In Historic Proclamation Governor Pritzker Declares Boricua Cultural District

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By Xiomara Rodríguez

On February 26, 2024 Governor JB Pritzker announced the State-Designated Cultural District program at a press conference at the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture. The program from the Department of Commerce and Economic Development (DCEO) will provide a portion of $3 million in funding to selected designated cultural areas intended to support economic development, tourism, and local entrepreneurship; the preservation of historic buildings, traditions, and languages; and the promotion of culturally informed education. In addition to announcing this program, Pritzker announced that The Puerto Rican Cultural Center and Puerto Rico Town were selected and officially designated as a 2023 State-Designated Cultural District in the State of Illinois. This was an incredible moment for Chicago’s Puerto Rican community, along with the Puerto Rican Diaspora as a whole, because this is the first time in the United States that a Puerto Rican community will be officially recognized as a cultural district. Moreover, the Puerto Rican community in Chicago, mainly The Puerto Rican Agenda of Chicago, created the concept of State-Designated Cultural Districts, and it was only through their tireless efforts over the past seven years working with local elected officials like then-Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas and Representative Delia Ramirez that this idea became a reality.

This exciting new program stands as a testament to the legacy Puerto Ricans have built in Illinois and against the displacement and spacial deconcentration Puerto Ricans have had to endure for centuries. at the hands of U.S. colonialism. Many Chicago Puerto Ricans can trace their family stories through the places they have been pushed out of, starting with Puerto Rico, then the Gold Coast, Lincoln Park, Lakeview, and most recently Humboldt
Park. These are the stories that pushed The Puerto Rican Agenda of Chicago to develop this State-Designated Cultural District program, because as Alderperson Jessie Fuentes remarked during the press conference “We have the right to generational wealth, thriving communities and affordable housing. Having those things shouldn’t mean the eradication of our place”.

Beyond being a historic moment for the Puerto Rican Community of Chicago, one of the most exciting announcements of the press conference is that six other cultural districts will now benefit from this program created by Chicago’s Puerto Ricans. Bronzeville, Chinatown, Clark Street/Camino Clark in Rogers Park, Mahalia Jackson 79th Street in Chatham, and Little Village were also recognized as State-Designated Cultural Districts, which is a testament to the fact that when one of us wins we all win. Although Puerto Ricans in Chicago were the architects of this program, the experience of gentrification, displacement, erasure, disinvestment, and racism that inspired the program is an experience, unfortunately, shared by many marginalized communities in Chicago. This victory is made so much sweeter by the fact that we get to share the fruits of our labor with other communities of resistance throughout Illinois. The best is yet to come as the next generation of young people raised in these strong cultural communities become our next generation of proud leaders.