During the past two months our community has witnessed two impressive victories in our efforts to maintain this area as a critical space and place that speaks to the Puerto Rican presence and persistence in this city. On March 25, 2021, Representative Delia Ramírez shepherded through the HB 2395 bill for the Puerto Rico Town Empowerment District out of the Museums, Arts, & Cultural Enhancements Committee and onto the House floor. On April 15, 2021, there was another achievement for Puerto Rico Town. SB1833, the State Designated Cultural District bill was voted out of the Senate Committee on Tourism and Hospitality and onto the Senate floor with a 9-0 vote. 26 years after the installation of the flags of steel and the creation of Paseo Boricua, we can now speak of an expansion of this cultural commercial corridor into a cultural empowerment district, which will encompass a two-mile long strip on Division St. stretching from Western to Kostner. Thanks to Senators Cristina Pacione-Zayas and Omar Aquino and Representative Delia Ramírez for their leadership and support! They all embody what it means to represent their communities.
Jessie Fuentes, Co-Chair of the Puerto Rican Agenda issued the following statement during the hearing:
SB1833 seeks to create State Designated Cultural Districts in communities that have a rich history to preserve culture and identity. This bill will ensure that we invest in communities that have been disinvested in and protect communities that are being gentrified. Imagine being able to create a state of neighborhoods with main streets that allow tourists to experience culture, history, and the arts. Tourists can travel one state and feel like they are traveling the world. Immerse yourself totally in the Puerto Rican experience. Puerto Rico Town, popularly known as La Division, is a cultural hub in the city of Chicago. For the past 60 years we have built cultural and educational institutions.
In our commercial corridor we have ¡WEPA! Mercado de Pueblo, which recreates an economic engine for local artists and small business entrepreneurs. In Puerto Rico Town you can taste the best Puerto Rican food, smell the aroma of Puerto Rican coffee, listen to bomba y plena and all the genres of music played in our festivals and parade, you can see Puerto Rican art exhibits In the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, and touch the amazing Paseo Boricua Walk of Fame honoring Puerto Rican artists – Imagine being able to engage all of your senses in one commercial corridor.
There is a unique opportunity to be a state unlike none other, to intentionally and thoughtfully not just be welcoming of all cultures, but to preserve them with adequate resources. Imagine being able to award Designated Cultural District resources to the Polish, Black, Palestinian, Asian, Italian, Jewish and many other communities. Imagine transforming our urban areas into becoming the world in the city. Imagine being able to have main streets all across Illinois! This is not just any other bill, this is THE bill to transform our state – thank you.