From El Barrio Que Ondee Sola by alicejenny


									Latina/o Retention Transforming the Culture of the
University Proyecto Pa Lante    Latina/o Recruitment
UIC Paseo Boricua 40 Years of Que Ondee Sola NEIU
D.A.L.E Depaul Oye P.R Colombia College Chicana/o
Community to University Pipeline Oscar López Rivera
Latina/o Cultural & Resource Center Pilsen Union
for Puerto Rican Students Latino & Latin America
Studies    Little Village ENLACE NEIU Gentriication
Latino Alliance Latina/o Faculty Ethnic Afirmation

  Latina/o Coalition
  A coalition of university student organizations in Chicago

                  Que Ondee Sola
                    Nov. 2011 Vol. 39 No. 9
   by Juan “Nito” Morales

“Transformation of the world implies                Puerto Rican political prisoners, and
a dialectic between the two actions:                Latina/o college programs are all topics
denouncing the process of dehumanization            that have been the focus of attention within
and announcing the dream of a new society”.         the framework of the Latina/o student
                                                    coalition. Today, these struggles continue
- Paulo Friere                                      as a new generation of Latina/o students
                                                    equally feels the importance in addressing
When exploring through this edition of              this issues responsibly, critically, and in
Que Ondee Sola, you will find the 2nd issue         a transformative matter. In addition, the
within a series. These issues speak to the          above quote speaks directly to the idea of
40 year legacy of Que Ondee Sola and the            human beings being able to understand the
Union for Puerto Rican Students. It is our          world around them, but more importantly,
privilege to have and announce Dr. Dragan           transform the world into a more better and
Milovanovic to share his thoughts and               just world to live in.
reflect on his experience with being advisor
for the dynamic Union for Puerto Rican       Also! be sure to sign up for Dr. Jose
Students. Milovanovic, who has been          E. López class Puerto Ricans and the
instrumental in providing an incredible      Caribbean.
amount of support towards the actions and
vision of UPRS & QOS, is a distinguished        Freedom for Oscar López Rivera!
research professor in the Justice Studies

In addition, you will also find material
relating to the legacy of the great nuyorican
poet Piri Thomas in a Death of a Boricua
Pioneer. Piri, rest in Puerto Rican paradise.
Moreover, you might be wondering what is
the meaning behind the front cover of this
edition. Well let me explain. Decades ago,
a group of Latina/o students from different
universities in Chicago formulated a
collective Latina/o student coalition
in attempts to address issues that were
directly impacting Latina/os in el barrio,
Latin America, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.
Issues such as Latina/o retention, Latina/o
Recruitment, gentrification, immigration,

                                                                              Juan “Nito” Morales

                                                                                    Copy Editor
                                                                                      Marla Mojica
  4   40 Years of Student Struggle
  7   A Reflection on Freedom
      “Some Say”
      NEIU’S Noche De Familia Celebration
                                                                                   Staff Writers
                                                                                    Alyssa Villegas
 11   From El Barrio                                                                 Jessie Fuentes
 12   “The Son Jarocho Style Comes to Seltzer Library”                             Katherin Padilla
 15   Recognize                                                                       Jennifer Luna
 16   Piri Thomas, The Death of a Boricua Literary Pioneer                         Josue Contreras
 17   Mi Patria                                                                    Franklin Ortega
 18   Behold, The Boricua Diaspora

                           Guest Writers & Artist
                                        Dragan Milovanovic
                                      Xavier “Xavi” Luis Burgos
                                        Casandra Figuerora
                                          Jacklyn Nowotnik
                                          Regina M. Torres

           Que Ondee Sola                                               Misión
    is published at Northeastern Illinois               Que Ondee Sola was established in 1972
University. The opinions expressed in Que                 and remains the oldest Puerto Rican &
   Ondee Sola do not necessarily reflect                 Latina/o university student publication in
those of the Administration. Responsibility            the U.S. Our mission is to provide the NEIU
  for its contents lies solely with the staff.           community with a relevant and engaging
                                                      publication that deals with student issues with
    We appreciate and encourage                       a focus on Puerto Ricans and Latinas/os, our
     suggestions and contributions.                            communities, and our patrias.
       Contact Que Ondee Sola
  5500 N. St. Louis Chicago, IL 60625                 Que Ondee Sola continues to affirm the right
              Room E-041                               of Puerto Rican self-determination, freedom
           (773) 442-4583                              for all Puerto Rican political prisoners, and                         support for a truly participatory democracy.
                       Que Ondee Sola

