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La Marqueta of East Harlem revives the Spirit of Lares with Don Rafael Cancel Miranda

Posted on 21 November 2016 by alejandro

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A crowd of 400 plus full of patriotic energy in the La Marqueta, in East Harlem waited anxiously to hear the words of their National Hero on Friday, September 23, 2016.

This year we had the privilege to honor Don Rafael Cancel Miranda and our commemoration of the heroic people of El Grito de Lares of September 23, 1868 in the affirmation of nationhood. Don Rafael and his comrades illustrated the transcendental passage of a struggle of resistance against colonialism from one generation in the 19th Century to another in the 20th Century. Don Rafael brought us back to the 1950’s. He reaffirmed our historical memory of the heroic actions of Lolita Lebron, Irvin Flores, Andres Figueroa Cordero and himself, all lived at that time in New York City (the diaspora), when on March of 1954, they marked a historical event that shocked the foundations of US imperialism and modeled for the rest of oppressed nations, in particular, Latin America, the route to liber- ation. Don Rafael said: “What motivated me as a young man of 23 to go to Washington, DC on the attack on Congress was the LOVE for my people”.

He explained the farce of the US in its establishment of the Commonwealth and lack of self-determination in Puerto Rico. Then he assures that 61 years later a er spending almost 30 years in the worst prisons in the US, he feels vindicated that now the US Supreme Court and Congress agrees that Puerto Rico did not obtain any form of sovereignty in 1950s. He spoke of the brave compatriots, women and men that were imprisoned in 1980s, that includes Oscar Lopez Rivera. He spoke of the heroic actions of five women that lived in the diaspora. Again, reaffirming the important role of the Puerto Rican diaspora in the struggle to free the homeland.

Clarisa Lopez, Oscar’s daughter, spoke of the importance to mobilize to Washington, DC on October 9, 2016 and urged people to sign up for bus trip on the table of literature. Over 60 persons signed up that night and over 300 petitions were singed and 500 palm cards distributed.

The crowd’s applauses and chants were louder than the sounds of the train that passed above us. The chants of “FREE OSCAR” transcended the iron pillars of the structure and hopefully reached to the White House for the immediate release of our beloved Oscar Lopez Rivera.

We heard performances from our favorite performers Fernandito Ferrer and La Banda Acustica that played their recently release CD “Mi querido Rafael” songs of different genres that explains all of Don Rafael’s life and struggle.

This year, El Grito de Lares marked another historical event that will remain in our historical memory forever. i?Que Viva Puerto Rico Libre!!

By Ana M. Lopez, NYC Coordinator to Free Oscar Lopez Rivera

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In La Marqueta Retona; New York Welcomes Gutierrez

Posted on 21 November 2016 by alejandro

Hundreds Applaud, Cheer Gutierrez and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito call for Oct. 9 Interfaith Convocation and Cultural Celebration



















On September 17, 2016 a special and spirited rally was held in the historical site “La Marqueta” in East Harlem to Free Oscar Lopez Rivera. La Marqueta is a market built underneath the metro north train system that has been renovated into a special space for Puerto Rican cultural expression and fortification of identity. Thus renamed “La Marqueta Retona”. It is, in essence, an outdoor theatre with a Caribbean touch with “kioskos” that sell “alcapurriaspastelillos” and other “cuchifritos” for the community to enjoy. It is an space where artist and musicians share their talents with free community performances.

On this date, “salsa” day, “La Marqueta” was visited by over 500 people. The community embraced the humanitarian rally for our beloved patriot Oscar who has been in prison for more than 35 years. Proclaimed by many the “Mandela of the Americas”, has become a symbol of unity and love for the Puerto Rican people. Special guests at- tended this rally all the way from Chicago. Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who has embarked on a journey from the East Coast to the Midwest to Free Oscar Lopez Rivera, spoke in a very moving fashion to the hundreds present. Jose E. Lopez, Oscar’s brother was also present.

Over 1,000 fliers were distributed for the Interfaith Freedom Convocation on Oct. 9 to Washington, DC in the event and community, 200 petitions were signed, T-shirts bearing the words “Obama: Free Oscar Lopez Now!” were sold, and hundreds of persons took turns taking pictures with the life-size image of Oscar.

The humanitarian spirit spread, the reception was filled with warmth, and the community of East Harlem asked that we rally as much as possible. Agreed, until Oscar returns home!

by Prof. Ana M. Lopez NYC Coordinator to Free Oscar Lopez Rivera


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Nationalism, Transna- tional Solidarity and Oscar Lopez Rivera

Posted on 21 November 2016 by alejandro

On Saturday Sept. 24 at El Museo del Barrio, NYC Coun- cil Pres. Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Queens College Pres. Dr. Felix Matos Rodriguez organized a forum on Oscar Lo?pez Rivera which featured Puerto Rica National Hero Rafael Cancel Mirada. Rafael entered el Museo del Barrio anked by Positive Workforce members who presented him with a safety vest, a union helmet and chanted ¡Viva Puerto Rico Libre!

