Myrta and he looked forward to their mellow golden years, to be spent enjoying the company of their tightly knit family. But their peace had been disturbed by news of López Rivera’s continuing imprisonment, then entering its fourth decade. The Cabanillas first read López Rivera’s story in a local newspaper article about a political prisoner in jail for three decades. By then, the fervor of the ’70s’s struggles had died down; following the 1999 clemencies, supporters of the independentistas had focused on welcoming López Rivera’s codefendants home, ensuring their housing, employment, and medical care. The campaign for their release and the efforts to welcome them had been embraced by civil society beyond the independence movement. But rhetorical barrages from the mainland against statehood and independence — and political inaction — meant Puerto Rico’s ambiguous positioning in the American republic was increasingly cemented. Puerto Rico’s fate was a fait accompli; its younger generations knew little of the struggles that animated López Rivera. López Rivera’s cause, and the length of his sentence, galvanized the Cabanillas into an escalating series of actions. Fernando and Myrta had brought up their children and grandchildren with their inclusive antiracist politics. It was easy to enlist them as allies. The Cabanillas — father, mother, daughters, and grandson — began in the simplest of ways: telling others, family and friends included, about the tale of López Rivera, and later, designing, wearing, and distributing T-shirts and wristbands with slogans (and gifting them to new friends like me). These forms of consciousness raising were, as they well knew, of only limited efficacy. Early in 2013, as the 32nd year of López Rivera’s imprisonment rolled around, Fernando enlisted a cousin, Sonia Cabanillas, a professor of humanities at Universidad Metropolitana, and her husband Nick Quijano, an artist of considerable standing in Puerto Rico’s art world, and invited them for a brainstorming weekend meeting in Ponce. Myrta suggested a symbolic imprisonment where supporters of López Rivera’s excarceration would take turns being locked into a mock cell — one possessing the measurements of his actual holding location. Quijano, also an architect, volunteered to design and build two cells to scale. The Cabanillas now moved from informal support to a formally organized stance. The group “32 x Oscar” was founded: it represented 32 people, one for each year Oscar had spent in jail. Their first action — on the 32nd anniversary of Oscar’s imprisonment — was to symbolically imprison themselves for 24 hours in the Puerto Rican capital, San Juan. Comité Pro Derechos Humanos suggested islandwide actions in five cities, a suggestion adopted with alacrity. Word of the symbolic imprisonment spread; the 45 minute shifts per protester — including ones at late night and the earliest hours of the morning — were quickly claimed. The vigil began at midnight on May 29, 2013; the first prisoner in San Juan was Mayra Montero, a journalist with Puerto Rico’s largest newspaper, El Nuevo Día. By noon, the Plaza de Armas was packed. The enthusiasm was visible and palpable. Incredibly enough, Fernando received a call from the Puerto Rico Senate asking if the president, Eduardo Bhatia, could take a shift. Soon, a call came from the personal assistant of popular artist and composer of hip hop and urban-style Latin-American music René Pérez Joglar — better known as Residente of Calle 13 — informing Cabanillas of his desire to “imprison” himself with his wife and family. Pérez Joglar, a creator of socially and politically conscious music, and winner of 22 Latin Grammy Awards and three Grammy Awards, was an ideal ally. Soon, the best of all problems posed itself; thanks to increasing demand, “32 x Oscar” could not allot 45-minute shifts per prisoner. It began assigning five minute blocks and allowed group occupancy of the cells. The decades-long campaign to free López Rivera had been