           40 Years of Student Struggle;
        The Union for Puerto Rican Students & Que Ondee Sola

Some 25 years ago I interviewed at         commemorate their 40th year as the
NEIU as one of the finalists in the then   oldest Puerto Rican student publication
named Criminal Justice Department.         in the U.S.
Professor Kingsley Clarke from the
department, while orienting me to          Born in the struggles of the 1970s,
the campus, introduced me to the           QOS and UPRS have a continuous and
Que Ondee Sola magazine and its            accomplished record of confronting
orientation. It was a pleasant shock to    issues of colonization, resurrecting
witness their                                                        denied voices,
activist on-                                                         overcoming
going agenda.                                                        lack of
I was inspired                                                       representation,
then as I                                                            and supporting
continue to be                                                       more genuine
today with the                                                       democratic
dedication,                                                          practices. On
perseverance,                                                        campus their
tenacity,                                                            leadership role
insights,                                                            in struggles
and many                                                             has contributed
accomplishment                                                       to the creation
of the staff of QOS and UPRS. In fact,     of a new minor in Latina/o studies
one of the several reasons I chose to      and a new cultural center. They have
accept the CRJ’s job offer was precisely   spoken out against the assaults on
because of this incredibly uplifting       free speech. They have exerted strong
awakening to see such constructively       pressure to hire more Latina/o faculty.
critical engagement by students with       They have galvanized a greater sense
compelling issues of the day. It is        of solidarity within the Puerto Rican
with great admiration that I briefly       student body. In the community, their

                         Que Ondee Sola
outreach to Chicago’s Humboldt           active in their communities. Many,
Park Neighborhood and elsewhere          indeed, went on to become leaders
in Chicago has provided crucial          in their community. The big names
connections between the academic         associated with UPRS – Congresman
world and real life community            Luis Gutierrez, NEIU board of trustee
struggles. They have been instrumental   Marvin Garcia, City Clerk Miguel de
in helping students from Puerto          Valle – are quite obvious. But many
Rican communities to come to NEIU        others have continued their leadership
for their studies, and have provided     role in the community, most recently,
continued support in their struggles     Xavier Luis Burgos former editor of
to complete. Nationally, we witness      QOS and member of UPRS. He works
their unwavering support for Puerto      in Humboldt Park as coordinator of
Rican political prisoners, highlighting  the after-school program at the Puerto
the great disparities of sentencing and  Rican Cultural Center, as an activist
draconic conditions of imprisonment      writer for the community newspaper
and providing greater public awareness   La Voz del Paseo Boricua, and as
about the continued U.S. colonization    an activist in the anti-gentrification
of Puerto Rico. QOS was to also bring    movement. And there are many more,
to public attention the contamination    who after attending NEIU, after being
of Vieques used as a bombing range by    actively involved in QOS/UPRS,
the U.S. military, against the wishes of continue the struggle. For many, too,
the Puerto Rican people.                 formal involvement in QOS/UPRS
                                         was perhaps their first experience in
After many years as the faculty advisor collective struggle against injustice,
for UPRS, Professor Clarke, in retiring, a line that is often crossed with much
asked me if I would be willing to        tribulation, self questioning, perhaps
be nominated faculty advisor. I was      even some anxiety; the subsequent
greatly honored and quite humbled.       experience certainly has been
Reading their magazine over the years, transformative.
keeping in touch with their struggles
on campus and off, I had been            QOS and the UPRS have also brought
extremely impressed, and continue to     attention to the continuous struggle
be, at how active and dedicated the      against U.S. domination/colonization.
students were and are, many of whom Their writings have highlighted the
continued after graduation to be quite   struggles on the main campus of the
                       Que Ondee Sola
University of Puerto Rico, even as          30 years on. He, however, remains
the U.S. press continues to pay little      inspirational to those in struggle. In his
to no attention to the campus-wide          uplifting words (QOS, July 2011):
struggles unfolding. Their support for
the Puerto Rican political prisoners has    “Stay in school, think critically, and
been ongoing. Twelve were provided          become a problem solver and not a
clemency by President Clinton in            problem maker. Fill your hearts with
1999. One reads with amazement their        love and compassion and never turn
sentences for “seditious conspiracy”        your backs on an injustice. A better and
ranging from 35 to 90 years, hugely         more just world is possible as long as
disproportional to the offenses claimed,    we dare to struggle for it. Life is all a
especially since the government             struggle, but don’t let that stop you from
was not able to convict on the basis        enjoying the good things it offers you.
of deaths or injuries sustained by          Have fun and learn.”
the alleged bombings. A number
of organizations, both national and         The members of UPRS/QOS have
international had called for their          a dream for the people yet to come,
release (i.e., American Association of      born in struggle, destined to reach the
Jurists, Subcommittee of U.N. General       mountain top from which a new vision
Assembly). More recently, Carlos            of what could be shall materialize.
Alberto Torres, allegedly in a leadership
role in the FALN was released on July       En lucha,
26, 2010, returning to Puerto Rico with     Dragan Milovanovic
a heroe’s welcome. He has returned
to the U.S. and speaks openly about         by Dragan Milovanovic
the struggle and the conditions of his
former confinement. Oscar Lopez             Distinguished Research Professor
Rivera, however, initially given an         Justice Studies Department
opportunity for clemency, refused,
insisting that he would still be prisoner
under the terms of the clemency,
continues being incarcerated, now

