Academic journal article Centro Journal

De Bandera a Bandera (from Flag to Flag): New Scholarship about the Puerto Rican Diaspora in Chicago

Academic journal article Centro Journal

De Bandera a Bandera (from Flag to Flag): New Scholarship about the Puerto Rican Diaspora in Chicago

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION / INTRODUCCIÓN

A World of Our Own

to the people of Humboldt Park

Between two flags we built

the past of an island exiled to memory.

We put up colonial balconies

and replaced the asphalt with paving stones,

the parks with plazas,

the supermarkets with colmados,

American coffee with Café Yaucono,

and hamburgers with steak jibaritos.

We changed street names and words in Spanish:

from "desfile" to parada, from "patio" to yarda,

from "alfombra" to carpeta, from "mercado" to marqueta,

because we are bilingual y podemos mezclarlas.

We put flavor in the food, rhythm

in the music, murals on the walls,

accents on the words, heat into the cold.

We opened botánicas, cultural centers,

galleries, museums, restaurants

and anything else we needed

so our children could learn their heritage

of waves returned to shore

mixed with the blood of three races.

We built a world of our own between two flags,

a neighborhood with well-known faces, familiar aromas

and noises kept company by the rumble of the drum.

Our homeland in exile that floats like a desert island

in the deep and vast sea of the city of Chicago.

Johanny Vázquez Paz (2007)

As the Puerto Rican poet, Johanny Vázquez Paz states in her poem, "A World of Our Own," Puerto Ricans have transformed themselves and the city in the making of community in Chicago. A walk along Paseo Boricua (Puerto Rican Promenade)-considered by many as the heart of the Puerto Rican community-makes evident that indeed Puerto Ricans have "put flavor in the food, rhythm in the music, murals on the walls, accents on the words, heat into the cold," in the city and its suburbs. As one walks west from Western Avenue along Division Street toward Humboldt Park (another physical space closely associated with Puerto Ricans in Chicago) architectural sensibilities rooted in European/Midwestern tastes give way to garitas, plagas, colmados, Café Colao and Batey Urbano. Two imposing and inescapable steel Puerto Rican flags- one just outside of Roberto Clemente High School and the other just east of the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture-mark the space known as Paseo Boricua. For those of us who remember this area as "La Division" as it was referred to from the 1970s through the 1980s, during some of the most difficult years of community struggles, the transformation has been remarkable. In between the allegories of poetry and architecture, lies a singularly difficult story of struggle, exclusion, and affirmation lived by Puerto Rican families, their Chicago-born and -raised children and grandchildren, and the community groups that fought on their behalf.

The present volume of the CENTRO Journal offers an outstanding new corpus of scholarly work that deepens our knowledge of Puerto Rican Chicago. These articles, when held in conversation with the articles that were published in the 2001 volume of the CENTRO Journal-and the literature published over the last 50 years-offer a complex story of the struggles and successes of Puerto Ricans in Chicago. Broadly, this new research documents the social problems that continue and the range of community groups that have persisted and persevered and new ones that have emerged since the last CENTRO Journal special issue focused on this Midwest community. The current volume coincides with and seeks to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Division Street Riots, a watershed moment that has lived in the collective consciousness of the community for many decades. Most of the articles featured here connect in one way or another to the complicated legacy of the riots.

As an introductory essay we connect the new work featured here to the existing body of literature as a way to highlight themes and continuities; to reveal what is new and important; and to offer future students of the Puerto Rican diaspora new avenues for exploration. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.