Puerto Rican culture adorns the streets of the Humboldt Park neighborhood with murals, scents and the traditional music of the island.
For nearly 30 years, Chicago’s Puerto Rican families have celebrated their identity and patriotism in a festival that brings artisans and leaders from their native Puerto Rico to the city.
The Fiesta Boricua “De Bandera a Bandera,” meaning “from flag to flag,” will return Labor Day weekend after a hiatus last summer due to the COVID-19 virus that deeply impacted the community.
This year the celebration, called one of the largest Latino festivals in the Midwest, will include incentives for youth to get vaccinated against the virus onsite, and vaccination for adults will also be offered throughout the festival.
Though COVID-19 continues to disproportionately impact Black and brown communities, many are still hesitant to get a vaccine that would protect them against the virus.
The Puerto Rican Cultural Center is collaborating with the Chicago Department of Public Health and Chicago Public Schools to encourage people to get inoculated by offering all-access passes to the carnival rides through the weekend to the first 500 youth ages 12 to 18 who get the vaccine at the festival.
Ricardo Jimenez, the associate director of public health initiatives with the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, said the organization has made an effort to encourage vaccination and COVID-19 testing in the neighborhood as delta variant cases, which are more transmittable to young children, rise in the city.
Over 100,000 people are expected to attend the two-day festival, based on prior events.
Jimenez, who oversees the community health worker program in the area, said they want to ensure Black and brown people have access to the right information about the virus and the vaccine.
“We are doing this to encourage one another to protect each other, ” said Xiomara Rodriguez of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center.
Rodriguez grew up in Humboldt Park and attended the Fiesta Boricua as a child many times.
The virus harshly hit people on the island, she said, and the festival will not only allow Puerto Ricans to celebrate their roots, but it’ll also serve as a reminder that, to preserve their culture, they must take care of each other in Chicago and in Puerto Rico.
“We have such strong roots and we are proud and loud; it’s beautiful to be able to put this festival together,” Rodriguez said.
“It’ll allow us to really connect with our culture. We aren’t just creating a community in Chicago, we are co-creating community in between the diaspora and folks in the island,” Rodriguez added.
The 28th annual festival will honor the Puerto Rican municipality of Ciales by bringing artisans, music groups and culinary proponents from that area.
The mayor of Ciales, Alexander Burgos, will attend to honor the 40th anniversary of the publication of “Boricua en Luna,” a poem about the Puerto Rican diaspora written by Juan Antonio Corretjer, who was born in Ciales.
The annual Fiesta Boricua festival “De Bandera a Bandera” will be from noon until 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on Paseo Boricua from Western Avenue.