                          Que Ondee Sola

                   A Reflection on

                                                              by Jacklyn Nowotnik

Imagine trying to live in a room made        YOUR LIFE isn’t judged by a divine
of cold concrete and the only source         entity, where the way of LIFE and LAW
of natural light is from a small slit in     are up for ANYONE and EVERYONE’S
the wall in which they call a window…        intrupretation as they see fit, and where
and that’s if you’re lucky. In a room        being at the WRONG PLACE at the
where you’re sharing everything with         WRONG TIME can happen to anyone of
at least four other people and privacy       US. I present to you FREEDOM: A HIP
isn’t a priority. You never know what        HOP MUSICAL written by Patrick Blake
time it is, and the only thing to count      and CHI-ILL and music produced by
is the markings on the wall of someone       Manny “3-60 Tha Mack” Escalante and
else before you who attempted to keep        Omar Zamora.
track of their lost time. When you finally
decided to rest your head, the only          I have been a good friend of CHI-ILL’s
thing that lulled you to sleep was your      for years now, and about 3 years ago
personal lament which goes something         is when I first heard of this musical. At
like “I’m trapped here, learned to adapt     the time, FREEDOM was an ambitious
here. Death is a fact here; I learned how    idea that was still in the making of being
to scrap here. Watch how you act hear?       thought through, written and produced.
Wall to your back here, no more looking      It was until a few months ago did I get
back the past is the past…no more            a call from CHI-ILL asking if I would be
holding back the tears.”                     interested in participating in FREEDOM.
A few months ago, I was asked to help        Not only was I thrilled to work with
bring to life on stage the lives of so       CHI-ILL, I was excited to marry my love
many people in COMMUNITIES just              for music and theatre with the burning
like YOURS…just like OURS. Where             inspiration of realism this musical brings

                          Que Ondee Sola
to the stage.                                   excitement that I felt, I was so proud
                                                of the work put into FREEDOM for it
I was brought into the later rehearsal          brought to life the lives of many, and it
phase of the production, which initially        acknowledged a genre of music that I
worried me because I hadn’t seen any of         believe doesn’t get its due respect. As a
the other performers’ performances, nor         member of the cast, a lover of the arts,
had I heard any of their raps. However,         and as someone who is experiencing
all worries and nerves went out the             a similar situation; I am excited to see
window as soon as I opened the doors            the growth of FREEDOM as production,
to the Wit Theatre, which is where we           as well as working with the cast and
had our Chicago Reading. As I sat there         crew involved with FREEDOM in future
waiting for my cue, I was amazed as I           projects. Thank you to everyone who
watched the whole cast and crew come            made FREEDOM possible and to the
out of their comfort zones and really           people that believed in it and continues
put themselves in the acting, directing,        to believe in FREEDOM. As Tea and
sound and lighting shoes. It was almost         DZ would say “I’m ready for the world.
unbelievable to experience the talent           I know that I can take anything that’s
and creativity levels that were involved in     thrown at me and I will never break. I
FREEDOM. We has just enough time for            will never fold, I’m never letting go. I’m
one rehearsal prior to the show, and here       chasing down my dreams however far
it was…our chance to make the audience          I have to go, AND YOU CAN’T TELL ME
feel the frustration, the sadness, the love,    NO.”
the hatred, the sense of hopelessness,
the sense of family, and the sense of           If you would like to see the trailer for
realism this musical embodies. While            FREEDOM: A HIP HOP MUSICAL or read
we as a cast were performing; I could           more about it, you can visit the following:
tell our relationship to the audience was
strong because I heard them laugh, I  
heard them sigh a sad sigh that kept            wyUovVY&
down their tears, I could feel the heat of      (Type in FREEDOM: A HIP HOP MUSICAL
their frustration and their full on attention   TRAILER on Youtube)
on us. When it was all said and done; the
applause in the small theatre seemed to         freedom-a-hip-hop-musical-trailer-video-
echo so loud that it bounced back and           inside#comments
forth off the walls…and when we finally         (Check out the comments on thisis50.
said our goodbyes as a cast and crew, it        com)
was overwhelmed with smiles, hugs and

