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Chicago’s Puerto Rican Activists Turned The Horrors Of Colonialism Into A Haunted House

Chicago Boricua Resistance made a haunted house out of imperialism in “Colonialism Undead” at the Segundo Ruis Belviz Cultural Center this Halloween. The creators hoped the installation would highlight the horrors of Spanish and U.S. colonial rule in Puerto Rico. 

While there is nothing more terrifying than intimate details of colonialism — like the fact that Conquistadors rode the backs of Taínos instead of walking sometimes out of laziness — the haunted house isn’t solely fixated on the darkest aspects of history. 

The event describes itself as “a haunted house showcasing the horrors of colonialism in Puerto Rico with a reggaeton-resistance get down against oppression.” All proceeds of the event will support arts and culture initiatives, apprenticeships, and programs with local guest curators. 

The haunted house is made of four rooms that will highlight different historical horrors.

While there are no ghouls or demons in the house, its four rooms will trace a different period in Puerto Rican history. The 16th-century Spanish colonization, the United States annexation in 1898 and Hurricane Maria will each be showcased. 

Puerto Rican history is no stranger to horrors: genocide, slavery, pillaging, plundering, natural disasters, and economic exploitation have riddled the country for centuries. 

“Colonialism is scary as hell,” Miguel Alvelo, a member of Chicago Boricua Resistance, told PRI. “When you look at it — when you really look at it — it is terrifying. But the thing is, as colonized people, we’ve normalized it so much, we don’t really think about it.”

“Colonialism Undead” makes imperialism more tangible to understand.

The house hopes to defamiliarize abstract notions of colonialism into something in the tangible world that visitors can engage with. 

“Turning this supposedly abstract idea of colonialism into a haunted house is a way of bringing back the reality of what’s happening,” Alvelo said. 

The venue is meant to be dark and moody, but it is more like a chilling art installation than a place where actors in costumes will pop up to scare you. Using archival footage and audio and original works of art, the space will bring history back to life. 

According to PRI, the structure of the roof is made of blue FEMA tarp as an illusion to Hurricane Maria. The tarp belonged to Ephram Ramirez Jr., a member of the collective’s father who survived the disaster with his 93-year-old grandfather in San Sebastián. Today, Ramirez says the road by his father’s home is impassable because it has not been repaired to the extent a banana tree has grown in the middle of it. 

Yes, there will be ghosts, actually. 

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Zombies come from colonialism! The folklore of the zombie originates in post revolutionary Haiti where it integrated with Voodoo religion. Bokor sorcerers used the undead as free labor or pawns tasked with commiting evil acts. The zombie became the cautionary tale of the potential return of slavery to a nation haunted by its consequences. After the US invasion and occupation of Haiti in the early 20th century, the zombie started its creeping steps into US popular culture. When the US occupied Haiti it systematically attempted to destroy the native religion of Voodoo. Haitians resisted and, in turn, when the US left it took with it a white[washed] zombie that first appeared in the 1932 movie "White Zombie." Since then, most zombie films and TV shows completely ignore the Haitian origins of the myth, but still continue the underlying tradition of the zombie as the cautionary tale of things that can come or return, the anxieties of a World haunted by its past and constantly transforming into unfamiliar paths. To learn more about Colonialism Undead join us on Oct. 31 at @segundoruizbelvis cultural center for a haunted house on the horrors of imperialism and a reggaeton-resistance party que pondrá a bailar a to' los muertos. Sources: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/10/how-america-erased-the-tragic-history-of-the-zombie/412264 http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20150828-where-do-zombies-come-from https://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC28folder/WhiteZombie.html https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/zombie-movies-are-never-really-about-zombies-180965321/

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While all of the details of the haunted house are kept hush-hush, Chicago Boricua Resistance said there would be ghosts. One of them is Dr. Cornelius Rhoads, an American oncologist who conducted experiments on Puerto Ricans. In 1931, the doctor injected research subjects with cancer cells. 

In a letter made infamous by its scathing racism, Rhodes proudly admitted to murdering eight Puerto Ricans. The letter which will be featured in the exhibit says Puerto Ricans are, “the dirtiest, laziest, most degenerate and thievish race of men ever inhabiting this sphere.”

