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STRAIGHT TALK: Black/ Brown Building on a Broken America

Posted on 22 November 2016 by alejandro

DuSable Museum and National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture Feature Joint Event: “STRAIGHT TALK”


Headlines to headlines, we read about the many challenges, especially our young people in Chicago are faced with in this era of uncertainty. For us, it’s unacceptable. That is why, in an unprecedented move, the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture and the DuSable Museum have partnered in a timely, yet provocative discussion: STRAIGHT TALK: Black/ Brown Building on a Broken America. Featuring the renown lecturer, writer and civil rights activist, Felipe Luciano, who addressed students and discussed issues they face around Black and Brown Unity.

Billy Ocasio, CEO of the NMPRAC said, “I am proud to partner with the DuSable Museum in an educational lecture on how we must all be treated with dignity and respect. Society has looked at us as different, and while our traditions, culture, language, hair and skin color may look different, inside we are the same; we are part of the human race. I believe things can improve in our society if we learn how to value, appreciate and celebrate our differences as well as shared experiences.”

Students were selected from various high schools to be a part of something new, creative and timely in Chicago. This session took place, on October 21, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. at the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture. Students heard first-hand the struggles they face from a person who also faced those same challenges as an Afro-Latino teen and survived to share his message and to answer questions.

It is our hope that in these tough times in Chicago, our students will be able to connect, think and dream of their future. Luciano focused on adolescent challenges as well as the young students need for cultural coalition. “Young people need inspiration and guidance, not hatred and condemnation”, said Felipe Luciano.

In addition to this student event, a lecture at the DuSable Museum took place with over 300 Latino and African Americans in the audience who listened, laughed and clapped to a profound lecture from Felipe Luciano.

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Ceiba Award Gala – NMPRAC. Honoring Lin-Manuel Miranda & Antonio Martorell / Sept. 22 2016

Posted on 21 November 2016 by alejandro


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The smell of lechon (pork) filled the air as it slowly cooked in an outdoor pit for everyone to see. Traditional Puerto Rican music enchanted the ears of the 600+ people who attended the sold out event to the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture’s (NMPRAC) 3rd Annual Gala, Raices: A Celebration of our Roots.

NMPRAC’s home at the beautiful historic Humboldt Park stables on the corner of Division and Sacramento hosted this exciting evening as people were immersed in Puerto Rican art, culture, cuisine and music. It was “El Campo” meets “Hollywood” as the red carpet, theatre lighting, Puerto Rican artists and musicians playing Bomba and Plena music, transformed the parking lot into a gala atmosphere. Local legend John Roeser and Roeser’s Bakery created an ornate 3-foot cake replica of the Ceiba Award, which awed the crowd as they entered the main gallery of the museum, it was a piece of edible art.

WGNs, Ana Belaval, was the always-entertaining Mistress of Ceremonies for the third year in a row, and Segundo Ruiz Belvis’s performance dedicated to the awardees motivated both Miranda and Martorell to get up and dance, wowing the crowd.

Anne Pramaggiore, CEO of ComEd and the gala’s presenting sponsor, delivered remarks expressing their on-going commitment to NMPRAC as the rst sponsor to ever partner with the museum 15 years ago. Jose R. Sanchez, Gala Co-Chair and CEO of Norwegian American Hospital expressed his enthusiasm with the opportunity to conceptualize and coordinate several muse- um partnerships that will continue to foster mutually-benecial relationships between the hospital and the community for years to come.

NMPRAC’s CEO, Billy Ocasio, introduced a trailer documentary based on the life of the 2016 Ceiba Award recipient, legendary Artist, Antonio Martorell. is was followed by e Miracle Center’s excellent performance of a medley of Hamilton songs, which got the crowd to give these students a standing ovation.

Ocasio then presented the 2016 Ceiba Award to creative genius, Lin-Manuel Miranda. As both recipients expressed their sincere appreciation of being honored by receiving the coveted 2016 Ceiba Award, both Martorell and Miranda called on President Obama to release Oscar Lopez Rivera, making this a highlight of their speeches.