I personally could not shake the

                              Que Ondee Sola

                                                                 o me
                                                            “Sy” gueroa
Some say I take on more than I can

                                                            Saandra Fi
but if I let that slow me down I wouldn’t be where I am
I had to wake up to see what was going wrong
I found I was staring at still images all along              Cas  by
stuck in a song, looping forever long
but I stay ready to fight with a flag in one hand and the other with a mic
ready to strike.
You see you can’t slow me down I’m on to better days
flyin away
cause I’ve been to that place, you know
the land of shattered bottles and stray bullets
where if they say pull it
You Pull it
I’m from a land of fighters, where prisoners are unknown
where women were experimented on and my caciques were dethroned
so I gotta push hard and long to make it right
get ready for a fight
I refuse to be stuck like this
I got goals on my wish list
but I see how you treat me its like I’m not around
its like aliens just flew in and up ducted me off the ground
to you I’m a still image, a mural painted on a wall
I’m that painting that you pass and admire but don’t wanna posses at all
I be too hot to handle that rebel that can’t stand you
cause you think your too cool
how about you reevaluate the shit you do
I refuse to be societies slave or someone that just gives up and digs there own grave
id rather be pulled through the sand with my hair in there hands
I am ghetto, wild, uneducated and undeserving I am all these things in your eyes
but I don’t need your eyes to see these lies
I have the whispers of so many in ear telling me to be positive
to stick to my path and days of happiness shall follow it
cause I speak my acinect knowledge and I will never be stereo typed
I am going to college
you see Ive been trough the rain with many different things
I had to pick myself up fast before I drowned in a sea of feelings
so im ready for the dealings
cause no other beat can compare to mine
all the rest is an EKG on flat line
thats why gods up in heaven look down at this girl below
and can identify my soul because of it raw glow.

                    Que Ondee Sola
NEIU’s Noche de la Familia             project of the Puerto Rican Cultural
Celebration                            Center, which offers free STD/STI
                                       testing, counseling, and an LGBTQ
                                       support group. The program is also
On Friday, October 7, 2011 over 150
                                       set to build housing in Humboldt
people attended the annual Noche de
                                       Park for homeless youth.The
la Familia celebration at Northeastern
                                       evening, which included free food
Illinois University, organized
                                       and beverages,
by the school’s Latino Heritage
Committee. The event is put together
                                       culminated with a performance by
with the intent of creating a sense
                                       the youth of Ensemble Espanol, a
of community and belonging for
                                       Spanish Flamenco dance company,
Latina/o students, faculty, staff and
                                       and an eclectic Son del Viento.
their families at the university. The
largest and most dynamic event in an
                                       Nearly everyone who attended felt
abundant series, Noche de la Familia
                                       the celebratory pulse of Noche de
coincides with this country’s official
                                       Familia, but some also commented
Hispanic Heritage Month, validating
                                       that future programs could also serve
the ever-growing Latina/o presence
                                       to counter the growing imagined
on campus and providing a space of
                                       homogeneity of Latinas/os and, more
pride and respect for Latinidad.
                                       firmly recognize, address, and honor
                                       the diverse identities of Latinas/
The event included a welcoming
                                       os that are present in Chicago. It
by the President of the university,
                                       was also suggested that it would be
short speeches by members of the
                                       beneficial for future events if some
Hispanic Heritage Committee, and
                                       of the pertinent issues and concerns
an awards ceremony for students,
                                       affecting Latinas/os at NEIU, at
faculty, and staff in recognition of
                                       minimum, are touched upon with
their contributions to the Latina/o
                                       some space provided to incorporate
community on campus and in the
                                       attendees conceptualizing solutions.
city. One of the awarded included the
Program Director of Vida/SIDA, a