Other historical ghosts will be featured and judging by Rhoads’ inclusion, they’re sure to be pretty scary too. 

The 1937 Ponce Massacre will be centered among other atrocities. 

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"ICE imprisons 50,000+ people. Thousands crowd into concentration camps that freeze, starve, physically and sexually abuse, and even kill detainees. Others endure maximum security in criminal prison despite legal standards against punitive detention for migration infractions. And still others are warehoused in privately run “shelters” that plaster a more pleasant facade on unjust, unnecessary, in humane incarceration. Another 40,000 other lives hang in limbo, trapped by the “remain in Mexico” policy that disallows asylum seekers from waiting in the United States while their claims are considered. More asylum seekers will soon be denied under a bogus "safe third country" policy that requires individuals to have already been denied asylum elsewhere before seeking it in the US. Thousands more kids have been separated from their parents. Millions more live in fear of deportation as ICE increases raids, arrests people seeking legal status during routine check-ins, and targets activists who speak out in defense of the undocumented. And yet, knowing all this, many thousands more will continue to make the treacherous journey toward the US border. That is because they are trying to escape violence and instability that threaten their lives—stoked by US policies from backing brutally repressive governments to enacting free trade deals that allow US-based extractive industries to profit off displacing indigenous communities. The US government founded its existence on genocide and slavery. These human rights abuses are all the more deplorable carried out on stolen land, on the basis of colonial borders. In the spectacular shamelessness if US capitalism, these crimes present irresistible business opportunities to corporate giants like Amazon that cash in by selling facial recognition software and cloud services. Close the concentration camps! Let them all in! No business with ICE! Decriminalize migration!" -Coalition to Close the Concentration Camps Chicago #Chicago #nooneisillegal #chicagomarathon

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“Some of the older aspects of colonialism seem like the most raw and outrageous things, but there’s a lot of present-day things that are just as outrageous,” Omar Torres Kortright, executive director of the cultural center, told PRI. 

The event will have a nod to the 1937 Ponce Massacre, where peaceful protestors organized to oppose the imprisonment of Nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos were shot at by police who killed 17 unarmed civilians and injured 200. Among the massacre, the forced sterilization of a third of Puerto Rico’s women which began in 1936 and ended in the 1970s, the 3000 who died during Hurricane Maria, and an influx of wealthy white investors will be addressed at the show. 

“It’s like a second invasion,” Kortright said of the investors. “They’re buying our land. And they’re taking out our young people that have been trying to keep that land. I think that we’re in that process where we’re going to lose our land, and we’re going to lose our home, basically. And that’s the huge risk of this normalization.”

The exhibit ends with a reggaeton resistance because the intention is to activate Puerto Ricans and allies against the looming and current oppressive forces. 

“In a world that is telling you over and over again that you’re not worth anything, that you should stay quiet and you should follow the rules, taking time to be loud, have fun, have pleasure — is a form of resistance,” Alvelo said. 

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Chicago’s Mi Tocaya Is Offering Up Free Mexican Homemeals For Undocumented Community

Culture

Chicago’s Mi Tocaya Is Offering Up Free Mexican Homemeals For Undocumented Community

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Undocumented communities are being left out of Covid relief plans. Chef Diana Dávila of Mi Tocaya in Chicago is working to help undocumented restaurant worker in the time of Covid. Abuse of undocumented workers is rampant in certain industries and Chef Dávila hopes to offer some kind of help.

Mi Tocaya is a Mexican restaurant in Chicago’s Logan Square that wants to help the community.

Covid-19 has devastated the hospitality industry with restaurants being hit exceptionally hard. Restaurants have been forced to close their doors for good as the virus dragged on with no decent relief plan from the federal government. As several countries financially support citizens to avoid economic disaster, the U.S. government has given citizens $1,800 total to cover 10 months of isolating and business closures.

Namely, Mi Tocaya is working to help the undocumented community.

Mi Tocaya, a family-run restaurant, is teaming up with Chicago’s Top Chefs and local non-profits Dishroulette Kitchen and Logan Square Neighborhood Association. The goal is to highlight the issues facing the undocumented community during the pandemic.

The initiative called Todos Ponen, is all about uplifting members of our community in a time of severe need. The restaurant is creating healthy Mexican family meals for those in need.

