About Fiesta Boricua “de Bandera a Bandera”
This festival has become synonymous with Paseo Boricua and that this area has to offer to our community. It celebrates the best of Puerto Rican talent and musical culture, just as Paseo Boricua makes visible a permanent corridorthrough the heat of Chicago’s Puerto Rican community. “De Bander a Bandera” (From Flag to Flag) is the slogan, which the organizers have chosen for this cultural encounter on Division Street.
Since 1993, the festival has been celebrated along the commercially and culturally vibrant Division Street corridor called Paseo Boricua. Fiesta Boricua has become one of the largest and most important branded festival of the Latino community in the Midwest attracting over 200,000 people. It showcases the diversity of Puerto Rican musical expression, from Plena and Bomba to Salsa and Merengue, from Folk music to Hip Hop.
This year, 22nd Annual Fiesta Boricua will take place on Saturday, September 5 and Sunday, September 6, 2015 along the commercially and culturally vibrant Division Street corridor known as Paseo Boricua (encased by the world’s largest steel flags-a monument to Puerto Rico’s national emblem). The area will be transformed into a giant festival showcasing the best of a Puerto Rican music, dance, food and artisanry.
Over the years, the most prominent musicians, interpreting all genres of the Puerto Rican musical expressions (Bomba, Plena, Nueva Trova, Hip Hop, Latin Jazz, Reggaeton and most importantly, Salsa), have performed. Some of these musicians have been honored with a six feet diameter bronze medallion, encrusted into the sidewalk, and known as the Paseo Boricua’s Walk of Fame. Honorees have included the legendary Eddie Palmieri, Lucecita Benitez, Andy Montanez, El Gran Combo, Roy Brown, Ismael Miranda, Andres Jimenez, Tito Nieves among others.
Highlights of Fiesta Boricua
“Lo Mejor de Nuestros Pueblos”
Cayey, Puerto Rico
In 2009, during the Noche Jibara/ Guayabera Gala kick-off celebration for the 17th Annual Fiesta Boricua, a new theme was announced for the upcoming festivals: “Lo Mejor de Nuestros Pueblos” (The Best of Our Municipalities). The purpose, of this new added dimension, was to use the Fiesta Boricua celebration as a venue to promote and showcase the best musical and cultural expressions of selected municipality of Puerto Rico. This new theme called for the honoring of a municipality to serve as a co-host of the festival and thus providing it with a space to showcase its’ talent, exhibit its’ creativity and promote its’ historical and tourist attractions during the two day festival as well as in Noche Jibara.
Since then, four municipalities have been featured, each represented by a delegation of musicians, artisans, poets, artists, dancers and performers accompanied by their respective Mayors and other town officials. These have included the municipalities of Comerio, Hormigueros, Jayuya and San Lorenzo. During a Fiesta Boricua Protocol Ceremony, the Key of Paseo Boricua is presented to the Mayor of each town.
The 22nd Fiesta Boricua will honor the municipality of Cayey, Puerto Rico.
“Lo Mejor de Nuestros Barrios”
During the 2014 Fiesta Boricua another theme was added to the festival; “Lo Mejor de Nuestros Barrios/”The Best of Our Communities” This added theme sought to recognize the increasing importance of the Puerto Rican diasporic communities in the process of redefining Puerto Rican identity. Demographically, Puerto Ricans in the U.S. represent the majority of the Puerto Rican Nation-presently there are 3.9 million Puerto Ricans on the island and 4.9 million in the U.S. A new music, a new literature, a new art is emerging framed within this context. Thus, Fiesta Boricua had to, also, become a venue for this new reality. The Bronx, New York was selected as the first community to be featured. Since it is considered the birthplace of Puerto Rican Salsa music, two legendary salseros Yova Rodríguez and Herman Olivera were among the highlights of 21st Fiesta Boricua.
• Noche Jibara/Guayabera Gala:
Annually, the Fiesta Boricua is ushered in by a Friday evening gala dinner event known as Noche Jibara/Guayabera Gala
which honors the municipality of Puerto Rico representing “Lo Mejor de Nuestros Pueblos” and the invited U.S. based Puerto Rican community representing “Lo Mejor de Nuestros Barrios.” This event includes live performances and other cultural expressions presented by the honored guests. A special protocol ceremony is also held in which the honored communities are recognized as well as the sponsors of Fiesta and Noche Jibara. This activity is held in the historical landmark designated National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture. A wide array of Puerto Rican cuisine is served.
