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Cartas a Karina Book reception: Poets Martin Espada and Juana Goergen “We Stand with Oscar”

Posted on 10 December 2016 by alejandro




On Oct. 28, 2016 The National Boricua Human Rights Network sponsored a book reception for Cartas a Karina with Puerto Rican poets Martin Espada, who wrote the introduction to the book, and Juana Iris Goergen, poet and professor at DePaul University. During the light dinner, at Nellie’s Puerto Rican Restaurant on Paseo Boricua, Jose E. Lopez, Puerto Rican Cultural Center Executive Director, introduced Juana Goergen, who spoke about reading the letters as they were published in Puerto Rico’s newspaper El Nuevo Dia several years ago, and how she was moved by the correspondence. She felt deeply honored to be able to speak about the Letters to Karina”, and composed an original piece of prose, for the event.

In Chicago, the book is available for $15.00 at 2546 W. Division St. It’s also available online at:

Martin Espada, also in town to promote his new book, “Vivas to Those Who Have Failed”, spoke movingly of his father, famous civil rights photographer Frank Espada, and growing up in Brooklyn. He referenced it as he spoke about Chicago, saying, he felt that he had come home when he saw the gigantic Puerto Rican flags on Paseo Boricua. “I’m from Brooklyn, and proud of it- but there is no place like Chicago for Puerto Ricans,” Espada said. He ended by saying, “Years from now, I want my grandchil- dren to know, in this moment, such an important moment for the Campaign, that I stood with Oscar like all of you stand with Oscar.”

by Alejandro Molina, National Boricua Human Rights Network.

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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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34 Mujeres por Óscar-CHI Speak on Radio Show ‘On The Count’

Posted on 07 March 2016 by Kevin Garcia

by Diana Castillo,

Screenshot 2016-06-08 13.14.39National Boricua Human Rights Network Members of “34 Mujeres por Óscar” New York and Chicago spoke on the radio show “On The Count,” hosted by Steven Mangual, on Saturday March 19th. The segment highlighted the support and enthusiasm that women of the movement are generating for the release of Óscar López Rivera. 34 Mujeres por Óscar exists to publicize the López Rivera case and demanScreenshot 2016-06-08 13.14.48d his release. On the show members called on other women to join and support the campaign by attending rallies the last Saturday of the month in Chicago and the last Sunday of the month in Puerto Rico, Boston and New York. 34 Mujeres por Óscar groups hold monthly demonstrations in Puerto Rico, New York, Boston and Chicago in solidarity with the
Puerto Rican political prisoner who has been incarcerated 34 years. On The Count identifies and examines criminal and social justice issues directed towards reducing the inappropriate reliance on punishment and mass incarceration as the primary response to social and economic inequality. It is the only radio program produced and hosted entirely by formerly incarcerated men and women. Listen to the radio show at: http://

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34 Mujeres X Oscar-CHI Take Logan Square

Posted on 07 March 2016 by Kevin Garcia

by Janeida Rivera,

Screenshot 2016-06-08 13.12.14National Boricua Human Rights Network Saturday March 26th, 34 Mujeres X Oscar congregated in Logan Square for their monthly rally to call for the freedom of Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Oscar López Rivera. This group, a collective of women that is an initiative of the National Boricua Human Rights Network, convenes monthly and chants and hold signs that demand Oscars release, asking cars passing by to honk in support, displaying their social media hashtags for the curious commuters, their 34 Mujeres X Oscar Chicago banner and Puerto Rican flags for each minute representing the length of years Oscar López Rivera has been incarcerated. Logan Square has received this group warmly and people who pass them, honk, raise their fists, shout affirming things and stop for more information about the Campaign to Free Oscar. Several local residents have volunteered to help distribute flyers. Screenshot 2016-06-08 13.12.23Men are welcome to join in support of this women-led monthly gathering and hold signs, collect petitions, chant or carry a banner and children are also welcomed to shake a maraca, dance, chant and participate as well! Please join us for our next 34 Mujeres X Oscar – CHI gathering on April 30, 2016 to have time to park, grab a flag, poster, maraca or flyers/petitions at 2:30PM and the event begins and ends promptly from 3:00PM to 3:34PM. Bring friends and family and let’s gather in the name of justice and peace! View a short video at http://bit. ly/34MujeresChiMarch2016 “Justicia y paz, ni un año mas!”

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Lin-Manuel Miranda: Give Puerto Rico Its Chance to Thrive