                               Que Ondee Sola

                              From El Barrio
                                  A look at Latina/o Street Gangs
                                                                       by Juan “Nito” Morales
Since the 1930s, Latino streets gangs have        are the most important in understanding the
been, in many cases, the forefront within the     emergence of street gangs. The 2001 U.S.
social aspect of Latinos in the United States.    Census Bureau illustrates that 24 percent of
When examining factors of Latino gang             Mexican families, and 26 percent of Puerto
activity, and                                                                      Rican families
the emergence                                                                      were below
of Latino                                                                          the poverty
street gangs,                                                                      line in
ecological and                                                                     1998. This
socioeconomic                                                                      demonstrates
factors is crucial                                                                 the conditions
to understanding                                                                   of Latino
the construction                                                                   youth being
of Latino                                                                          forced
gangs as a                                                                         to create
transnational                                                                      disparate
phenomenon.                                                                        motives of
In addition,                                                                       supporting
poor urban                                                                         their family.
planning that
resulted in the                                                                      It is important
discrimination and segregation of migrant         to note how the community dynamics that
families. I focus on these concepts, as being     created gangs and shaped gang members
prominent figures of Latino gang formation.       stemmed from the nexus of immigration,
                                                  industrial influences and developments that
In considering the ecological aspects of Latino   benefit those in the capitalist arena, along with
gangs, Diego Vigil (2001) affirms that where      poor urban planning. However, it is equally
Mexican immigrants settled contributed to         important to note how poverty/discrimination,
a number of problems. In addition, Vigil          and social/cultural cohesiveness helped create
examines how the effects of urbanization,         Latino barrios.
along with poor city planning made barrios
an ecological inferior place to raise families.
Until this day, Latino families confront a
poor economical status. According to Vigil,
economic restraints on families and children

                    Que Ondee Sola
“The Son Jarocho Style Comes           of capable young musicians playing
to Seltzer Library”                    the style of music known as Son
                                       Jarocho, which still holds a rich tra-
by Regina M. Torres
                                       dition of practice in the Veracruz re-
In honor of Hispanic Heritage          gion of Mexico. These young musi-
Month, spanning the time period        cians were headed by maestro Raul
of September thru October, there       Fernandez, who is well respected in
were many diverse events offered       the Latin music Jarocho scene.
up for the public to enjoy. The
                                      Jarocho is a style of lively and
Chicago Public Library featured
                                      comical music which got its start in
planned events such as authors,
                                                              the Mexican
                                                              state of Ve-
films and the
                                                              racruz, which
rich cultural
                                                              is aligned
                                                              with the Gulf
                                                              of Mexico. It
from Latin
                                                              is the oldest
American in-
fluences. One
                                                              form of native
such event
                                                              music, as it is
took place
                                                              a two-and-a-
on Saturday,
                                                              half centuries
October 8th
                                                              old form of
at the Sulzer
library located on Lincoln Ave, in
                                      and stringed instruments which an-
the Lincoln Square neighborhood of
                                      nounce a fusion of Spanish, African
Chicago’s North side.
                                      and indigenous styles. The Jarocho
A sizeable crowd gathered to wit-     style of music is mostly played at
ness the scheduled performance of parties which usually end at dawn.
a local Chicago band showcasing       This means that the instruments
the traditional and historic songs of are easily transportable, especially
the people of Veracruz, Mexico. The since tradition dictates that the
band’s name was Jaro Chicanos,        instruments are played acoustically,
and they consisted of a small group without electric amplification. The

                       Que Ondee Sola
song lyrics are meant to be humor-     on the sides to produce African
ous and concern love, nature and       beat rhythms. Complimenting the
especially the abundant animal life    bass beats of the wood percus-
native to Veracruz.                    sion drum, were the deep pulsing
                                       sounds coming from the largest
Jaro Chicanos opened their set
                                       wooden guitar. Interestingly, the
with a briefing on the Spanish Ba-
                                       tuning knobs for the guitars were
roque origins and practices of the
                                       located on the backs of the gui-
Son Jarocho style. Maestro Raul
                                       tar necks and not on the sides as
Fernandez showed the audience
                                       in American guitars. Perhaps the
the unique
                                                             most inter-
                                                             esting instru-
that would
                                                             ment used
be played for
                                                             was some-
this show.
                                                             thing called
There were
                                                             a quijada.
the vari-
                                                             The quijada
ous stringed
                                                             is essentially
                                                             a lower jaw
such as the
                                                             bone of a
jarana jaro-
                                                             donkey which
cha, which is
                                                             is struck and
a tiny harmo-
                                                             scraped with
ny producing
                                       hand or wooden sticks in order to
guitar, and the requinto jarocho,                                       The Emeg
                                       produce percussive sounds.
another small guitar-like stringed
instrument, tuned to a higher pitch   Aside from the unique musical and
and plucked with a cow horn.          lyrical stylings of this beautiful and
                                      exotic music, there was another in-
 There was also an occasionally
                                      teresting element to Jaro Chicano’s
used tambourine which was cre-
                                      performance that afternoon. The
atively utilized in order to maximize
                                      audience was introduced to the
the percussive sound produced,
                                      practice of Son Jarocho musicians
as well as an unusual hollow
                                      prompting the dancing of anyone
rectangular-shaped drum which
                                      willing to step onto a large rect-
was made of wood and struck
                   Que Ondee Sola