• Misa Jíbara:
During the past two years Misa Jíbara, a traditionally Puerto Rican inspired folkloric Catholic Mass, is held on the Main Stage and has been used as an invocation for Fiesta Boricua.
Misa Jibara is not only an expression of Puerto Rican spirituality; it is a dynamic, creative and cultural syncretism. While it follows a traditional Catholic mass in its form, much of its content is framed within the context of Puerto Rican folklore and music. Hundreds join, from the areas Catholic churches, in the solemn, but engulfing celebration.
For 23 years the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, named in honor of Poet and activist Juan Antonio Corretjer, has mobilized hundreds of volunteers to organize and execute Fiesta Boricua, the only festival in Chicago that closes traffic for two full days in the area known as Paseo Boricua, located on Division Street between the famous Puerto Rican flags on Western and California in Humboldt Park. Every year the festivities take place during Labor Day Weekend.
During those 23 years the festival has undergone significant changes, adapting to the ups and downs in the economy and shrinking budgets from sponsors. For many community festivals, a $100,000 budget cut would mean the end of a well-intentioned volunteer-run initiative. The garbage pickup is also run by volunteers like Lourdes Lugo, who I’ve been trying to say hi to for the last hour but she’s too focused on getting as much done before night falls. She speeds by me and goes to the next pickup. Volunteers and paid staff are everywhere but the task at hand is immense.
Fiesta Boricua has managed to stay afloat and reinvent itself with the concept: “Lo Mejor de Nuestros Pueblos”, where PRCC collaborates with municipalities and cultural projects from the island, finding creative ways to raise funds and support the cultural groups that travel to Chicago for the festival.
As a Puerto Rican that was born and raised in the island and has lived in Chicago for 16 years, this is the Boricua festival that I enjoy the most. There’s something that feels right about closing Paseo Boricua to celebrate our art, our music, our businesses and our culture. I remember seeing Eddie Palmieri, Willie Colón, Andy Montañez, Cultura Profética and so many of Puerto Rico’s most recognizable acts right here not too long ago. While budget cuts mean that those artists are usually not accessible for Fiesta Boricua anymore, as I walked down Division Street this weekend from flag to flag, I understood why I continue to be so drawn to this festival even when I have been critical of it in the past. This year the quality of the Chicago and Puerto Rico-based “artesanos” (artists/arts & crafts), as well as the amazing food, and the combination of lesser known and internationally acclaimed musicians (Hermán Olivera and Pichi Pérez are salsa royalty for any good listener) made the experience worthwhile for festival goers of all ages.
An example of community art in action, the yearly bombazo organized byAfriCaribe at La Casita de Don Pedro continues to be the place to experience Afro-Puerto Rican roots music with the flourishing local bomba scene, further enriched by out-of-town bomberos coming from Puerto Rico, Florida, and New York among other places. The young, as is the case of the members of Arawak’Opia (SRBCC’s Youth Bomba Ensemble) are given their chance to hold their own with the masters. Also worth mentioning that Arawak’Opia had their first appearance on the Fiesta Boricua main stage as well, making this community event a place where dreams are realized. I could see the excitement in the faces of aspiring musicians from Humboldt Park and Hermosa that were given a real chance, and their accomplishments were enjoyed and celebrated this weekend. Most of these young men and women have to grow up very fast. With all the violence in Chicago these days, what they experienced at Fiesta Boricua means a lot.
Food Highlight: Fresh-made mofongo by el Caldero de Khalil
This review needs to reflect the religious experience of tasting a fresh-made trifongo, prepared by el Caldero de Khalil, a group of Puerto Rican chefs with a thriving culinary concept that traveled to Chicago from the island just for the Fiesta Boricua weekend.
I go to Puerto Rico at least three times per year and I can say without hesitation that El Caldero de Khalil is by far the best trifongo-maker this guy has ever known. For those who don’t know, a trifongo is a take on the mofongo (mashed plantain) that incorporates sweet plantain, green plantain and yuca. This tightly-run operation did not stop for two straight days, serving generous plates of island goodness that included mofongo topped with veal stew, slow-cooked pigeon peas, chicken or shrimp. Rumor has it that some VIPs showed up around 6:30 pm on Sunday and all that was left was a bit of “caldo” (broth).