The exquisite night was concluded by Puerto Rico’s multi-award winning Jazz Artist, Humberto Ramirez, per- forming with a 16-piece band all made possible by Ventana Al Jazz and Puerto Rican Tourism.This historic evening would not have been possible without the support of NMPRAC’s Board of Directors, Sta , Sponsors and supporters and family – thank you for your ongoing commitment and dedication in preserving and promoting Puerto Rican art and culture.

For information on the NMPRAC please visit us at

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Posted on 07 March 2016 by Kevin Garcia

by Kevin Garcia, PRCC Staff

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On Wednesday, March 19th, Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez, Ald. Roberto Maldonado and other Puerto Rican elected officials held a press conference at the Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture to discuss the Puerto Rican fiscal and humanitarian crisis. Gutiérrez demanded the U.S. be held responsible for debt that has affected Puerto Rico and its citizens. He and Maldonado spoke about the legislation enacted by Congress in 1984, which denied bankruptcy for Puerto Rico’s municipal governments, agencies and bureaus. Under U.S. law, cities and towns can file for bankruptcy, but states and territories can’t; Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory. Ald. Gilbert Villegas, Ariel Reboyras and Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. spoke briefly at the press conference. ASPIRA of IL Board Chair Fernando Grillo and PRCC ED José E. López also participated. Jessie Fuentes, Puerto Rican Agenda co-chair, emceed. Over 60 members of the Puerto Rican Agenda, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center and activists attended the event.

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Conference to Host Stateside Puerto Ricans Act Against Humanitarian Crisis On The Island Of Puerto Rico

Posted on 07 March 2016 by Kevin Garcia

NEW YORK, NY – As the crisis in Puerto Rico intensifies, one group remains under reported by media and scholars alike: stateside Puerto Ricans. The number of United States based Puerto Ricans continues to increase on the heels of the crisis, and today more Puerto Ricans (5,266,738 million) live stateside than on the island. Yet little is known about the true social, economic and political implications of the crisis on this community. To demonstrate the scale and impact of the Puerto Rican crisis on the stateside community and the rest of the nation, on April 22 and 23 the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Screenshot 2016-06-08 12.27.38Hunter College, CUNY, will host stateside Puerto Ricans. Policy makers, scholars, religious and community leaders, as well as other Puerto Ricans and their allies from across the nation, will come together to map out solutions for the future. “The Puerto Rican population needs to be treated as a whole; we are 8.6 million people as one and we need to begin to understand our collective power. Only by seeing ourselves under one singular identity can we make the most progress as a people. Together, we can generate the strongest response to the crisis on the island in political spaces and create viable alternatives,” said Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez, who will be joining the April event. A range of other key voices including Congressman José Serrano, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Illinois State Senator Iris Y. Martinez, New York State Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, Counselor to the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury Antonio Weiss, labor leader Dennis Rivera and journalist Juan González, among others, will come together to take a deep dive into topics like civil rights and political participation, environment and community development, education, healthcare and more. Monseñor Roberto González Nieves, who was born in New Jersey and is today Archbishop of San Juan, will be speaking on the crisis stateside for the first time. Screenshot 2016-06-08 12.29.13“Puerto Rico is facing one of its most critical challenges in its history,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “We’re seeing medical professionals leave the island, people are losing their jobs and the healthcare system is negatively impacted. The federal government has to let Puerto Rico restructure its debt. The current crisis is affecting 3.5 million on the island and for many living stateside as well. This is a humanitarian crisis. We need to stand in solidarity with the people in Puerto Rico, and it is critical that our voices are heard. There is still much work to be done, and that’s why we need to continue to drum up support here in the U.S. and on the island. We are more powerful together, and together we will be a voice for justice that cannot be ignored.” The event expands on several events in Florida and Washington, D.C. and throughout the rest of the country that have addressed the economic crisis on the island, focusing on its implications to the rest of the nation. “Partly as a result of the dire situation of friends and families in the island, and partly due to the challenges posed by the reshaping of the stateside Puerto Rican communities, the Puerto Rican diaspora has engaged in a solidarity movement unprecedented in our history. This is a new activism, an emergence of new civic and political leaders that we haven’t seen before. We are offering up our space, our research and knowledge about stateside Puerto Ricans to advance the understanding of the economic, fiscal and unfolding humanitarian crisis in support of the active engagement of our community in finding solutions to such historical challenges,” concluded Edwin Meléndez, Director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, CUNY, the leading think taScreenshot 2016-06-08 12.29.21nk on Puerto Ricans in the United States. The event is free and open to the public. Those interested in participating should RSVP at https:// Contact Suset Laboy and Maria
Laboy via email at or phone at (212) 772-5692 for additional information.

