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PR Voices S1E8: An Unexpected Turn


It’s impossible to anticipate the ways in which the Puerto Rican experience will take hold here in the United States…or anywhere else for that matter. It may come down to a nostalgic connection to a certain aspect of one’s childhood, a legacy that can take years to understand, or even something as simple as looking inward. Regardless, it’s an ongoing process that continues to repeat itself in new and exciting ways. So this week, we bring you three more stories that focus on the unexpected ways Puerto Rican roots and heritage can take shape. 

Working directly with farmers and harvesters, José Gabriel Ramírez Ruiz has created a restaurant with a unique aesthetic and a strong personal ethos. The renowned chef had originally left Puerto Rico in 2003 in search of a more disciplined approach to his craft. Yet as he explains in this first segment, his Puerto Rican roots provided him with an unexpected influence that would take years for him to appreciate. We spent the afternoon with Jose and listened to him explain the origins of his South Williamsburg establishment and the ‘vegetable forward’ philosophy he practices. Be warned, you’ll probably get a little hungry as Jose prepare a few of his signature dishes. 

In the second part of the episode, we leave Brooklyn and travel to the Bronx to speak with photographer and Union Rights activist Joe Conzo, otherwise known as “the man who took hip-hop’s baby pictures.” A Bronx native and grandson of the legendary Puerto Rican activist and educator Evelina López Antonetty, Joe reflects on the importance of documenting one’s own culture-something he was fortunate enough to learn firsthand. You’ll also get to catch a glimpse of the photos that changed Joe’s life as he takes us on a tour through a recent Hip-Hop Revolution exhibit hosted by the Museum of the City of New York. 

And finally, we spend some time with Grammy-nominated jazz saxophonist Miguel Zenón. He reflects on the questions of identity that recently inspired him to record his latest album Identities are Changeable. He also discusses his Caravana Cultural project, an attempt to bring jazz music to rural areas of Puerto Rico. 

That’s it for this week. There are a few more surprises than usual, but as far as expectations go, we can promise you three things in this episode: good music, good food, and good people. That’s a party, no?

© Center for Puerto Rican Studies. Published in Centro Voices on 30 October 2015.