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Art vendors honor Puerto Rican heritage at 2024 ‘Fiestas Patronales Puertorriqueñas’

Families, friends, and Chicago Residents wait in a line that wraps around the corner of 2800 W. Division St, on Thursday, June 6, 2024. Everyone gathers for the first day of the weekend long celebration of the Puerto Rican Festival and heritage.

The line to enter the annual Chicago Puerto Rican Festival stretched for a block, with parents and children holding hands, teenagers sharing laughs and adults wearing Puerto Rican flags on their backs.


The festival, also recognized as ‘Fiestas Patronales Puertorriqueñas,’ returned to the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago on Thursday, June 6, the start of a four-day celebration.


Scheduled traditionally in June to coincide with Caribbean-American Heritage Month, the celebration features live music, carnival rides, interactive art installations and various other activities for the public.


While the festival is one of many held in Chicago this summer, its continuation holds cultural significance to community vendors. 


“What it means to me is community and just being proud of our culture and in our flag, our food, music and family,” said local vendor Jennifer Concepcion. “Just being able to celebrate our culture in Chicago means a lot to me.” 


Concepcion’s vendor stand included a variety of gold, silver and beaded jewelry from her business, La Creative Co. Her jewelry aims to celebrate the Puerto Rican culture and community, she said. 


“I wanted to create something special that was handmade with the community and something that they can cherish for years and wear for the festival every year,” Concepcion said. 


In another of the white tents set up for vendors, Elimagdy Amaro from Puerto Rico stood behind a table that displayed various of her handmade items: colorful cultural clothing and headwear, mixed media artworks, patterned fans and fabric dolls with various skin tones. 


For her, vending at the Puerto Rican festival meant more than sales. “The most important thing is to educate people. As you see I have African descendent items. I try to honor my heritage,” Amaro said. 


Through the dolls, each wearing a different colorful dress, Amaro aimed to raise awareness and promote inclusivity among representations of Puerto Rican culture and people. 


“In Puerto Rico, we have three races. We have the Spaniards, the Indio Tainos and the Africans and I like to honor that part of my heritage,” Amaro said. Her dolls and their difference in appearance have sparked meaningful conversation between her and buyers, she said. 


For some, the festival serves not only as a platform to celebrate Puerto Rican traditions but also as a tradition in itself.


“It’s been here for a long time and I’m happy it’s still here,” Javier Vargas from Chicago said. “I know the neighborhood is changing so much and I’m hoping that we continue our traditions.” 


Vargas, a Humboldt Park vendor and alumnus of Columbia College Chicago, showcased his own handmade art alongside fellow vendors. 


“My artwork, the majority of it is made out of beans. I sprinkle in different stuff, like lamps and I do jewelry and bamboo banners too,” Vargas said. 


His business, JavMar Arts, named after him and his wife, featured decorated bottle caps depicting various Puerto Rican towns and other artworks, including a tapestry adorned with Taino Caribbean symbols and a Puerto Rican flag crafted from beans.


Alongside vendors, the festivities will continue through Sunday, June 9, with the 46th annual Puerto Rican People’s Parade scheduled at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 8 on Division St. 


Proceeds of the festival will go towards the Tu Casa Project, an organization that offers community resources and programs to Chicago Latinos. 


Copy edited by Doreen Abril Albuerne-Rodriguez


Resumen en Español:


La cuadragésimo sexta edición anual de las Fiestas Patronales Puertorriqueñas regresa al Parque Humboldt.


La celebración incluye música en vivo, comida y vendedores de arte que venden sus piezas hechas a mano que honran a Puerto Rico.


Junto con los vendedores, las festividades continuarán hasta el domingo 9 de junio, con el cuadragésimo sexto Desfile del Pueblo Puertorriqueño programado a las dos de la tarde del sábado 8 de junio en la División de la Calle.


Resumen por Kaelah Serrano

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About the Contributors
Kaelah Serrano
Kaelah Serrano, Photojournalist
kserrano@columbiachronicle.com   Kaelah Serrano is a junior photojournalism major. She has covered music festivals, campus art exhibitions and metro parades and protests. Serrano joined the Chronicle in January 2023.   Hometown: Chicago, Illinois