On the corner of Division Street and Washtenaw Avenue, just east of the green expanse that is Humboldt Park, Cristian Roldán and his collaborators are nearing completion of the latest mural to adorn the history-rich walls of this rapidly gentrifying barrio. The mural spans half-a-block, but its length in physical space pales in comparison to its length in historical time. With an array of vivid colors and characters, images and intimacies, Roldán tells a story that stretches centuries, from the Spanish conquest of the Taíno island of Borikén to the volatile formation of Puerto Rican Chicago. Anchored in this history, the mural commemorates the 50th anniversary of the “1966 Division Street Riot.” A decade ago, in 2006, an earlier mural was commissioned on the same wall for the same proposition.1 While that mural, painted by the local artist Martin Soto, also paid homage to the community’s history, it did so differently. With large, blossoming amapolas as its backdrop, the mural focused on the Puerto Rican institutions that arose out of the literal and metaphorical ashes of the riot.
Michael Rodríguez-Muñiz. 2016. 2015. “Riot and Remembrance: Puerto Rican Chicago and the Politics of Interruption.” Centro Journal 28:2 204-217.