7 In Your Neighborhood: Loiza in Chicago

July 21, 2012 9:22:34 PM PDT
Intricate masks and vibrant costumes conjure up images from festivals that date back for generations in Puerto Rican culture.

But it's no coincidence that the band leader's call and response style, the bellow of the beating drums and other elements may seem more familiar to those of African descent.

"There's primarily two forms or dance that we do," said Evaristo "Tito" Rodriguez, director of Africaribe. "One is called Bomba and the other is called Plena. Bomba is older and is heavily influenced by the Africans. Actually, it came out of the sugar cane plantations over 400 years ago."

The newest exhibit at the South Shore Cultural Center pays homage to the blending of both cultures.

"Our interest was to focus in the richness in African culture in Puerto Rico," said Puerto Rican Arts Alliance executive director Carlos Hernandez. "So we wanted to do this exhibition that highlights costumes and masks of the Caribbean we are really talking about Puerto Rico."

The exhibit is called "Loiza in Chicago" and is presented by the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance and Africaribe. Loiza is an isolated, coastal town in Puerto Rican that has best preserved its African traditions. The hope is that bringing the display of masks, costumes and festival photos to the South Side will help enlighten a broader community about shared histories and cultural similarities.

"People sometimes tend to look at the negatives of communities in Chicago we are looking at the positive of the communities in Chicago by bringing this exhibition to not just our own community but we want to share it with our cousins in the South Shore Cultural Center," Hernandez said.

Loiza in Chicago will be on display through August and will culminate in a tribute performance at the Harris Theatre in late September.

www.praachicago.org


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