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PR Voices S2E2: The Beaten Path

By Centro Staff

By now, it's old news that Puerto Ricans are moving stateside in droves. However, the emphasis on the current migration almost makes it seem as if it were a new and exciting phenomena. And while the movement of Puerto Ricans from the island today is indeed significant, it is not without precedent. Indeed, Puerto Ricans have been forging culture and community across the nation for over 100 years. In this week’s episode of Puerto Rican Voices, we bring you several old-school institutions that have ensured the sustainability of puertorriqueñidad stateside for all Puerto Ricans, regardless of whether they were born stateside or newly arrived here.

First up, we introduce to you Taller Puertorriqueño. This community-based arts organization working out of Philadelphia has been working hard to preserve, promote, and nurture the Puerto Rican community. Running for over forty years, this organization was founded in 1974 by the Puerto Rican artists and activists as a graphic arts workshop that provided cultural training to local youth. Now, as a larger institution, it has furthered its goals by developing several programs, such as the Cultural Exploration Program (CEP) or Youth Artist Program (Yap), that help build bridges for the diaspora to connect to their Puerto Rican heritage. In this segment, we interview some of the organizers behind these programs. They share with us how they impact their community, and how their celebration of the arts impacts the Puerto Rican community.

Next up, we bring you a delicious serving of the Orlando-based Melao Bakery. The owners of the bakery, Eduardo and Yanira Colón, wanted to bring the feel and taste of the island to Central Florida. Open since 2012, they only serve the traditional foods, sweets, baked goods, (and even drinks) from the islands, Melao Bakery has established itself as a main destination for any Puerto Rican traveling or living stateside. With every plate they serve, they bring comfort and culture to those who visit. The owners speak to us of how the bakery came to be, and how important culture and community is to them.

Lastly, we present you the Puerto Rico Cultural Center operating out of Chicago, Illinois. First organizing itself during the tumultuous times of early 1970s Chicago, the Center rose out out of the necessity of immediate assistance for the community. Through grassroots effort they have helped establish programs to assist the community with health issues, cultural education, creative expression, and housing for those in need within the community. This is all done following the Center’s main goal of instilling in the community a sense of self-determination, self-actualization, and self-sufficiency. In this segment, organizers speak on the history of the center, how it developed, and the cultural festivals they help organize at Humboldt Park.

And that is all for this episode of Puerto Rican Voices! We hope that these stories inspire you to go visit the events these organizations host, and get to know more of what the Puerto Rican community has to offer. As always, start the conversation online at #Boricuasonline. We will see you next time! 

© Center for Puerto Rican Studies. Published in Centro Voices on 19 February 2016.