21st UPRS Annual Pa’lante Conference at UIC April 6-10

By Magda Collazo

This year’s Pa’lante Conference was focused on Puerto Rican Identity in the Age of Diaspora, a topic that brought about an array of deep thoughts and discussion among students and staff. Monday April 6th kicked off the Annual Pa’lante Conference hosted by UPRS at UIC with a very engaging presentation by Nelson Denis on his book, War on All Puerto Ricans. This event discussed the powerful, tragic, and untold history of U.S. intervention into the politics of Puerto Rico. Nelson Denis not only spoke about the content of his book, but also what inspired him to write it. The audience got a look into his family’s personal experience with these issues, and how their struggles led him to write against the U.S. and its invasion of Puerto Rico.

Tuesday April 7th was a day to immerse in a traditional form of Puerto Rican art and culture. Bombera de Corazon was led by Ivelisse Diaz, an educator and instructor of Bomba in the community. This event was meant to illustrate the origins of Bomba, her experience as a Bomba performer and instructor, and how Bomba is used to express Puerto Rican culture.  It was set in what is called a “Batey”, a place of congregation and gathering, a story circle. Ivelisse spent the first half talking about the history and significance of Bomba as well as her experience, while the second part was spent learning how to dance Bomba.


Melissa Montero led a wonderful presentation on Wednesday April 8th introducing her short for the film, ISABEL. The film ISABEL portrays the life of Isabel Rosado Morales, a woman whose life encompasses the history of Puerto Rico over the last century, and whose struggles reflect the politics that have divided Puerto Ricans in the past and continue to divide them.


Later in the day, a presentation/performance by Too4G captivated the audience’s senses through musical performance. The instruments of choice? The Puerto Rican Cuatro. The members of the group explained what Cuatro music is, their own experiences, and how they got involved. The rest of the presentation involved the group performing Cuatro music.


Thursday April 19th was another busy day in the Pa’lante Conference as students were engaged in an Arts-Based Civic Dialogue in the afternoon and Noche de Poetas later that evening. The Arts-Based Civic Dialogue was hosted by the UIC Latino Cultural Center and was focused on the Awakening of the Americas mural to explore collective creative solutions for common challenges. The dialogue discussed the meaning of 3 specific scenes in the mural, what they mean, and how students and staff could relate to them personally. One scene was the bird man with all of the flags, a scene of immigrants crossing the border, and the Zocalo scene that shows various aspects of indigenous cultures. Noche de Poetas was an amazing night filled with talented poets and musical artists sharing their own words.  The focus of this Noche de Poetas was, Without Borders: Reimagining Cultural Identity. It combined a variety of student organizations on campus such as the Union for Puerto Rican students, Mexican Students de Aztlan, Students for Justice in Palestine, as well as Students for the Advancement of Freedom, Equality, and Human Rights. Aside from the open mic, there were three invited guests including two featured poets, Remi Kanazi and Luis Tubens, as well as a performance by our musical guest Gabriel Miranda. This was a full house filled with discussion and a great sense of unity among all students.

A musical performance kicked off the last day of the Pa’lante Conference on Friday April 10th. Gabriel Miranda performed a few songs for students from his new album, “Viviendo En Macondo.” Gabriel not only engaged students in his beautiful melodies, but also brought up some very important topics of discussion involving identity. Being that Gabriel Miranda also writes music from the position of an activist, he had many things to add to the dialogue. The 2015 Pa’lante Conference was a success and the Union for Puerto Rican students is already excited to start planning for next year.

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