Eric López –
Students and staff of Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School, members of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, and Batey Urbano Collective members traveled more than 15 hours on bus to New York City for a three-day pilgrimage from December 11 to 13, 2009. The trip served as a culturally engaging educational experience for PACHS students that included visits to El Museo del Barrio and Taller Boricua at the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center.
Included on the trip was a tour of Hostos Community College, located in the South Bronx. PACHS students and staff toured the campus and one of Hostos’ most popular departments, the dental hygiene program. The long history of partnership and struggle with the Bronx community was apparent as students learned about the institution’s long history in New York of promoting higher education opportunities for Puerto Ricans and Latinos. University students of Hostos Community College provided an interactive and informational tour, with an edge of personal experience, struggle, and determination in their personal pursuit of higher education. Another important part of the trip was a conference dedicated to mobilizing support for the release of Puerto Rican political prisoners Oscar López Rivera and Carlos Alberto Torres.
National Boricua Human Rights Network organized the conference, “Bring Them Home,” held at Hostos. It was a gathering attended by activists from around the country and Puerto Rico in hopes of collaborating to create new strategies to bring awareness to the unjust incarceration of Oscar López Rivera and Carlos Alberto Torres. Three former political prisoners were present: Adolfo Matos, Ricardo Jiménez, and Luis Rosa. Samuel Vega, a member of the Batey Urbano Collective facilitated an activity at the conference with PACHS students, who created a spatial representation of a prison cell by taping off a 6 x 9 feet space and occupied it to simulate the physical, mental, and emotional limitations of incarceration. Adolfo Matos shared his experience and expressed not simply the limitations of incarceration, but the possibilities and opportunities of resistance nonetheless.
The trip concluded with a celebration of the anniversary of the creation of the Puerto Rican flag and the birthday of Bronx Assemblyman, José Rivera, at Hostos Community College’s theater. Several salsa bands performed, including Son de la Loma and La Excelencia. The concert ended with a memorable performance by legendary sonero Jose Alberto “El Canario.”