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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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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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Caliban: an exhibition of Puerto Rican contemporary artists

Posted on 24 March 2015 by alejandro

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The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture (NMPRAC) is pleased to inaugurate the exhibition, Caliban, artists Chemi Rosado Seijo, Karlo Andrei Ibarra, Melvin Martinez, Radames ‘Juni’ Figueroa, Jesus ‘Bubu’ Negron and Alia Farid this Thursday, April 2, 2015 at 6 pm.

The exhibition brings together a group of renowned contemporary Puerto Rican artists featured in the publication, Art Cities of the Future: 21st Century Avant-Gardes of Phaidon Press, which positions to San Juan of Puerto Rico among the twelve cities avant-garde in contemporary art worldwide.

These artists echo the contemporary production of the art scene in Puerto Rico in the last decade. They are established figures that work in different media (tradi- tional and nontraditional), but all share two qualities: a commitment to experimental art and a dedication to the local environment by exploring the artistic cultural heritage and the contemporary frame of mind of Island. They live and produce their work from the Island to the world, transcending borders. “As the only Puerto Rican museum outside of Puerto Rico, we are very excited to present Caliban as the first major exhibit coming directly from Puerto Rico to our National museum since opening our doors in September of 2015”, stated Billy Ocasio, CEO from NMPRAC. The exhibition includes a selection of representative works, and commissioned work of the artists including drawing, installation, sculpture, video and painting. “Presenting Caliban is an opportunity to offer to the community new representations in art that also belong to our culture. It also brings a chance to get to meet contemporary artists with international reach that come from the Island”, stated Bianca Ortiz Declet, Director of Exhibitions and Education Programming in NMPRAC.

Under the curatorship of Marina Reyes Franco, Caliban, arises from a postcolonial perspective and uses as reference the essays Caliban, by Roberto Fernandez Retamar and El Destierro de Caliban by Ivan de la Nuez and the interpreted literary analysis of the characters in the play, The Tempest by William Shakespeare, with its references to the Caribbean and Latin American.

“Caliban, is taken as a proposal to explore a dual purpose, being a display exhibition and a space so that the narrative of the art scene is discussed by those who built it. “More than an instance of showing work is the op- portunity to retake the word about how artists in Puer- to Rico and the scene are understood and represented locally and its relevance to the art scene worldwide. The works displayed here explore various approaches thematic collaborative work, not only in the realization of parts, but the participation of the public, either through the positioning of the body or with the activation of the works in room”, stated Marina Reyes Franco.

Caliban will be presented from April 2, 2015 to July 2015. NMPRAC is located in 3015 West Division Street Chicago, IL 60622. For more information, you may contact 773.486.8345 or email Bianca Ortiz Declet

By Bianca Ortiz Declet, National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture


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Author Georgina Lázaro opens PRCC “Jornada Centenaria a Julia de Burgos” with an amazing range of presentations

Posted on 23 March 2015 by alejandro

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The love for literature and the need for creativity to be explored was the central topic of children’s book author Georgina Lázaro’s at various book readings and presentations all around our community the week of October 21-28. On the 21st, toddlers from Centro Infantil Consuelo Corretjer visited the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture (NMPRAC), where they were introduced to the book El Flamboyán Amarillo. Later that day, Georgina visited Bernard Moos Elementary where she presented a 3rd grade class with the process of how to make a book, followed by the book reading of Julia, a book dedicated to Julia de Burgos. Lazaro has received many international awards for her literature and pedagogy, including the Educator of the Year Award by the Chamber of Commerce of the Municipality of Ponce, Puerto Rico. Georgina was also received by over 200 students from different charter schools, among them Erie Charter School and Volta, who learned the process of creating a book, as well valuable information about Julia de Burgos. NMPRAC is now showing a beautiful exhibition installed by BACCA Coordinator Maria Borrero and ACA Navigator Raul Maldonado, which brings together historic images of the poet as well as a 3D painting titled: Transcendent Julia. Students were also encouraged by their chaperones and professor to walk around and learn about our Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos. The exhibition and book readings are all part of the Jornada Centenaria and centennial celebration, which includes the play Julia de Burgos: Child of Water by Urban Theater Company .