After mofongo heaven, I washed down the hearty plate of food with some tamarind Pito Rico, the newer brand of only two producers of legal Pitorro (flavored Puerto Rican moonshine). This one came directly from the family’s production plant in Jayuya, Puerto Rico. The list of available flavors included coconut, passion fruit, orange, tamarind and sangría. Free samples were given all day long to festival participants on both Saturday and Sunday.
In the “artesano” columns, I’m giving four stars to Artesanía de Madera by Kerly, bringing locally produced wood products, including beautifulpilones (pestles) and tostoneras (toston-makers) made with three different kinds of wood.
Every year I’m blown away by Elias Carmona’s photography, which this time featured a breathtaking picture of the Pedro Albizu Campos’ statue located at La Casita de Don Pedro. The carefully shot picture in a dark snowy night in Paseo Boricua has a truly hypnotizing effect. Other pictures include his collection of “pleneros” and the amazing urban images from his trips to Puerto Rico and South and Central America.
We round up the artesano highlights with Urban Pilón’s hand-crafted pique(vinegar-based hot sauce) and Brenda Torres’ oneiric Freedom Effect t-shirt designs. Urban Pilón is Roberto Pérez’s completely original culinary concept, highlighting the use of fresh and locally sourced ingredients to produce bold and healthy island flavors. Brenda Torres is a Chicago artist producing high-quality wearable art that destines 10% of all profits to deserving Humboldt Park students seeking careers in the Creative Arts.
With all this talk of food and art, I almost forgot to talk about the music…
This year featured the voices of Sonora Ponceña’s Pichi Pérez and Eddie Palmieri’s Hermán Olivera to close Saturday and Sunday respectively. Both performances were exceptional, with special interventions by Chicago-based salsa bands Naborí (backing Pichi Pérez) and the Edwin Sánchez Project (backing Hermán Olivera). Both local bands demonstrated that we have plenty of talent in the midwest to hold our own with the very best international exponents of tropical music.
Other musical performances included the captivating voices of Chabela and Lester Ray, as well as salsa acts Yova Rodríguez, Orquesta Leal, and Willie García’s Sabor. Folkloric music from Puerto Rico was represented by Chicago’s own Buya, a group that has established itself as one of the very best Bomba projects in the United States. SRBCC’s Arawak’Opia Youth Bomba Ensemble, Ballet Folclórico Guajana (Puerto Rico) and Son d’Yavú (Puerto Rico) are also worth mentioning as the festival continues to bring more cultural acts to the stage.
This year’s Youth Corridor had the mission of expressing and promoting all the services that are directed towards Humboldt Park’s youth development and educational services. The National Boricua Human Rights was well represented by Alyssa Villegas and Matt McCanna who, among many other tasks, were in charge of collecting petitions, distributing flyers, and educating the public on Oscar López Rivera. In total, more than 900 petitions and over $600 were collected in our “jail challenge”, where the audience had the chance to experiment what it was like to be inside a prison cell and collect $33, representing the 33 years of Oscar’s imprisonment, in order to be released.
The BACCA program was also represented by youth leaders Michelle Guzmán and Mia Espinosa, who raised more than $130 in water bottles for our anti-underage drinking campaign under the leadership of Program Coordinator María Borrero. The Union for Puerto Rican Students (UPRS) was also present with the new UIC Chapter President Ian Torres and Que Ondee Sola’s Editor in Chief Alyssa Villegas and NEIU’s chapter member Rebecca Ríos. A gentrification model designed by UIC’s architecture student Joel Aguilera and Gustavo Varela from Generation L was one of the main attractions, since it showed an artistic reflection of our community’s struggle to maintain all the amazing Latino services and resources that we offer.
The University of Illinois at Chicago brought representatives from the Latino Cultural Center and the LARES program, making the youth corridor an amazing arrange of educational and artistic presentations. In total, the Youth Corridor raised more than $1,500! All these efforts were a success thanks to the collaboration of the leaders mentioned above, who feel a strong commitment to our community’s future.
During the 21st anniversary of Fiesta Boricua, Oscar’s presence was felt both on the stage and on Division St. At the National Boricua Human Rights Network kiosk, youth staffed the Oscar table, the interactive 6×9 cell, and an participatory Oscar mural.
Members of the community, including former Puerto Rican prisoners Ricardo Jiménez and Edwin Cortés, entered the cell until they each raised 33 dollars in donations. Volunteers walked among the crowd asking attendees to sign petitions to President Barack Obama calling for Oscar’s release. Thanks to the dedication of volunteers, NBHRN was able to raise almost $600 and obtain almost 900 signed petitions during the festival.
