Father Raúl Morales Berrios stood before a crowd of over 250 parishioners who gathered in the courtyard of the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture. His sermon was sung using improvised verses as the unmistakable sounds of the Puerto Rican cuatro guitar pierced the evening air. This was no ordinary religious ceremony, it was a Misa Jíbara – deep from the mountains of Puerto Rico and it served to kickoff one of the most unforgettable weekends for Chicago’s Puerto Rican community.
For the past 17 years Fiesta Boricua has been a staple of Chicago’s summer festivals. Every September thousands gather under the magnificent steel flags on Division Street to experience the best of Puerto Rico’s music, food and traditions. This year, its organizers incorporated a new dimension to this diverse cultural experience. Under the theme “Lo mejor de nuestros pueblos” – “The best of our towns,” the festival incorporated a series of events to showcase the finest cultural elements of one of the 78 municipalities of Puerto Rico. The first pueblo featured was Comerío, a beautiful city located in the heart of Puerto Rico’s central mountains. Over 200 Comerío residents flew into Chicago to take part in the weekend celebration.
The weekend began with Misa Jíbara, one of Comerío’s oldest and most cherished traditions. A Catholic Mass infused with musical and cultural elements of Puerto Rico, Misa Jíbara is a celebration of faith, inspiration and culture, combining the Spanish language, folk music and deeply rooted Puerto Rican traditions to produce a beautiful Catholic liturgy. Parishioners from both Comerío and Chicago witnessed a stunning service during which prayers were harmonized to the tune of Jíbaro music and the priest improvised the sermon in song.
Following the mass, attendees joined hundreds of other Chicago residents for Noche Jíbara, a gala celebration at the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture. The celebration was also dedicated to the city of Comerío and included the finest music, customs and artistry of the mountain town. Guests enjoyed traditional musical performances by some of Comerío’s most skilled musicians and dancers including numerous troubadours, who interpreted decimas, an improvised musical composition born of a tradition that dates back to Medieval Spain. The Mayor of Comerío, the Honorable Josian Santiago, was on hand and praised the event as the beginning of a new era in collaboration between the cities of Chicago and Comerío.
Even after an event-filled night the fun was not over.
The next day thousands of residents from across Chicago converged on Paseo Boricua to enjoy a day of music, food and art at Fiesta Boricua. The delegation from Comerío took the stage and delighted the audience with a series of rousing performances that lasted throughout the night.
The “Lo mejor de nuestros pueblos” initiative was truly a tremendous success bringing an authentic Puerto Rican cultural experience to the heart of Chicago. We look forward to this fun-filled event next year!