Some more bochinche for you, my beautiful people:
“But also he fails to see that the people within the community are doing it to themselves. Putting the flags up was the action of ghettoization to themselves. My point is my friends is that before publishing a article there needs to be two things to happen here. One please proof read your articles. And second please have a point or take English 101," says a reader (I will call him “angry joe”) of my May 2009 Fíjate article.
“¡Ay míjo, qué revolú!” my grandmother would say if she only know what new drama her grandson got himself into. Well, as you all know, soy sin pelo en la lengua, papá. For new readers, let me explain what I mean by all this and why “angry joe” is so hysterical.
Well, in my last column I highlighted the urgent threat that the Puerto Rican community is facing with its displacement from Humboldt Park, represented in the form of a divisive e-mail by a new yuppie resident. In this e-mail, the resident was trying to persuade a community business owner from mingling with the ¡Humboldt Park NO SE VENDE! campaign, which is a grassroots organization seeking to preserve Paseo Boricua.
As Boricuas in Chicago, we have seen this time and time again: when our communities are “redeveloped” and “repackaged” we are then treated as unwelcome pests. Like the story of a conguero friend of mine who raised his children in Bucktown only to have his oldest son one day be harassed in front of their home because a yuppie could not believe that a Puerto Rican family could live on “his” block, the arrogance of such an e-mail is evident to anyone who can feel human emotions. So, of course, I published a piece of it with a response. ¿Ay bendito, porqué tú hiciste eso,?” my grandmother would say. Well, for long as we have a Puerto Rican community, we must seek to provide an open and democratic forum from which we must discuss pressing and relevant issues. The preservation of Paseo Boricua and its discontents is the issue.
But anyway, what a backlash I got from that! From close friends and associates jokingly saying “don't e-mail Xavi anything, he'll publish it in Fíjate!” to less funny and cute phone calls, e-mails, and even visits to the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, some people, one way or another, was bothered/amused by my column.
All joking aside, I write all this not for ego, but to again highlight the issue: if we do not talk and do something about the displacement of the Puerto Rican community in Humboldt Park, then the forum to discuss, engage, envision, and build will no longer exist.
As for “angry Joe's” e-mail, it does pinpoint an important and dangerous trend in thought by many new yuppie residents (not all are “angry new residents” - some are actually decent people who respect and understand the efforts of longtime residents to build this community and therefore seek to participate in it, not sabotage or bogart it): that Puerto Ricans have no right to claim this area as ours.
Well, if one looks up the origins of ghettos, then one will see that they were areas in European cities where Jews were forced to live because they were beyond the “Kingdom of Christ.” This forced segregation did not deter this group to produce communities full of culture, history, and commerce. Humboldt Park was left to us Boricuas as a poor, worn-out slum by its Eastern European residents who left to the suburbs. Although, it is not perfect, walk down Division Street today and compare it to the street that my mother walked on decades ago, there is a huge, positive difference (businesses, festivals, buildings that look like Viejo San Juan...etc) and with its Puerto Rican identity intact (beginning with those two, 59-feet Puerto Rican Flags). But with “angry Joes” walking around, how long will it last?
Originally published in the "Fíjate" column of the June edition of La Voz del Paseo Boricua newspaper