angular and hollow wooden box          both compliments and changes
which lay on the floor and ampli-      the directions of the songs, allow-
fied any bass sounds created by        ing for rises and falls, dips and
the dancer’s specific dancing tech-    swerves, and this is reflected in
niques. So, while there was the        the symbiotic nature of the lyrics,
element of tradition in the form of    music and dance.
lyrics and musical rifts, there was
                                       Throughout Jaro Chicano’s set,
much room for improvisation as
                                       the performers would engage
well. The musicians would set the
                                       the audience in participation and
tone and rhythms for the chang-
                                       explain to them the beginnings
ing songs, and the dancers would
                                       and ongoing popularity of Vera-
articulate their steps/bass sounds
                                       cruz’s oldest form of traditional
in return, while expressively turn-
                                       live music. This seemed helpful to
ing, shuffling, stomping, and
                                       those in the audience that weren’t
swirling on the platform.
                                       familiar with this form of music.
The lyrical style of Jarocho can be    Questions were asked, and toes
best compared to spoken lyrical        were tapping. The Jaro Chicano’s
poetry in the sense that the lyr-      did a fine performance complete
ics are sung more like declarative     with storytelling, and the audience
statements, or musings about a         seemed pleased—at the end of
comical subject. For example, one      the set, they were even allowed
traditional song called “El Iguana”    to come up and get familiar with
allowed for the singer/singers to      some of the instruments used.
belt out lyrical phrases about an
                                       Bravo to the Chicago Public Li-
iguana, while male dancers took
                                       brary for recognizing the talents
turns creatively portraying their
                                       of Hispanic culture and giving a
animated version of the iguana
                                       platform for these talents to be
sung about. The lyrics were
                                       shown and shared.
strong and clear, and not waver-
ingly expressive as is seen in
American songs. They were more
like fantastical and funny musical
storytellings of subjects such as
birds and reptiles. The music itself

                 Que Ondee Sola

                         by Josue Contreras

              America wants to melt me into its pot

           Mix me with others who are curvy & brown

    Speak Spanish, eat rice, and come from places that are hot

          So they can call me Latino as I walk into town

               But America, I need you to recognize

          My curvy brown complexion is not like theirs

                My Spanish, my rice is customized

             Our homelands resemblance do not bare

              Latin America is our part of the world

        But I am Puerto Rican, as they are something else

            Call me what I am and let me be unfurled

Our differences, as our similarities, will bring us both much wealth

   So stop trying to assimilate me into what you want me to be

               I’d rather acculturate and still be me

                             Que Ondee Sola
Piri Thomas,                                         pronunciation of “Petey”) as a nickname.
The Death of a Boricua Literary Pioneer              Growing-up, he battled white ethnic gangs and
by Xavier “Xavi” Luis Burgos                         struggled with his skin color and West African
                                                     features due to the favored treatment given
“Softly, Puerto Rican, you ain’t alone,              to his light-skinned siblings from his father.
Muchos están contigo and you’ve got a home....       Subsequently, he endured drug addiction,
                                                     homelessness, and prison.
…Flex your breath of life,
talk about your breeze                               Much of these experiences were chronicled in his
and forget you nots.                                 most famous work, Down These Mean Streets,
Write your say                                                                          published in
about sidewalks dirty.                                                                  1967, that places
Scribble your mean                                                                      front and center
message                                                                                 discussions of
on dingy hallway-walls.                                                                 the systematic
Express your aptitude                                                                   origins
and limit not its call.”                                                                and abuses
                                                                                        facing our
From Softly, Puerto                                                                     communities.
Rican, You Ain’t Alone by                                                               As a result, his
Piri Thomas                                                                             autobiography
                                                                                        not only
On October 17,                                                                          empowered the
2011, Piri Thomas,                                                                      Boricua diaspora
a pioneering cultural                                                                   to produce its
champion of the Puerto                                                                  own unique
Rican Diaspora, died                                                                    literature, but
at the age of 83. Poet,                                                                 validated the
novelist, and vocal                                                                     new cultural
witness to the plight of                                                                and linguistic
the underclass, Thomas                                                                  expressions that
is considered the father of a Spanglish linguistic   the children of Boricua migrants were developing,
tradition and modern Boricua letters. But more       like Spanglish. Without a doubt, Thomas was
importantly, he constructed an incredible legacy     brave to write in a form and style that did not
on which a modern Latina/o literature was built      accommodate to the expectations of the white
upon.                                                U.S. literary establishment. In other words, he
                                                     ensured that our stories had to be told from us
As demonstrated in his work, racism was an           and in the way that we tell them. Therefore, the
important fixture in the social development of       Nuyorican Movement and contemporary Latina/o
Thomas’ life. Born in 1928 in El Barrio, New         literature are products of Thomas’ tenacity and
York City to Puerto Rican and Cuban migrants,        eloquent ferocity.
they gave him an anglicized name, John Peter
Thomas, in an effort to assimilate the family.       I remember still the awe-struck feeling of reading
His mother called him “Piri”(the Spanish             Down These Mean Streets in high school, deeply

