Chicago's Puerto Rican Festival, Parade open new chapter

CHICAGO (WLS) -- After years of turmoil, leaders in Chicago's Puerto Rican community vow to start a new chapter for their annual festival and neighborhood parade in June.

"The message to the community is simple," said Jessie Fuentes, chair of the newly-formed Oversight Board. "It's a new day, there is new leadership -and we are comprised of organizations that have existed in this community for decades."

The board includes representatives from 12 non-profit organizations that serve the Puerto Rican community.

State Senator Iris Martinez said she got involved after more than $80,000 was stolen last year from the Puerto Rican Festival.

Martinez said she contacted the Illinois Attorney General's Office, which confirmed this week that the investigation is still ongoing.

"We're hoping that some criminal charges will come out at the end of the day, because this is a crime against the Puerto Rican community and somebody should be held accountable," Martinez said.

Members of the Oversight Board and The Daniel Ramos Puerto Rican Festival Committee, a newly-formed committee to run the festival, held a news conference Friday to talk about changes.

Carlos Jiménez Flores is now the festival committee's executive director.

"I take my position seriously and I am well aware of the challenge I have to regain the trust of our people due to mismanagement of the festival by others in the past," Jiménez Flores said.

This year, Jiménez Flores said the festival will also include an area to watch Puerto Rican films, a section for authors to discuss their work, a cultural fair, and a blood drive.

"This is a new day with new blood, new ideas," he said.

The Puerto Rican Festival will be held June 13th through June 16th, and the People's Parade in the neighborhood is scheduled on Saturday, June 15th.
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