The Annual Raíces Gala at The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture (NMPRAC) in 2020 was an extraordinary occasion from start to finish: The museum celebrated 20 years since its founding, and the Humboldt Park community celebrated 25 years since the public art project of the steel Puerto Rican flags on Paseo Boricua, known as “Banderas,” was installed. Moreover, the celebration was distinctive for yet another reason. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s gala was celebrated virtually, and, for the first time, it took place in Puerto Rico. Notably, the 2020 Raíces Gala was moved to December so as to kick off the holiday season in Puerto Rico, known as “Las Navidades.”
Each year as part of the gala, NMPRAC selects major artists to receive the prestigious Ceiba Award, the only national award granted to Puerto Ricans for their artistic and cultural accomplishments and contributions. This year, the awards went to the museum’s longtime collaborator, theater company Y No Había Luz; to the national organization, Hispanic Federation, for their contributions to help the arts of Puerto Rico and the Diaspora; to José Feliciano, who celebrates 50 years of the classic song “Feliz Navidad”; and to Lucecita Benítez, who is considered “The National Voice of Puerto Rico.” Aside from allowing viewers to be present as this year’s honorees receive their awards, the gala video transports viewers to the Isla Del Encanto, welcoming them with a performance by Y No Había Luz, interspersed with tributes to the culture of the pueblo of Loíza, and ending with a musical performance attended by none other than the Three Kings.
The Raíces Gala helps to raise the funds required for NMPRAC to continue to thrive as a cultural anchor in the City of Chicago as well as become the preferred destination for all those wanting to learn about the rich history, art, and culture of Puerto Rico. As the only self-standing Puerto Rican museum in the United States, the NMPRAC’s vision is to collaborate with other institutions to harness the necessary resources in order to expand programming, exhibits, and visitor experience.