                                Que Ondee Sola
relating to his testimony of how dark-skinned       delinquent. For many Boricua and Latina/o youth
Boricuas are devalued and the inhumanity of         Piri Thomas contributed to the understanding of
prison. And more importantly, my culture and        our social context and ourselves, stimulating a
my context was honored and respected in a world     sense of hope and pride for which we shall be
where we are rendered invisible or hopelessly       forever indebted.

Mi Patria
a letter from a Puerto Rican prisoner
 Hola Brokie. Pedona me if I’m intruding in         Torres. Gracias a todos for the poems, literature,
 anyway, but I cant express my thoughts if I        history, and awareness of the troubles to our land
 stay silent. My words come straight from the       here in Humboldt Park and Puerto Rico.
 heart. The way I feel right now is the way every   I am a Chi-Rican born at Norweigen Hospital
 Boricua should experience, day in and day          and raised in Humboldt Park up until the age
 out as a proud flag carrier. I have a friend who   of 18. From then I’ve been in and out of prison
 introduced me to your                                                   for a cause as meaningless
 magazine (Que Onde                                                      as the word rehabilitation
 Sola) and let me tell                                                   in this place. I have spent
 you, I am proud of my                                                   half of my life in and out,
 Puerto Rican gente                                                      well more in than out,
 and how you guys                                                        of my 32 years behind
 hold it down. I just                                                    bars. And let me tell you
 want to thank you for                                                   brother, its nothing to brag
 rekindling that flame I                                                 about. It isn’t a place you
 have for not only my                                                    young brothers should ever
 people, but my Patria                                                   experience. It isn’t a life to
 as well. I appreciate                                                   have, it’s more of a death
 the poems. Oh, how                                                      sentence once you get
 the poems touched                                                       used to the revolving door.
 my soul and Corazon,                                                    I accept my punishment,
 son! From “Our Faces”                                                   because I am at fault, I
 to “Puerto Rican                                                        deserve it, and because it
 on the Moon”, and                                                       saved my life. I danced
 “Nigger Rican Blues”,                                                   with the devil longer than
 thank you Mathew                                                        the average and still live
 Rodriguez, thank you                                                    to tell about while many
 Jessie Fuentes for expressing “why you don’t       of my boys are dead or will be locked up for
 cry blood”, and thank you Judith Diaz López,       most of their ending days. I don’t want you guys
 por el recuerdo de inspiracion que son los         to follow my road and end up in this revolving
 hombles, Oscar López Rivera y Carlos Alberto       machine. These days I speak out against,

                              Que Ondee Sola
 S.T.D’s, drugs, and gangs. I am absolutely not      and Puerto Rico with the best interest of our
 perfect, but I am a work in progress. I know        own people in mind.
 that I cant give up because I would love to         My family came from Puerto Rico and lived
 be part of your movement and help out in            by Wrigley Field before getting pushed out
 anyway possible. Just let me know what I can        and relocated by white collars who wanted to
 contribute. This isn’t about me though, I am        build high rises downtown. In the 60’s they
 writing to let you know you have proud Puerto       ended up moving to a part of the city which
 Rican brothers who though incarcerated, stand       is now famously know as “Paseo Boricua”.
 at attention to your moves and cries of struggle.   My abuelita and family were forced out her
 Your struggle is my struggle, your movement         community by the yuppies and their ways 50
 is my movement, and your tears will always          something years ago, lets not let it happen
 come down my face as long as we share the           again, and for history to repeat itself. This
 same freedom. No matter how far apart we            means we cannot fold, nor break to the strong
 are, how different our blood type may be, we        grip of higher society, that we will hold our own
 still and always will represent as one. I believe   and always keep our values and ethics above
 in your guys and what you stand for because         materialistic things…”No Se Vende” means
 this generation is more knowledge full and          more than just a saying.
 well informed, compared to mine. Internet,          My brother, I leave you with good luck, God
 political, and social awareness, along with         speed, and keep the movement alive, 4eva!
 medical and technology in science has made a        (Long Lives Our Struggle…)
 difference in the minds and hearts of our youth,
 this generation is built by leaders who will be
 competent enough to run our own community