reinvigorated. As president of “32 x Oscar,” Fernando also organized a march in San Juan in which 50,000 people — including US members of Congress Luis Gutiérrez and Nydia Velázquez, who flew down from Washington — participated. The group’s next event — in keeping with its flair for political rhetoric — was termed “Al Mar x Oscar”: dozens of kayaks and boats welcomed a cabezudo (large papier-mâché head) of López Rivera landing in Puerto Rico in a boat. This symbolic homecoming was a masterpiece of political theater. “32 x Oscar” also directed pleas to Pope Francis, asking him to raise López Rivera’s case in his meeting with President Obama; it organized presentations at the international congresses of the Parlamento Centroamericano (PARLACEN) where Clarisa, López Rivera’s daughter, presented his case and received a standing ovation and a unanimous resolution in support. The Cabanillas’ struggle also includes traditional letter writing. In a letter to Barack Obama, Fernando noted that Nelson Mandela, much admired by the president, spent 27 years in jail for seditious conspiracy. He also noted that Obama’s own father, Barack, and paternal grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, were guilty of clandestine political activity when they participated in Kenya’s anticolonial struggle for independence from the British Empire. These acute parallels and analogies should induce discomfort in those who could, and should, care. Today, Puerto Ricans remain torn over which alternative — independence from the United States or integration into it via statehood — would be a more desirable political objective. But Oscar López Rivera’s release unites these viewpoints. When Fernando recently asked Puerto Rican youngsters if they knew who Oscar López Rivera was, back came the quick answer: “the guy imprisoned in the US.” For Fernando, López Rivera’s story speaks of a “pathetic and dreadful injustice” to a “fellow Puerto Rican” and engenders a “duty” to “redress” it. The values that animated the Cabanillas’ raising of their children suffuse their present struggle, in support of a man they have never met or personally known. For the Cabanillas, López Rivera’s death in jail would be a tragedy, one they will not “allow to happen.” Their fellow Americans should not either. Puerto Rico Today The US, ever eager to proclaim political prisoners are incompatible with democracy, shows little inclination to act in a case that cuts dangerously close to its political jugular. It continues to deny it has political prisoners; those it detains are just criminals. As López Rivera notes, this denial performs several functions: it serves to “cover up the nefarious, barbaric and even criminal acts and practices it carries out against [them]”; it serves as “license to violate […] basic human rights by subjecting us to isolation and sensory deprivation regimens”; it serves to “hoodwink its own citizens to believe that it doesn’t criminalize dissenters”; it serves to “perpetuate the lie that it is the ultimate defender of freedom, justice, democracy and human rights”; and it serves to “criminalize the political prisoners […] and to disconnect us from our families, communities, supporters and the just and noble causes we served and try to continue serving.” The blindness this denial creates need not be ours. Americans should not look away from this moral and political atrocity perpetrated in their name. We should not be collaborators. Like Fernando Cabanillas and his family, we should look closer. ¡Libertad para Oscar López Rivera Ahora! should not be chanted only by Puerto Ricans; it should be on the lips of all those who believe in justice. Author’s Note: I would like to thank Fernando Cabanillas and Jan Susler (Oscar’s lawyer, from the People’s Law Office) for their assistance in writing this essay. Samir Chopra is professor of philosophy at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He blogs at and at The Cordon at ESPNcricinfo, and is on Twitter @eyeonthepitch.

