Cristina Torres is the founder of the non-alcoholic pop-up shop called “ Bendición Dry Bar”, the newest Boricua woman-owned business to come to Paseo Boricua. Cristina is a proud Mexican and Puerto Rican woman who grew up in Humboldt Park on Talman & Wabansia and has worked in the service industry/customer service for the past 32 years. One of the main reasons Cristina created Bendición Dry Bar was because when she got sober she saw that there were not a lot of places that delft like a safe spaces for her to hang out in and didn’t revolve around alcohol. Cristina says “since I saw that that space was not there for me, I decided to create it myself. Many say that cafes are where you can gather without alcohol. However, that option only works until about 3:00 pm, so she wanted to create “a sober social place where people could come, hang out with their friends, make new friends, and also come to community-oriented events”. The official hours for Bendición Dry Bar are Wednesday-Friday 1:00 pm-7:00 pm and Saturday-Sunday 12:00 pm-7:00 pm, and you will often find Bendición Dry Bar hosting events that go until 8:00 pm and later. When asked about why Cristina wanted to bring the dry bar to Paseo Boricua she says “I grew up in the neighborhood and have felt out of place everywhere else in the city and I didn’t want to be a part of the continuous gentrification of the city. Paseo Boricua specifically feels like home to me and I love being able to be a part of the larger Puerto Rican community in Humboldt Park and being able to contribute something that is beneficial to people in the area and not adding another alcoholic option. I wanted to provide a safe space for people to hang out in that didn’t revolve around alcohol”.
According to a study done by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism on “Alcohol and the Hispanic Community” researchers found that “trends in drinking among Hispanics vary by country of origin. Among men, Puerto Ricans tend to drink the most and Cubans the least. Among women, Puerto Ricans tend to drink the most and Mexicans the least.” and “overall, Puerto Ricans had the highest rate of alcohol dependence at 5.5% in comparison to Mexicans (4.7%), South/Central Americans (3.1%), and Cubans (2.4%).” These statistics are very heartbreaking to read. However, this is also why La Voz is so excited to welcome Bendición Dry Bar to Paseo Boricua! Alcohol abuse is a major issue in the Puerto Rican community, and it is an uncomfortable topic we need to be able to work on. Alcohol itself has been a tool used to advance colonialism for centuries in Indigenous communities all over the world. It is a cultural activity to get together with family, especially during the holiday season, and share a drink like coquito. But maybe this year instead of using rum you can bring the non-alcoholic coconut rum from Bendición Dry Bar to your family gathering and talk about why we as Puerto Ricans need to be weary of alcohol dependency. Or maybe a few times a month you can visit Bendición Dry Bar to share some drinks and laughter instead of going to your usual bar. Cristina shared that she named the dry bar Bendicón in honor of her grandmother from Ponce, Puerto Rico. As Puerto Ricans, it is a very important cultural tradition to pedir la bendición or ask for a blessing when you see your family/elders. We hope bendición dry bar will serve as a blessing to our Puerto Rican community as it continues to offer a space for community to gather without the use of alcohol.