                           Behold, the Boricua Diaspora
                                     by Xavier “Xavi” Luis Burgos

Envision, for a moment, a soundless and barren        cold particles engulfing the air, swirling with
urban landscape,                                                                         the wind in a
encroached on                                                                            synchronized,
by a harrowing,                                                                          rhythmic
opaque sky and                                                                           movement,
bright, white                                                                            rapidly melting
snow mystically                                                                          on sun-burnt skin.
descending from                                                                          Finally, your mind
the heavens, with                                                                        collides with
only dim street                                                                          the cognizance
lights to guide                                                                          that this shall
a path. Your                                                                             be the eternal
awe-struck eyes                                                                          home of lineages
gaze upon the                                                                            unrealized and
overwhelming                                                                             that Puerto Rico
swarm of small,                                                                          is a land of no

                                    Que Ondee Sola
return. What a sorrowful and beautiful genesis to           in making such claims. In essence, Puerto Rican
a narrative laid before us; the setting of the stage        culture and identity is a product of resistance.
of an epic and incomparable tale of tragedy and             Thus, to be proudly Boricua, is to be solemnly
greatness unforeseen.                                       defiant. To affirm a puertorriqueñidad is to thwart
                                                            the processes that seek our destruction. But, many
Such was the experience of thousands of pioneras/           of our institutions, artisans, and educators present
os, like my grandmother, who endured a particular           the world with sanitized, nostalgic, and island-
migration decades ago; there were many before               centered artistic representations detached from
and many after them. In whatever time we                    our lived experiences in the U.S. Most, but not all,
locate the conception of a diaspora that owes               contemporary art by the Puerto Rican Diaspora is
its existence to a U.S. government-sponsored                thus without purpose or direction.
colonial enterprise, we must descry the fact that
subsequent generations, physically distant from             Yes, there are many possible routes and
the island, continue to identify as Boricua. Some           trajectories, but one thing must be clear: there
merely say that one can still be Puerto Rican even          needs to be an aesthetic attached to an ongoing
if residing outside Puerto Rico, as if the island is        process to cultivate a non-assimilationist,
lending us magical keys to a locket of authenticity.        diaspora-specific, solution-proposing, and
In many ways, to be Puerto Rican is to be a part of         culturally affirming agenda. In order for it to be
our diaspora. In other words, there is a distinctive        meaningful, this aesthetic, utilizing photography,
Puerto Ricanness in the U.S. and the island is just         painting, literature, poetry, film, theater, sculpture,
one (important) piece in a complex and colorful             music, dance, and song, must be by and for our
mosaic of cultural ruptures and innovations.                people and rooted in our communities (both
                                                            historic and new).
No matter if God decides to rid our little chaotic island
from its uncertain misery                                   If we construct a New Boricua Diaspora aesthetic
and sends a wave of destruction                             we can, with greater clarity, understand who we
from the very waters that brought us our oppressive         are and map out possible directions. Quite simply
history                                                     and unequivocally, we can begin to recognize and
and sinks Borinquen to the water’s floor                    honor our beauty, particularities, and greatness
our story will be narrated by the jíbaros on the moont      and heal wounds of self-hate and cynicism. This,
                                                            for what it is worth, is an invitation to dialogue
Unfortunately, our communities are burdened                 and to create. Who shall heed the call? Whose art
with institutions, artisans, and educators who              will proclaim, “Behold, the Boricua Diaspora, in
make it a point to extract the political from the           all its lamentations, in all its glory”?
cultural. Puerto Rican cultural consciousness is
inextricable from the political. When the dwellers
of the island and the diaspora began to understand
themselves and their cultural productions
as distinctively, unmistakably, and uniquely
Boricua, they simultaneously understood, due
to a subordinate sociopolitical status, the danger


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