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Acknowledging El Día de los Reyes

Posted on 02 January 2016 by Kevin Garcia

by Spanish AP Class,

Screenshot 2016-06-08 09.17.02Roberto Clemente Community Academy Often we stop to celebrate or participate in traditions and holidays, but… sometimes without knowing exactly why. “What is El Día de los Reyes?” “Why is it celebrated?” “And … how?” These are all questions asked by Clemente´s AP Spanish Language and Culture students. Exploring the history and culture of “Three Kings’ Day,” students learned that, in addition to the many people who celebrate Christmas, there are also people who celebrate the day when three kings (or wise men) named Balthasar of Arabia, Melchior of Persia, and Gaspar of India – after learning of the birth of a new King – arrived to his manger where he was born, to bring him gifts. In recognition of this special day and as in the case with many holidays, there is often more than one way to celebrate. It was learned that children leave a treat for the 3 Wise Men and hay for their camels (kind of like leaving cookies for Santa) for their long journey. In return, small gifts may be left for the children. Adults spend time with friends and family and share a Rosca de Reyes, similar to a large fruitcake but in the shape of a crown. Baked inside this Rosca are anywhere from one to four baby dolls, symbolic of the baby Jesus. Screenshot 2016-06-08 09.17.09Tradition says that whoever gets the piece with the baby inside has to host a party on February 2nd. Both quite confused and fascinated by this tradition, Clemente students wanted to experience this custom first hand… and that’s exactly what they did. Students were provided the opportunity to partake in a Rosca de Reyes, gathering around it first to simply get a good look at what it looks like…and it looked just as described … a crown fit for a king! Anxious to cut the slices, afterward each student received a piece of bread…one by one…with anticipation and excitement for seeing if the baby was baked into their piece! “I ate rosca when I was younger, traditionally. It’s been years and so it reminded me of my childhood,” shared senior Armanni Varela. Students enjoyed having this opportunity to learn about this special day, taste a new pastry in class, and most importantly to learn that two of their classmates now have to – instead of hosting a party – bring a treat for the class on February 2nd! Senior Jocelyn Ramirez-Arreola expressed, “I had tried rosca before, but I didn’t know what it was for until now. My piece had the baby in it and so now I have to think about what treat I want to bring!” “We used to eat rosca in elementary school and they’d also give us some candy in a shoe. So it brought back memories. Even though we celebrated, I wasn’t really sure what the baby meant, especially since I never got it in my piece of bread.” Kyle Rodriguez. Sorry you never got the baby, Kyle! Better luck, next year!

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Comunicado del CDHPR sobre la pérdida de la esposa y compañera del Lcdo. Fermín Arraíza (Fermo).

Posted on 02 January 2016 by Kevin Garcia

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Esta mañana nos enteramos con dolor y sorpresa d ela muerte de la Lcda. Francelis Ortiz, esposa del Lcdo. y compañero de luchas, Lcdo. Fermín Arraíza. La perdida de cualquier vida de un ciudadano decente y productivo es muy dolorosa. Más aun si se trata de una servidora pública y un ser humano excepcional como informan los que la conocieron, que era la Lcda. Francelis Ortiz. El compañero Fermín Arraíza(Fermo) ha sido un colaborador de nuestro Comité y mío propio, en varias luchas como la de Vieques, los derechos humanos, la excarcelación de nuestros prisioneros políticos, la defensa del Colegio de Abogados, investigaciones sobre brutalidad policiaca y en especial, la defensa de la independencia y autodeterminación de los puertorriqueños(as). En momentos como estos, ninguna palabra humana es suficiente consuelo para la pérdida de un ser humano noble, bueno y amado, pero conforta saber que se tiene la solidaridad de nuestro pueblo para ayudar a cargar la cruz del dolor incurable y trágico que azota el alma, ante lo absurdo de esta pérdida. Solo podemos decir: Fermo; cuenta con nuestra humilde oración y el ruego de paz para tu espíritu y el de tu amada compañera. Eduardo Villanueva Munoz, Portavoz CDHPR.

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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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Misa Jibara once again brings unique cultural display to Fiesta Boricua

Posted on 18 November 2015 by alejandro


This year marked the 6th Misa Jibara hosted at Fiesta Boricua. Misa Jibara is a Catholic mass infused with cultural elements of Puerto Rico. A celebration of faith, inspiration and culture, Misa Jibara combines the Spanish language, folk music and deeply rooted Puerto Rican traditions to produce a beautiful Catholic liturgy. At a Misa Jibara, those who convey the church’s message are not the priests but rather a traditional “jibaro” musical group.

Despite breaking his leg just a few days before, the ceremony was officiated by Rev. Father Raul Morales Berrios with the help of St. Mark’s Parish newly appointed parish leader. The musical group of the diocese of Cayey, Puerto Rico, performed this year’s music.