”We asked ourselves; How can we keep our doors open, provide a true service to the community, maintain and create jobs, and keep the supply chain intact by supporting local farmers and vendors. This is the answer,” Chef Dávila said in a statement. “I confidently believe The TODOS PONEN Logan Square Project addresses all of the above and can very well be easily implemented in any community. Our goal is to bring awareness to the lack of resources available to the undocumented workforce- the backbone of our industry.”

The initiative starts in February.

Mi Tocaya is offering 1000 free meals for local farmers and undocumented restaurant workers. The meals are available for pickup Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 2800 W Logan Blvd, Chicago, IL 60647. to make this happen, Mi Tocaya also needs your help.

The restaurant has teamed up with two nonprofits to make sure that they can scale their operation to fulfill their commitment. They are also asking for donations to make sure they can do what they can to help undocumented restaurant workers.

According to Eater LA, 8 million restaurant workers have been laid off since the pandemic started. Some restaurants have had to lay off up to 91 percent of their staff because of Covid, about 10 percent of those are undocumented. In the cities, that number is as high as 40 percent of the laid-off restaurant staff are undocumented.

“People don’t want to talk about the undocumented workforce, but they’re part of our daily routine in most restaurants,” Jackson Flores, who manages the operations of Mi Tocaya, said in a statement. “They are in the toughest position in the whole economy because they’re an invisible part of it. Restaurant worker advocacy groups have added the creation of relief funds to their agendas, but there have yet to be long-term changes in protections for undocumented workers. Without access to unemployment benefits and other government resources, this group is especially vulnerable.”

READ: Hands-Free Cholula Dispensers Have Become a Thing In Restaurants Because of COVID-19

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Who Is Mari Pepin? Everything You Need to Know About the Puerto Rican Beauty Queen and ‘The Bachelor’ Frontrunner

Entertainment

Who Is Mari Pepin? Everything You Need to Know About the Puerto Rican Beauty Queen and ‘The Bachelor’ Frontrunner

As you probably know by now, a new season of the never-ending reality series “The Bachelor” has just started.

And this season is destined to be especially exciting–not just because of the promise of non-stop drama, but because the franchise has finally hired its first Black male lead, Matt James, after 18 years on the air.

And with the first Black “Bachelor” comes the most diverse group of contestants competing for the lead’s heart that they’ve ever had.

And one of the contestants that is capturing the hearts of both fans and Matt James alike is 24-year-old Puerto Rican-born pageant queen Mariela “Mari” Pepin.

On this season’s premiere episode of “The Bachelor”, Mari was immediately clocked by viewers as one of the front runners by the way that Matt reacted to meeting her. The former Wake Forest wide receiver was struck speechless by her beauty and couldn’t keep his eyes off her when she parted ways with him. It was obvious that Mari had made quite the first impression on him.

And because we love to see #representation on screen (and especially on reality TV), we decided to do our due diligence and find out as much as we could about this gorgeous and accomplished Latina. Here’s everything you need to know about Mari Pepin.

She’s Boricua–and proud of it!

Something that immediately endeared Mari to fans was the fact that she is so vocally proud of being Puerto Rican. In her first sit-down conversation with Matt, she opened up about how hard its been for her family to live through the relentless natural disasters that the island is going through.

She’s a military brat.

According to Mari’s personal blog, she spent the first few years of her life in PR before relocating to Germany because of her father’s military career. According to Mari, her unique childhood contributed to her love of traveling as an adult.

She was 2019’s Miss Maryland USA.

According to Mari’s official “Bachelor” bio, she began competing in pageants when she moved to Maryland as a teenager. She won Miss Teen Maryland and then went on to win the title of Miss Maryland. After that, she placed in the Top 10 of the Miss USA competition.

She’s wicked smart.

According to Mari’s LinkedIn page, she has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Towson University and she’s currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Marketing Intelligence from the same institution. It’s safe to say she values education.

She’s multilingual.

Not only does Mari speak both Spanish and English flawlessly, but she’s also fluent in French and American Sign Language.

Based on all this info alone, we can’t wait to see Mari Pepin crush this season of “The Bachelor”. Hopefully, this Boricua beauty will be popping up a lot on our screens for years to come!

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