Ian Torres, Latino Cultural Center Student Educator
The Union for Puerto Rican Students (UPRS) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) kicked off the 22nd annual Pa’Lante conference on Monday, April 11 with a panel on the 1966 Division Street “riots” and the formation of the Latin American Recruitment and Educational Services (LARES) program at UIC in 1975. The invited panelists included Linda Coronado, former recruiter and advisor for LARES and former commissioner of the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Latino Affairs under the Harold Washington administration; José E. Lopez, executive director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center and professo
r at UIC, Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) and Columbia College; and Michael Rodriguez- Muñiz, Provost’s Postdoctoral Scho
lar at the University of Chicago. Michael Rodriguez-Muñiz provided a historical overview of the riots and the relationship between politics and students in the 1960s. Linda Coronado spoke about the activism that organized the Mexican community, in particular in Pilsen and NEIU, and how organizing strategies led to the creation of Benito Juarez and Roberto Clemente high schools and LARES. Professor José E. Lopez discussed the ways Mexican and Puerto Rican communities cooperated to create the Rafael Cintron Latino Cultural Center and LARES at UIC. All three panelists emphasized the intersectionality of community organizing, the urgency for developing programs in higher education for Mexican and Puerto Rican students in the late 60s and 70s and highlighted the importance of the development of the Latino/a consciousness through unity among Lati
no/a and other cultures. On Wednesday, April 13th the conference continued with poet, writer and educator Rich Villar. Mr. Villar spoke about his experience as a Puerto Rican poet in the United States and how writing shaped his experiences and life. He presented work from his book, Comprehending Forever, and examined Puerto Rican literature as a form of resistance. On Friday, April 15th the 22nd Annual Pa’lante Conference came to a close with Dr. Yarimar Bonilla, Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers University. Her presentation touched on the current fiscal crisis in the island and the statehood party in Puerto Rico. Through her research she looks at similar cases in the Caribbean and Latin America and their effects. The 22nd annual Pa’Lante conference was organized by UIC students and members of the student organization Union for Puerto Rican Students together with the UIC Chancellor’s Committee on the Statues of Latinos (CCSL), LARES, the UIC Rafael Cintrón Ortiz Latino Cultural Center (RCOLCC), the Latin American and Latino Studies Program (LALS) and the PRCC.