In addition, the Network debuted a 25-foot wide Oscar mural detailing some of the issues he was involved in. This mural will aid the Network in its educational work and will travel to the different chapters and contact cities. Lastly, another 25-foot high Oscar banner was mounted on the side of building facing the main stage at Fiesta Boricua where tens of thousands of onlookers were exposed to it.
Yova, Olivera, Pirulo and Zenón Puerto Rican Music Legends Close 21st Fiesta Boricua with Call for Oscar López’s Freedom
The 21st Fiesta Boricua (de Bandera a Bandera), the two day festival on Paseo Boricua, closed with the captivating sounds and rhythms of Puerto Rican legendary musical figures Yova Rodríguez, Hermán Olivera, Pirulo and Miguel Zenón. With deep feelings and contagious emotions, they performed and improvised a musical tribute to the Puerto Rican patriot Oscar López Rivera calling for his release. This totally engaging experience moved the thousands of participants to wave their Puerto Rican flags and fans with Oscar’s image in unison. From the screen on the stage, Oscar’s image could be seen for blocks on his beloved “La Division” –all the way to Roberto Clemente Academy, which he helped to open 40 years ago.
|Fiesta Boricua 2014 – Final performance|
It was indeed a powerful ending to two days (Saturday and Sunday August 30-31) filled with Puerto Ricanness, particularly its many musical genres produced and executed by the likes of Chicago’s Bomplenera, AfriCaribe, Bomba con Buya, and the Clemente High School Steel Band; from San Lorenzo, Decimanía and Rafaelito Muñoz y su Trío; also from Puerto Rico, Pirulo y la Tribu, Alambre Dulce, Aromas, and Son D’Yavu; and from the Bronx, Hermán Olivera and Yova Rodríguez, with a very special appearance by the jazz musician and MacArthur Genius Award winner, Miguel Zenón. (See the 9-3-2014 Chicago Tribune Article (registration required) here: “Saxophonist Zenon gives 36th Jazz Festival its Pinnacle”
|Miguel Zenon’s Solo at Fiesta Boricua 2014|
Among the highlights of the 21st Fiesta Boricua was the press conference held on Friday, August 29 at Clemente Community Academy in front of the mosaic of the great ballplayer. There, Alderman Roberto Maldonado formally welcomed the San Lorenzo delegation –representing this year’s “Lo Mejor de Nuestros Pueblos“– headed by its mayor the Hon. José Román Abreu. Maldonado read Mayor Emanuel’s proclamation declaring August 30 and 31 “San Lorenzo Days” in Chicago . Clemente Principal Marcey Sorensen welcomed all the participants to Clemente and invited them to participate in the 40th anniversary celebration of the opening of the school, which will be held on September 19 and 20, 2014. The 21st Fiesta Boricua was dedicated to this anniversary. Mayor José Román Abreu underscored the coincidence of the 21st anniversary of Fiesta Boricua with the #21 of Roberto Clemente’s jersey as a member of the Pirates.
During Friday evening, Noche Jíbara/Guayabera Gala was held in the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture. This event was attended by nearly 200 people including Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez, State Representative Luis Arroyo, Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr., Alderman Roberto Maldonado as well as some of the Fiesta Boricua sponsors. The evening’s high point was the formal recognition of the San Lorenzo delegation. Mayor José Román Abreu delivered a strong, engaging message and presented a motivational video about San Lorenzo’s panorama and achievements.
The musical groups Decimanía and Rafaelito Muñoz y su Trío delighted the public and even sang to celebrate Alderman Maldonado’s birthday and Paul and Ida Roldan’s 43rd wedding anniversary.
Saturday and Sunday became two days of total immersion in Puerto Rican music, artistry and food. It was a family focused celebration, which also included Misa Jíbara. Without a doubt, the 21st Fiesta Boricua was truly a huge success.
Bajo un sol candente, el padre Raúl Morales Berríos, acompañado por el grupo musical Aromas de la diócesis de Caguas, Puerto Rico, ofició la quinta Misa Jíbara así dándole inicio a la 21ra Fiesta Boricua el sábado 30 de agosto de 2014.
