From small and concentrated exiled communities of tobacco workers to entire, scattered metropolises defined by our presence, the people of Borinquen in the US – the Puerto Rican Diaspora – have transformed the concept of a “homeland.” In the Diaspora our most sacred symbol was created: the Puerto Rican flag on December 22, 1895. During that month, 113 years later, a group of 50 Boricuas, mostly high school and university students, from the Puerto Rican Cultural Center (PRCC) and Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School (PACHS) on Paseo Boricua, Chicago visited New York City for the third year in a row to celebrate and honor that history and to make connections with the other side of the Diaspora.
“The realities that we face as a marginalized people are complex. Trips like the one to New York allow us to take steps towards understanding that complexity,” says Erica Granados De La Rosa, 18, a junior at Loyola University.
A Chicago-based Batey Urbano theatrical piece that is making earthquakes in the political and artistic scenes, “Crime Against Humanity,” premiered at Hostos Community College in the South Bronx to nearly 300 spectators. The play is a series of monologues that tearfully and joyfully details the multiple hardships of nearly a dozen of the Puerto Rican political prisoners.
Our Paseo Boricua group also visited the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, the oldest and most prestigious Puerto Rican archival and library institution in the country. PACHS also participated in a Three Kings Day workshop at the Museo del Barrio, the only Latina/o-focused art museum in the city.
As ambassadors of the Paseo Boricua community, students of PACHS developed an increased sense of pride in their school. Shouts of “Albizu Campos!” filled the streets, subways wherever the students went. They returned to Chicago with a newfound interest in creative cultural expression and will be working on a youth poetry compilation called the “Paseo Boricua Renaissance.”
This trip was also the first time that a coalition of Boricua and Latina/o university students from Chicago met with Puerto Rican student organizations in New York. The new university student coalition, M.L.I, met with members of Acción Boricua at Columbia University for a dialogue of student issues and a way to solidify a Diaspora student network. One of the members Raúl “Rulis” Serrano, 18, who is a freshman at Northeastern Illinois University commented that, “It helped me see education as not only a key to success but a way to understand social injustices.”
For our final day we participated in an annual event in honor of the Puerto Rican flag, as special guests of the influential Bronx politician Assemblyman José Rivera, which also happens to be around his birthday. The event takes place in the grand auditorium of Hostos Community College, an institution birthed and maintained from the struggle of the Puerto Rican community in the 1960’s and the 1970’s. With the carnivalesque sounds of the trumpets and panderetas, the celebration showcased multiple Puerto Rican forms of music.
“I believe the New York trip was important because… I was given the chance to learn about my history and my culture…” says Jessie Fuentes, 17, a senior at PACHS. “The trip was a real eye opener. The many young people [on the trip were] so well rounded and passionate about their community and education…” says Serrano.[/lang_en]