Singing Plena in the Snow: Paseo Boricua Parranda Puertorriqueña 2009



Xavier “Xavi” Luis Burgos –

Nostalgic for the sweet sounds of Boricuas singing and playing music outside your door during the Christmas season? Miss the smell of roasting lechón and the echoes of scratching güiros? For the past two years the ¡Humboldt Park NO SE VENDE! campaign has organized the Paseo Boricua Parranda Puertorriqueña, a special Puerto Rican tradition full of music and food, in order to promote Paseo Boricua as a safe, culturally relevant, and family-oriented space during the holiday season. ¡Humboldt Park NO SE VENDE! is an organization that works to connect housing resources to longtime community residents who are threatened by displacement (i.e. gentrification) and raise community consciousness on the issue.

In its third year, the Paseo Boricua Parranda took place on December 19, around the anniversary of the adoption of the Puerto Rican flag.  Over 100 participants visited nearly two dozen businesses down Division Street while traveling the parranda route, including an endearing visit to the Teresa Roldán Paseo Boricua Apartments for the elderly and the Institute for Puerto Rican Arts & Culture.

During the chilly and snowy evening, the event began at La Estancia Apartments with over 30 people enjoying hot chocolate, Puerto Rican pastries, and literature related to the parranda and its history in this community. The local bomba y plena group, Nuestro Tambó, serenaded the eager parranderos with mostly traditional Christmas plena songs, including Dame la mano paloma, but also added two new songs created by the NO SE VENDE campaign, with lyrics related to the struggle to preserve the Puerto Rican community in Humboldt Park.

As the singing and dancing parranderos visited each community business, receiving food and drink in gratitude for the mobile party, the group grew larger and defiant of the cold. What began as a relatively small group grew to over a 100 people who paid homage, with music, food, and waving Puerto Rican flags to dozens of community pioneers at Teresa Roldán Paseo Boricua Apartments, an affordable housing complex that remains a symbol of hope and resilience for the longtime residents of Humboldt Park. The event ended at the Institute for Puerto Rican Arts & Culture for the closing of its “EsCultura” exhibition of Puerto Rican sculpture.

The ¡Humboldt Park NO SE VENDE! campaign continues to plan events such as the parranda, which has potential to connect important resources to longtime community residents, support community businesses, preserve Puerto Rican traditions and experiences, and to promote Paseo Boricua as a historical center of Puerto Rican life in Chicago that is worth maintaining and building.

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