As he entered the auditorium, the audience enthusiastical- ly rose and chanted support for Don Rafael and for independence for Puerto Rico. Distinguished Dr. Felix Matos, President of Queens College introduced the panel of speakers. First was Clarisa Lo?pez Ramos, daughter of Oscar Lo?pez Rivera, who read a very moving letter from her father to Don Rafael. Next, Dr. Margaret Power, history professor at Illinois In- stitute of Technology, spoke about the transnational support for the struggle for Puerto Rican Indepen- dence throughout Latin America. Prof. Ana Lo?pez, professor at Hostos Community College, then gave an impressive account of the organizing for the October 9, 2016 rally in Washington, D.C. to free Oscar Lopez. Don Rafael then gave an impassioned speech focusing on how proud he was to be Puerto Rican and that he was not sorry that he attacked the U.S. Congress.

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New Life Covenant Church Initiates National “Love Life”’Campaign

Posted on 04 August 2016 by Kevin Garcia

By Veronica Ocasio,

New Life Covenant Church On Tuesday, July 12th, Pastor Wilfredo “Choco” De Jesus, Senior Pastor of New Life Covenant Church kicked-off his national “Love Life” campaign as over 400 families marched up the hill at their Humboldt Park campus and read the names on the 352 white crosses of all the people killed in Chicago since January 2016. They will continue to add crosses to remind people that we all must be part of the solution in ending the senseless murders in Chicago. Screenshot 2016-08-04 10.36.48Pastor Choco shared the following sentiments. • This past month has been a sobering reminder that evil exists all around us. We are living in perilous times in which hate and the devaluing of life through violence is dominating the headline news and perpetuating fear among all who witness these heinous acts almost in real-time. My deepest condolences to all the families who have lost loved ones to hate and violence in Orlando, Louisiana, Minnesota, Dallas, Chicago and all around the U.S. and the world. • In Chicago, the increase in violence is one of the greatest challenges we are currently facing. According to the Chicago Tribune, on average, 10 people a day are shot and innocent children are in the direct line of fire. Gangs, drugs, poverty, economic and educational disparities are the primary causes of the violence plaguing poor communities of color like Humboldt Park where New Life Covenant Church’s Main Campus is located. • Churches need to be a catalyst for change by going outside the four walls and building bridges with the police, community organizations, residents, youth, politicians, schools and yes, gang members, drug addicts, parolees, prostitutes and others to be a source of hope, to help build relationships that foster reconciliation, understanding and peace. • Change requires time, a long-term commitment and a lot of prayer. The Bible tells us in Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

• My hope is that our “Love Life” Campaign will challenge churches across the U.S. to engage their neighborhoods by hosting community events, by meeting with the police and serving the least of these. To bring the hope and love of Christ to all they encounter.

On Saturday, August 6th from 10am – 2pm New Life Covenant Church (3400 W. Division St.) will be hosting their annual back-toschool event “HopeFest” highlighting their “Love Life” campaign. They will be giving away FREE book bags, school supplies, health/dental screenings, community resources, haircuts and provide a fun and safe children’s area for all the families who attend. For more information please call (773) 384-7113.

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March-April 2016 (English-Spanish)

Posted on 17 April 2016 by Kevin Garcia

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Click on image to view PDF

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UTC Revels in Successful Run

Posted on 30 March 2016 by Kevin Garcia

UrbanTheater Company celebrated the final performance of José Rivera’s “Adoration of the Old Woman,” directed by Juan Castañeda, on Friday March 13 with a sold-out closing party complete with music, food, and family at their newly renovated Batey Urbano space on 2620 W. Division St.

The rainy afternoon began with coquitos and a performance on Spanish guitar by Armando Quintero that set the tone for the event with intriguing melodies and rich percussive beats foreshadowing the dramatic moments of the play.

As lights grew dim, the thick feel of a closing performance hung in the air and delivered – actors dug in deep for their final portrayals in front of a packed house for the Midwest premiere. The cast rose to the challenge of navigating the changing landscapes presented by the play – part ghost-story, part political commentary, and part love-triangle – with especially notable performances for the demanding roles of Adoración (Melissa Duprey) and Doña Belen (Nydia Castillo).

Following gran aplausos at curtain call, the audience filed into the lobby for a home-made dinner of arroz con gandules and mostaccioli enjoyed over jazz saxophone and guitar accompaniment by JL Music, with Roy McGrath on saxophone and Hans Luchs on guitar.