By Militza Pagan

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Women for PASEO Thanks all the Volunteers & Sponsors for Noche Jíbara /Guayabera Gala

Posted on 18 November 2015 by alejandro


On Friday, September 4, 2015, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center hosted Noche Jibara/ Guayabera Gala at the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture in Humboldt Park.  The gala was the official kick off for the 22nd Fiesta Boricua on Saturday, September 5 thru Sunday September 6, 2015 at Paseo Boricua. The Gala not only celebrates the launch of Fiesta Boricua but it is also the opportunity to welcome the delegation from the City of Cayey, Puerto Rico; as well as its’ Mayor, the Honorable Rolando Ortiz Velázquez.  This year Fiesta Boricua was dedicated to Cayey and its’ cultural legacy.

Sandra Candelaria, Women for PASEO Program Director and her staff members (Daisy Jiménez, Sylvia Correa, and Maya Lozano) organized the Gala.  Women for PASEO appreciates the hard work and commitment from the following staff members for helping make the Noche Jibara/Guayabera Gala a successful event.  We acknowledge the excellent work and volunteer efforts from: Geniz Hernández, Viola Salgado, Lourdes Lugo, Shirley Payton and Raúl Maldonado (PRCC), Joshua Stern, Carlos Ruiz Jr, and Virginia Boyle (PACHS), Jonathan Contreras and Gregory Rueda (Integrated PASEO), Leo Lavender, Gustavo Varela, Pedro Mercado (Vida/SIDA), Luz Ramos, Digna Gerena, M Echevarria and various El Rescate residents (El Rescate), Alma Moreno (Centro Infantil), and Tatiana. We are also grateful to the staff from the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture for their much-appreciated assistance. The PRCC is extremely happy to recognize and thank the following sponsors for their generous food/beverage donations: Eddie’s Café, Roeser’s Bakery, La Bomba Restaurant, Jaffa Bakery, and Revolution Brewery. 

By Sandra Candelaria

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Puerto Rican Agenda calls on CHA to remedy dismal Latino representation in CHA

Posted on 18 November 2015 by alejandro

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Chicago, IL (November 9, 2015) – Over 40 leaders representing the Puerto Rican Agenda convened at the former management offices of Hispanic Housing Development Corporation’s (HHDC) on Saturday, November 7, 2015 for a special discussion on the dismal Latino participation in Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) programs. Special guests included CHA’s Chief Executive Officer, Eugene Jones, Aldermen Joe “Proco” Moreno (1st ward), Migdalia Santiago (31st ward), Gilbert Villegas (36th ward), and Roberto Maldonado’s (26th ward) Chief of Staff, Kathleen Oskandy.
The meeting was prompted by the unexpected termination of the HHDC contract for managing 1,100 CHA scattered sites throughout Puerto Rican Chicago for the past 26 years. Puerto Rican Agenda members as well as local elected officials are gravely concerned about the implications of another management company assuming responsibility without affordable housing experience nor capacity for bilingual services.

HHDC’s dismissal contributes to CHA’s poor record of outreach to and integration of Latinos in programming, staffing, and leadership. Twenty years ago, a class-action lawsuit initiated by Latinos United resulted in Latino consent decrees mandating CHA to target resources specifically to expand access to the Latino community, yet not much progress has been made according to a recent analysis by the Latino Policy Forum. Latinos represent roughly one-fifth of the eligible population who can access CHA programs, but less than 10 percent of current participants.

Furthermore, the recent release of the CHA Diversity Marketing and Outreach Services RFP, a legacy piece of the consent decrees and a contract currently carried out by Erie Neighborhood House, makes no specific mention of Latinos nor articulates explicit dollar amount for grant recipients. This distinct departure from previous RFPs comes as another surprise and without explanation.
Saturday’s meeting sent a clear message to CHA: Latinos are not to be discounted and deserve nothing less than proactive, intentional, and targeted investment to remedy decades of discrimination, but most importantly, to provide access to one of the most basic human rights-the right to shelter.

For more information: Cristina Pacione-Zayas

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