Full disclosure: This was my first time attending Puerto Rican Fest in any capacity. Also, I was not at the festival in a purely enjoyment role...I was there for professional purposes. However, I found adequate time to take in all that the festival was.
I will readily admit that I'm ashamed that this was my first Puerto Rican Fest. I'm not ashamed of that fact, but of WHY this was my first Puerto Rican Festival.
Plain and simply...fear. Fear of being an outsider. Fear of danger, of being targeted as an "outsider"..etc, etc...all of the things that I will give the side eye to suburbanites for when they talk about all the shit that can happen to them if they take a day trip into the big bad city.
Yes, I know...I'm hanging my head in shame...
However, most of all I'm sad because I've missed years of all the awesomeness that was the festival.
Fiestas Puertorriqueñas was the s**t!!!
I mean, what can I say? Amazing food! Amazing music! Beautiful women!
Whew! I was in heaven. And everyone was so pleasant. I had ample opportunity to practice the little Spanish that I know, and to learn a little in the process. One thing I've learned in my adventures in life is that if you try to meet people in their native tongue, they will so greatly appreciate it. When I flubbed a word, people would help me. When I said "Oh no, you're talking so fast!" they would slow down, and use small words (yes, in Spanish I'm a 4-year-old) and help me out.
On a grander note, I often found myself saying "I don't understand...I just don't understand," and I'm not referring to language. I'm referring to the pall of xenophobia sweeping our country. We've all seen videos of so called "patriots" (actually, they're racist assholes, and I'll merch on that) telling immigrants to "Speak American" (it's English you arse) and all that bull crap.
I can't understand how someone wouldn't delight in learning about cultures outside of their own. In addition, a recent poll suggests that almost half of Americans don't know that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.
Now that's embarrasing. Not to mention the horrendous response from our government at the disaster in Puerto Rico. That crossed my mind more than a few times as well this weekend.
It simply boggles my mind. Attending the festival this year definitely put a bug in my butt to get back to using my Duolingo daily to improve my Spanish skills. I actually had to ask someone what is the translation of Boricua, because it had never really occured to me to ask before.
As Hannah Hart said in one of my favorite My Drunk Kitchen episodes, "You should learn another language so Americans seem less ignorant."
In addition, I met some really cool people, who shall remain innocent, so as not to incriminate anyone. Before this weekend, I'd never heard of Jerry Rivera, Omi Kennedy (whom I met, and he was super nice) or Ivy Queen, but I loved their music.
Oh! Also, let me send a massive shout out to Jeannie's Flan! She had a booth, offering three flavors of her homemade flan. I may or may not have tried all three flavors (while I think the guava may have been my favorite, the coconut and vanilla were both to die for). She currently does a delivery service. Her flan is also served in 3 restaurants in the Chicagoland area. If you're a lover of amazing sweets, check her out. I met her personally, and she was a super nice lady.
Also, a second shout out to Ponce Restaurant. I got the opportunity to chat with some of their staff, as well as taste their amazing food. I loved it. I can't remember exactly what I ate, but there was something similar to an empanada, stuffed with beef that I scarfed. Awesome!
And in closing, I'll offer a great PSA!
Go out and enjoy the cultural fests in the city. Don't just go to the bullshit "let's have a beer and listen to a cover band" fests (don't get me wrong, those are fun too, and in previous years the cougars at the Taste of River North have been very nice to me), but get out and learn about the music, the food, and culture of people unlike yourself. This was the best time I've had at a street festival probably since hitting the Chicago Korean Festival about 2 years back.
We live in such an amazing multicultural city. Take advantage!
So, did you go to Puerto Rican Fest? What did you think? Was there something I missed? What were your favorite performances? Comment below!
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