Posted on 07 March 2016 by Kevin Garcia

Screenshot 2016-06-08 13.01.59On Aug. 31, 1772, a hurricane devastated the island of St. Croix, the home of the teenage Alexander Hamilton. In a letter one week later, he described the force of the storm and the destruction it caused as “sufficient to strike astonishment into angels.” His letter included this plea for help for his countrymen: “O ye, who revel in affluence, see the afflictions of humanity and bestow your superfluity to ease them. Say not, we have suffered also, and thence withhold your compassion. What are your sufferings compared to those? Ye have still more than enough left. Act wisely. Succour the miserable and lay up a treasure in Heaven.” So vivid was his account of the disaster that the letter was published in a newspaper in the Virgin Islands, The Royal Danish American Gazette, and used to support relief efforts for the island. I’m invoking Hamilton’s words today, in this plea for relief for Puerto Rico. Much has been said about the dire economic situation pressing down on Puerto Rico. I am the son of Puerto Rican parents. What can I say to persuade elected officials and policy makers to act? What influence do I have to change the minds and hearts of those in Congress to put aside their differences and deal with the crisis confronting 3.5 million American citizens in the Caribbean? I’m not a politician or an economist. I’m a storyteller. More than 150 schools on the island have closed. San Jorge Children’s Hospital, Puerto Rico’s largest pediatric hospital, has been forced to close two wings and 40 rooms, and cannot afford to hire the nurses it needs. It’s estimated that a doctor a day leaves the island. Engineers, accountants, blue-collar workers and entire families are emigrating daily. According to the census, Puerto Rico has lost 9 percent of its population in the last decade, with 84,000 leaving last year alone. This is not the Puerto Rico I remember. Every summer my sister Luz and I stayed with our grandparents in Vega Alta, a small town on the northern coast. My grandfather managed the town credit union — a real-life George Bailey if ever there was one. My grandmother owned a travel agency, Viajes Miranda. My aunt Yamilla owned the school supply store next door, and I sold candy to returning students in August. In Vega Alta, I was “el nene de Luisito, que se fue a Nueva York” (“The son of Luisito, who left for New York”) but welcomed every summer as a cherished member of the community, despite my halting Spanglish. I walked from one end of town to the other, waving at the business owners, many of whom went to church with my grandparents, feeling a sense of community that often eluded me back in New York. Today, most of those storefronts — the school supply shop, the travel agency and many more — are boarded up, with little hope of housing new businesses. Residents like the town’s mayor, Isabelo Molina, and my uncle Elvin, who heads a Pentecostal church there, are working hard to change that. They have learned to stretch a dollar as far as it can go. But Puerto Rico’s $72 billion debt, which is equal to about 68 percent of the island’s gross domestic product, thwarts efforts for economic development. There are remedies when governments run up debt. If Puerto Rico were an American city, it could declare bankruptcy, as Detroit did in 2013. If it were a state, the federal government would surely have already declared emergency measures to help the most vulnerable. But since it is a territory of the United States, there is no system in place to handle the financial and humanitarian crisis that is happening right now. Please let us not get bogged down in Puerto Rico’s status. If a ship is sinking, you don’t ask, “Well, what type of ship is it and what type of ship should it be?” You rescue the people aboard. What Puerto Rico needs, as a first step, is what almost any other company or government has — the ability to restructure its debt. Congress can make that happen. The island is in danger of defaulting on some of its larger loans and it is already being sued by creditors. An act of Congress in support of restructuring would help bring creditors to the table to develop a workable plan that could satisfy debtholders and relieve the punishment of the people of Puerto Rico. This is not a Republican issue. This is not a Democratic issue. This is an American issue. When 3.5 million of our citizens face the consequences of financial collapse, we should act. Because Puerto Ricans can vote neither for the president nor for congressional representatives, it falls to us of Puerto Rican heritage in the continental United States to amplify their plea. By chance, I picked up Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton in 2008 and found the inspiration that changed my life. I recognized, in Hamilton’s ability to write his way out of his difficult circumstances, a kindred spirit. I write about Puerto Rico today just as Hamilton wrote about St. Croix in his time. Congress, please don’t play politics with the lives of 3.5 million Americans. Succor the miserable and lay up a treasure in heaven. We are counting on you.

Lin-Manuel Miranda is a composer, librettist, actor and the creator of “Hamilton” and “In the Heights.” This article originally appeared in the New York Times, March 28, 2016

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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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Posted on 07 March 2016 by Kevin Garcia

by Hugo Teruel, LARES Director

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Over the past 40 years, the Latin American Recruitment and Educational Services Program (LARES) has been a think tank for Latinos in higher education at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Operating on a mission of innovation, activism and leadership has produced alumni that have gone on to be great contributors to our community. LARES has been instrumental in not only making sure that doors of opportunity for Latino students are open at UIC, but that students are successful in finishing their college degree. Students see LARES as a home away from home, a space where cultural, emotional and social ills that Latino students face are understood, navigated and surmounted. LARES has always provided that sense of belonging to students and challenge students to their maximum potential. The LARES 40th Anniversary Summit held March 7th with UIC students, faculty, staff, community partners and external institutions reinforced the mission and vision that LARES embodies. The Summit panel recounted the historical importance and legacy that the LARES program has left on many individuals, our community and the university. Notable presenters at the Summit included UIC Chancellor, Dr. Michael Amiridis; Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia; Congressman Luis Gutiérrez; Dr. Leonard Ramirez, Former Director of LARES; Ada López, Former University of Illinois Board of Trustee, José López, Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center and Deborah Santiago of Exelencia in Education. Each presenter recognized the tremendous critical and intentional efforts and services that LARES has provided throughout the years in the areas of recruitment, admission, academic advising and retention of Latinos at UIC. As we move forward, LARES will continue to develop strategies that are effective to Latino students and continue to collaborate with internal and external partners to foster successes for Latino students. For more information contact LARES at (312) 996-3356.

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