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Humboldt Park Embraces Urban Theater’s Current Production “Julia De Burgos: Child of Water”

Posted on 23 March 2015 by alejandro

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When our ensemble members read Carmen Rivera’s Julia De Burgos: Child of Water, we all knew it was the perfect play to kick-off our ninth season in Humboldt Park, the community we serve. Last February, UrbanTheater Company (UTC) participated in a unified event spanning four major cities, in a choral reading of Child of Water to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth and memory of Julia de Burgos. Jasmin Cardenas, our ensemble member, was the driving force behind Chicago’s participation in the choral reading, as well as the production of its Midwest Premiere, which was directed by ensemble member Juan Castañeda. As we fast-forward to November, UTC quickly solidified an exciting partnership with The Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture (NMPRAC), our main sponsor, to produce Child of Water at the museum. We successfully assembled an outstanding cast and production team. Carmen Rivera, the playwright, was flown out to Chicago from New York City to be with us during the hectic week leading up to opening night. José López, the Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center (PRCC), also our co-sponsors, made this possible. While in town, Carmen graciously agreed to participate in a university tour where she visited and talked to students about her play. The universities included Columbia College, University of Illinois-Chicago and Northeastern Illinois University. We were all pleased by Carmen’s professionalism, energy, charm and humility.

On November 7, we opened Child of Water to an amazing and enthusiastic sold out audience. The rest of the weekend was the same and we could not have been any more pleased. The following performance day, we conducted a post-show discussion with Carmen Rivera (playwright), Juan Castañeda (director), Dr. Liza Ann Acosta (dramaturge) and the cast. The conversation was engaging and educational for all involved. This production of Julia De Burgos: Child of Water is a true testament to the importance of UTC’s presence and work in the community. I’m truly grateful for these experiences and the partnerships we have made.

By Ivan Vega, Executive Director, Urban Theater Company

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The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture Celebrates Its Historic Grand Opening

Posted on 06 November 2014 by alejandro

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Last Thursday, September 4th, the former Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture re-opened its doors with a celebration of “Boricua” traditions and a new name. As the only Puerto Rican museum outside of Puerto Rico, the new name of The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture is very fitting.

After 15 years of renovations, the institute became a National Museum. The mistress of ceremony was none other than Ana María Belaval from Chicago’s very own WGN channel 9. CEO Billy Ocasio highlighted the evening of culture by entertaining the public with performances by Trío Superior, AfriCaribe and a fashion show by designer Michelle Gómez featuring Jaslene González, the winner of cycle 8 of America’s Next Top Model.

As part of this Grand Opening, four different exhibitions opened. “Mascarada Carnal” is an exhibition on colorful large-scale paintings inspired by the carnival and made by the artist Santiago Flores Charneco. The exhibit “What Do These People Have in Common” features a selection of letters of several world leaders written for Oscar López Rivera and asking for his unification with his community. Poets Salima Rivera and David Hernández were also honored with their own exhibits, “It’s Not about Dreams: The Artist and Poet Salima Rivera” and “Poems in Color: Homage to David Hernández”. On the newly opened second floor gallery, the museum presents “Homecoming”, a group exhibition reuniting Puerto Rican artists that are based in Chicago, featuring Bibiana Suárez, Cándida Álvarez, Edra Soto, Nora Maité Nieves, Josué Pellot and José Lerma.

The grand re-opening continued with the 14th edition of Barrio Arts Fest, during the weekend of September 6th and 7th, where over 25 different artists presented their crafts and artistic creations. This family event included poetry reading, performances by AfriCaribe, Las Bompleneras, Frank Díaz, Pocket Circus, as well as Family Mural Day sponsored by ArchiTreasures on Sunday.

This beautiful cultural institution is located in the community of Humboldt Park and will be open for all the public free of charge to enjoy its exhibitions, cultural events and future workshops and lectures on different topics related to our arts and culture. The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture is located in 3015 West Division Street, Chicago, IL 60622.

For more information, please visit: or

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