MCA’s Newest Exhibit Entre Horizontes: Art and Activism Between Chicago and Puerto Rico

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By: Xiomara Rodriguez

The Museum of Contemporary Art’s newest exhibit honors Chicago Puerto Ricans’ contribution to Puerto Rican history. The exhibit titled
“Entre Horizontes: Art and Activism Between Chicago and Puerto Rico” examines the artistic genealogies and social justice movements
that connect Puerto Rico with Chicago. The exhibit showcases works by an intergenerational group of artists with ties to Chicago, Puerto Rican painters, and artists whoaddress social and political issues through their work. The name “Entre
Horizontes” speaks to the exhibition’s goal to bridge the horizons between the waters of Lake Michigan and the Caribbean, by tracing correspondences across not only visual art and social justice, but also place and identity.

This exhibition is historic for many reasons as it is rare that Chicago Puerto Ricans are celebrated in such an illustrious space like the Museum of Contemporary Art. But beyond that, the San Juan-born Curator Carla Acevedo-Yates has done the work to bring justice to the often-overlooked beauty, power, and resiliency of our “Pedacito de Patria”.

In addition to the artwork in the exhibition, there are photographs of local Humboldt Park residents taken by Carlos Flores in the 50s, there are archival materials on display (including old issues of this newspaper taken from The Puerto Rican Cultural Center’s Digitizing the Barrio Archive), and you can listen to interviews with current Humboldt Park residents reflecting on the materials. I would say that this exhibition is the most beautiful love letter to Humboldt Park, but I believe it is much more than that. The exhibition goes beyond showcasing the beauty of the connection between Chicago and Puerto Rico. The exhibition also teaches the history of anticolonial resistance and transcultural solidarities that have shaped Chicago’s Puerto Rican community. I was able to view the exhibit on opening day with the former Puerto Rican political prisoner, Ricardo Jiménez, and as we viewed the archival materials documenting the long fight this community took on to free our political prisoners, I asked if when he was in prison he ever imagined we would be standing in the Museum of Contemporary Art reading articles honoring the fight to get him released, and he replied: “No, I thought I would die in prison”. Throughout the day I kept thinking of Fidel Castro’s speech “History Will Absolve Me”, and the poetic justice that on the 50th Anniversary of The Puerto Rican Cultural
Center, the founders of the Center (many of whom spent most of their lives in prison for their work to advance Puerto Rican self-determination) are being honored for their commitment to anti-colonial resistance. In so many ways this exhibit has done more than showcased our community, it has done it justice.

In addition to the exhibit, the opening day of Entre-Horizontes began with a discussion between The Puerto Rican Cultural Center’s Executive
Director José E. López and MCA Curator Carla Acevedo-Yates on the past, present, and future of Puerto Rican activism, which can be watched on The Puerto Rican Cultural Center’s YouTube page. The event ended with the world premiere of the new documentary, Humboldt Park: Raíces de Resistencia, produced by Televisa/Univision Chicago. Both the discussion and the documentary highlighted the Puerto Rican community contribution to liberation work globally and implored the audience to look at its community organizing work based in the practice of Maroon societies in Latin America as a possibility for a liberated future.