Community attendees included Juan Ramirez, founder and artistic director of the former Latino Chicago Theater Company who paved the way for UTC; UTC Co-Founder Madrid St. Angelo; Juan Linares the Executive Director of LUCHA (Latin United Community House Association); Monica Torres-Linares, Managing Counsel at Justicia Attorneys; and Melinda Power of West Town Law. Out-of-state visitor Vicki Grise, playwright of The Panza Monologues, was also in the audience visiting from New York.

Up next at UrbanTheater Company is “Lolita de Lares” by Migdalia Cruz that will run from June 10-July 10 with previews June 6-9. The play explores the remarkable and real-life story of Dolores (Lolita) Lebron, a Puerto Rican Nationalist Party member who served 22 years in prison for spearheading a 1954 armed uprising in the U.S. House of Representatives. Tickets are available now at UTC is currently in its 10th season with funding from the Chicago Community Trust.

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Posted on 07 March 2016 by Kevin Garcia

by Deborah López President,

Chicago Chapter, NACOPRW The Chicago Chapter of the National Conference of Puerto Rican Women (NACOPRW) commemorated Women’s International Day by being the first chapter to organize an informational forum on the crisis in Puerto Rico and its impact on stateside communities. The event titled, “A Women’s Perspective: Puerto Rico’s Human Rights Crisis” was held at the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture on Saturday, March 12, co-sponsored by Screenshot 2016-06-08 13.00.58PRCC. Over 80 guests attended the forum, representing generations of women and men in solidarity who share our vision for a more equitable society. The crisis in Puerto Rico is chipping away at basic human rights such as education and health care, and we urge everyone to choose how they can help. Attorney Wilma Reveron Collazo, visiting speaker from Puerto Rico, described historical facts that led to this state of emergency affirming that this crisis has left the women, head of households, in the most vulnerable position in the society along with the elderly. An experienced presenter, Reveron presented a complex reality in a conversational way and helped put a face on the crisis. As she stated: “…es que la crisis tiene cara de mujer.” Clarisa López is one of many women directly affected. She shared personal anecdotes about her father Óscar López Rivera whose disproportionate sentencing have internationally galvanized all sectors of society asking for his release because it’s unjust. When confronted with injustices, it moves us to speak in one voice. At this juncture we call upon women of all sectors to join advocacy efforts to relieve Puerto Rico’s human rights crisis and to free Óscar López Rivera.

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In Chicago Political Leaders Establish Puerto Rican Agenda For 2016 elections