Más de 300 personas –principalmente feligreses de las iglesias católicas del vecindario incluso San Marcos, St. Eduviges, San Aloysius, Maternity BVM, San Silvestre, entre otros– se dieron cita en el Paseo Boricua para celebrar en un ambiente lleno de espiritualidad y hermandad boricua, un servicio religioso totalmente informado por su puertorriqueñidad. Una amplia delegación de sanloreceños –tanto de Chicago como de Puerto Rico– dijeron presente.
El Padre Raúl recalcó la importancia del contenido social de la misa Jíbara, como también la forma de celebrarse en un espacio abierto. El Padre también recordó el mensaje del Papa Francisco de llevar la iglesia a la calle y de salir del templo, añadiendo “aquí estamos en la calle”.
Honors San Lorenzo and the Bronx
The Noche Jíbara/Guayabera Gala has been held annually as the gala night to usher in Fiesta Boricua. This event seeks to honor the invited town from Puerto Rico showcasing the theme “Lo Mejor de Nuestros Pueblos”- San Lorenzo for 2014. This year it will be the municipality of San Lorenzo. Additionally, we have added a new theme to this year’s 21st Fiesta Boricua, “Lo Mejor de Nuestros Barrios” and, to represent that, we have selected The Bronx, New York.
The Gala will be held in the courtyard of the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, located at 3015 W. Division St. For a $50 donation, participants will be able to enjoy Puerto Rican food, live music and two drinks.
San Lorenzo Will Represent “Lo Mejor de Nuestros Pueblos”
The municipality of San Lorenzo, which has a population of 41,000 residents and is located in the eastern center part of Puerto Rico, was selected to represent the 21st Fiesta Boricua theme “Lo Mejor de Nuestros Pueblos”. Geographically, it is comprised of 10 barrios (districts). Its bountiful hospitality has earned it the recognition as the town of “El Buen Samaritano” (The Good Samaritan). A delegation from San Lorenzo, headed by its mayor, the honorable José “Joe” Román Abreu, will be honored at Noche Jíbara. Mayor Román Abreu has instituted a creative participatory democracy project to address the municipalities’ socio-economic problems entitled “Revolución Social”.
During the Gala, two of the town’s most outstanding musical groups, Trío Rafaelito Muñoz and Conjunto Típico Decimania, will provide live musical entertainment. A sampling of the town’s artisanry will be on display and for sale.
The Bronx Will Represent “Lo Mejor de Nuestros Barrios”
The Bronx, New York is often associated with the promise and challenges of the Puerto Rican Diaspora. Some of New York’s most prominent Puerto Rican personalities have come from The Bronx including the creators of Puerto Rican Salsa, as well as other cultural icons.
This year’s Fiesta Boricua will feature Herman Olivera “… considered by many as one of the very few soneros left in the true salsa genre”, a highly talented singer who has accompanied the likes of the legendary Eddie Palmieri. He will be accompanied by The Bronx’s very own Giovanni “Yova” Rodríguez.
A delegation from the Bronx, including the Latino political pioneer State Assemblyman José Rivera, will represent “Lo Mejor de Nuestros Barrios” theme of the 21st Fiesta Boricua.
On Friday, August 29, 2014 at 6pm, the PRCC will host it’s Annual Noche Jíbara (Guayabera Gala to inaugurate the 21st Fiesta Boricua. It will take place at the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture. The event will honor our guests from San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, representing “Lo Mejor de Nuestros Pueblos” and from the Bronx, New York, representing “Lo Mejor de Nuestros Barrios”. It is a semi-formal Guayabera Gala. The costs of $50.00 per person includes a delicious Puerto Rican dinner, 2 complimentary drinks, and live music from San Lorenzo. For more information and tickets, contact Juan Calderón at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make this a huge success by helping us identify sponsors at one of the following 4 sponsorship levels: San Lorenzo Platinum Level ($5000), The Bronx Gold Level ($2500), Paseo Boricua Silver Level ($1250) or Noche Jibara Bronze Level ($625)
El padre Raúl Morales Berrios de la diócesis de Caguas celebrará el sexto año de la ya legendaria misa jíbara. Este año, como el pasado, la misma inaugurará la Fiesta Boricua. Se espera que centenares se unan a esta máxima expresión de la espiritualidad puertorriqueña. Por primera vez, el grupo musical de su iglesia acompañará al Padre Raúl.
Este magnífico grupo realizó todo un magno esfuerzo para recaudar fondos para compartir con nuestra comunidad esta convivencia espiritual tan enraizada en nuestras tradiciones.