by Laura Corona
That afternoon, former Chicago Alderman and now 11-term Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez read excerpts from his book, Still Dreaming: From the Barrio to Capitol Hill. His excerpts served as a reflection on his status as a U.S.-born Puerto Rican, and how that excluded him culturally from both the island and from full acceptance in the U.S., and ultimately feeling like an outsider on both lands. Congressman Gutierrez has fought for the rights of immigrants and the working class, and he emphasized the right and responsibility of the Latino vote.
On Wednesday, April 9th, the Rafael Cintron Ortiz Latino Cultural Center was graced with the presence of one of the men who envisioned its conception: UIC alum, Edwin Cortes. When I think of a community organizer and political prisoner, I would not have imagined such a gentle and thoughtful man as Edwin. He reflected on the Latino youth activism at UIC which fought for a Latino Studies department, a Latino college recruitment program, and a dedicated physical space for Latinos at the University. Today, we enjoy all of these services, and should not take them for granted. Edwin pointed out the great inequality of the large Latino population at UIC, compared to the miniscule representation we have in student government. As a lifelong political and community activist, Edwin advocates for sustainably and ownership of our culture both locally at UIC (as student involvement efforts are facing severe budget cuts), but also on a global level.
On Thursday, April 10th, a group of seniors from Roberto Clemente Community Academy and Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School came to UIC to shadow current UIC students. Most of the high school seniors had already applied or been accepted to UIC, and this day was a great opportunity for them to live a day in the life on campus. The group toured the dorms, computer labs, cafeterias, bowling alley, library, recreation facility, and writing center all on East Campus. The Shadow Day allowed current UIC students to share what they loved most about the campus, and what they wished they had known as incoming freshman.
That evening we hosted Noche de Poetas, and were honored to hear from two very talented performers. The first was Emanuel Emilio Cruz, an incredibly talented Puerto Rican- born singer and songwriter. This was his first visit to Chicago, and he was so impressed with the tightknit Latino and Puerto Rican communities at UIC and the Humboldt Park neighborhoods. He was followed by female rapper Pinqy Rinq, a Chicago native and also UIC alum! Pinqy Rinq performed several of her powerful and moving works which touched on the themes of cultural pride, personal identity, feminism, sexual abuse victims and survivors, and battling the national media portrayal of Latinos and crime in Chicago. We closed the night with a reading of a group poem that was written line by line by the attendants. The end result was utterly remarkable: a single cry of many voices rejoicing over the trials and tribulations of our communities, and toasting to our permanent presence and future prosperity.