How do we make sure our Puerto Rican communities in the United States live well and healthy lives? How do we sustain the cultures and history of Puerto Ricans in the United States? This episode of Puerto Rican Voices offers several answers to this very important question. We open our episode with a look at a unique New York City space—one that combines sports and music. El Maestro, an organization that offers programs in culture, education, and sports, came to life in the 70s. In this segment, learn the touching story that led to its foundation, its history and mission. Today, el Maestro serves boxing and culture in the same space, contributing to the physical and mental well-being of the South Bronx neighborhood it serves. Since its inception, it has produced both talented sportsmen and other professionals. At its core El Maestro stands for wellbeing for all. Learn why and how they embody the ideal of “cuerpo sano, mente sana” our abuelitas talked so much about in this episode.
We then move to one of the model and iconic neighborhoods for Puerto Ricans in Boston (one that may become your model after watching on)—Villa Victoria and the organization that made it possible, Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción (IBA). Through interviews with IBA’s Executive Director, Vanessa Calderón-Rosado, residents and artist of the community, learn about how a resilient working-class Puerto Rican community fought off displacement during the 1960s. The grass-roots movement that gave birth to Villa Victoria has become a model of urban renewal by the people and for the people. Such model has ensured the sustainability and wellness of the neighborhood. The tale does not conclude with the establishment of this neighborhood. Today, IBA lives on as thriving organization that preserves the history and culture of Puerto Rico through several initiatives, from its art programs to the now famous Festival Betances. The unselfish acts of the early residents of Villa Victoria forged the future of the home of all Puerto Ricans living in Boston and remain a source of pride and inspiration to the community.
Organizations alone do not secure the well-being and sustainability of our people and culture in the United States. As the story of Erisbelia Garriga shows, it takes one person to preserve a culture. Erisbelia is doing just that through her talents in the kitchen. What started as a hobby for this Puerto Rican who holds a doctorate from New York University soon became a life calling. Through the many cookbooks she has penned, which range from traditional Puerto Rican cooking to her most recent healthy vegetarian fare, Garriga is single-handedly sustaining a tradition of good food, preserving our culinary patrimony in the United States.
Catch the tale of how boricuas have been planting bandera in the United States with much success, ensuring the wellbeing and health of our communities stateside, in this new episode of Puerto Rican Voices.
© Center for Puerto Rican Studies. Published in Centro Voices on 25 September 2015.