Posted on 07 March 2016 by Kevin Garcia

by Hannah Rank As Published in Medill Reports Chicago, March 8, 2016 A quiet chatter filled the cafeteria of ASPIRA Business and Finance High School on March 4th, Friday night. Loved ones and old friends greeted one another heartily. On a vaulted stage positioned on the other end of the room sat a group of seven chairs lined up in two rows. The chairs began to fill slowly. First a professor from Hunter College, then two top administrators of the the high school took a seat. Then the 30th ward alderman, Ariel Reboyras, positioned himself in the front right chair. On the other end of the row sat the up-and-coming 35th ward alderman, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, who after less than a year in the City Council has already made quite a splash. Finally, State Senator Iris Martinez of the 20th district and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-4th) entered. Once the Screenshot 2016-06-08 12.59.31elected leaders had settled on the stage, José López, leader of the Puerto Rican Agenda, the organization hosting Friday’s event, motioned for the attendees to take their seats. The crowd had a familiar comfort. But this was no casual get-together; Illinois pre-eminent Puerto Rican leaders don’t often gather publicly in the same room. The topic of discussion: Puerto Rico, their “tierra.” It’s in serious debt, and they’ve come to galvanize support and discuss solutions. “Tonight is the first time Puerto Rican elected leadership, along with leaders from the local Puerto Rican Community are publicly coming together to discuss these concerns,” Cristina Pacione-Zayas, the co-chair of the Puerto Rican Agenda, said in her introduction. “This presidential election is very critical, and we really have a grand opportunity to put these issues on the map and to really do something for our community.” First to speak was Edwin Melendez, Director of The Center for Puerto Rican studies at Hunter College. He explained the scale and implications of the current debt crisis plaguing the island. “Because we are in junk bond territory – there is no value to the debt that Puerto Rico has access to – the most recent administration cannot borrow any money,” Melendez said. “So, the fight right now is that we need some kind of territorial bankruptcy to protect the commonwealth and the corporations from the debt that they have to pay.” Right now, because Puerto Rico is not a state; under U.S. law the island’s municipalities may not file for bankruptcy protections. Meléndez said nearly half of Puerto Ricans on the island are living in poverty. “Because of that, we have an unprecedented migration to the U.S. All our communities are receiving newcomers,” he said. Melendez noted that one state receiving new Puerto Ricans is Pennsylvania, poised to be a swing state in the elections. Gutiérrez was the keynote. Screenshot 2016-06-08 12.59.46The congressman, who like the other speakers seamlessly alternated between English and Spanish, used his time to frame the need for political unity of all mainland Puerto Ricans. In his speech, Gutiérrez announced a plan to establish a National Coalition of Puerto Rican elected officials. Though he noted there were other Latino delegations in elected leadership, he said it was important now to establish a particular cause for Puerto Rico. “We are going to celebrate that we are one. It doesn’t matter if we are Dominican or Colombian. It doesn’t matter if we came from Ecuador or Salvador or Puerto Rico or Cuba,” Gutiérrez said. “But we all have a very particular responsibility and that’s with the island of Puerto Rico. So I’m going to continue to champion the cause, but I’m also going to raise my voice for Puerto Rico.” He argued the debt was not the entire fault of Puerto Rico, but instead illuminates larger policy problems implemented by the U.S., where the mainland has impeded industry from flourishing. Specifically, he noted the lack of agricultural development on the tropical island, with a majority of the produce being imported via U.S. Customs. “When are we going to be given the ability to harvest?” Gutiérrez asked. “In Puerto Rico, we produce what we don’t consume and we consume what we don’t produce.” Martinez publicized a national summit of Puerto Rican leaders, to take place in New York in April, two months before the Democratic caucus in Puerto Rico on June 5 and another six weeks before the Democratic Party convention at the end of July. “That’s going to be a very powerful message, bringing together all the Puerto Ricans all across the United States together in Nueva York and starting the movement that we need that’s long overdue,” she said. Ramírez-Rosa closed by reiterating what others throughout the night addressed: what they see as a hypocrisy that underlies the notion of the Puerto Rican debt repayment. “No, we reject this notion that the island of Puerto Rico has to pay this debt. Because you have exploited us for hundreds of years,” the alderman said. “We need to reimagine what it is to advocate in the face of this economic crisis, and I think that we should say no to paying that debt.”

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Posted on 07 March 2016 by Kevin Garcia

by Norman Bristol Colón,

National Puerto Rican Agenda HERSHEY, PA – The Pennsylvania Democratic Party adopted the Humanitarian and Fiscal Crisis in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico as the focus for their spring meeting. More than 300 state committee members and state democratic leaders gathered in Hershey to hear from Governor Wolf about the budget impasse. Candidates for U.S. Senate, PA Treasurer, PA Auditor General and PA Attorney General were among the guest speakers. The resolution was adopted unanimously by members of state committee who are elected by Democratic voters in Pennsylvania. “The current fiscal and humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico has indispensably provided an enormous opportunity for the 3.5 million Puerto Ricans living in the island and the 5+ million more living all across the United States to embrace in unison a voice for justice and equality. On March 2, 2017, it will be a 100 years since President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones Act granting US citizenship to Puerto Ricans. This historic event was as much driven by global circumstances as it was driven by the security interests of the United States. Yet, almost 100 years later, Puerto Rico has never experienced the challenge of today,” said Norman Bristol Colón, PAforPR Coalition. “It is our goal to cultivate partnerships and garner support from all sectors of American society in respectfully asking President Obama and Congress to address the American Fiscal and Humanitarian Crisis in Puerto Rico. I thank the PA Democratic Party for joining their voices with the countless voices of those impacted by this crisis emotionally, socially, politically and economically,” he concluded.

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Posted on 07 March 2016 by Kevin Garcia

by Puerto Rican Agenda

On Saturday, April 2, 2016, Dr. William Santiago, Visiting Professor: University Michigan-Dearborn (African & African American Studies) & National University of Senegal, West Africa (African Studies Laboratory) presented an excellently researched speech on the fiscal crisis of Puerto Rico. It focused on the players on the hedge funds in Puerto Rico and the connections to then local political elite on the island. He referred to the US Congress proposal to create an oversight board, as a coup d’etat. He outlined four mayor premises for his presentation: 1) The majority of those who are here (as emigres or exiles) were expelled from Puerto Rico against our wishes; 2) The socioeconomic crisis in Puerto Rico cannot be understood without explaining it as a colonial (situation) enterprise which annually invests/circulates $17 and profits $35 from these 3) The decision-making process, here and there, are controlled by the same military/economic monies who don’t respond to elections. These monopolies and their caste are two wings of the same vulture, as evidenced in the tables in appendix. (See reproduction of this speech in the March- April 2016 issue of QOS). 4) That collective problems don’t have individual solutions. A lively question and answer session followed the presentation

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