José López Rivera & the Puerto Rican Cultural Center

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Mural in Humboldt Park.

On Thursday, February 23rd, we had the privilege of speaking with José López Rivera, executive director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center in Humboldt Park (Chicago) and brother of Puerto Rican independence activist, Oscar Lopez.

On Friday, March 3rd, we had the opportunity to hear more about the history of Humboldt Park and Puerto Rican Culture, and how the Puerto Rican Cultural Center has played an immense role in helping to sustain the community.

After a delicious breakfast with home cooked meals by López Rivera and his family, we had the opportunity to take a tour to the various organizations between the two big, steel Puerto Rican flags on Division street, between California and Western, that are governed through the Puerto Rican cultural center locations.

While engaging with José López Rivera, he taught us about the history of the steel Puerto Rican flags on Division street (image below).

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This Northwest side of Chicago has been declared the Puerto Rican community since the 1950s, but it was not until 1995 that the steel flags were rooted into the streets of Chicago. The steel flags put in place in honor of the Puerto Ricans who came to the states from the island during 1946-1966 to work at the steel mills.

We learned that the poles are 55 feet tall, span 56 feet across, weight 30 tons, and can withstand 75 mile per hour winds. The flags have become a staple to the Humboldt Park community. One can learn more about these Flags of Steel here and here.

The Puerto Rican Cultural Center (PRCC) offers a variety of resources, as well as opportunities to get involved in the community development of Humboldt Park. They were founded in 1973, and as a non-profit seeks to serve the social/ecological needs of Chicago’s Puerto Rican/Latino community. The PRCC encourages people to “think critically about their reality and promote an ethics of self-reliance based on social responsibility.” The various programs consist of wellness, social, educational, cultural, and quality of life issues that impact the Puerto Rican/Latino community and other marginalized community. The PRCC provides resources for education, literacy, housing, the LGBTQ+ community/homophobia, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, gang violence, teen pregnancy, police brutality, racism, economic and community development, and human rights violations.

Overall, we gained much insight about what the PRCC can offer the Puerto Rican community, as well as other marginalized communities in need of resources and assistance.

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