A few months ago, Raquel and I (BoriquaChicks.com) went to the monthly Bombazo at the AfriCaribe Cultural Center. We had a great time being in the atmosphere of this talented group of performers who sang, danced, and played percussion instruments such as the conga drums, on that evening. We even met several unique community artists and friends of AfriCaribe that sell products and services that celebrate Puerto Rican culture.
For anyone who is looking to experience the music and dance that reflects Africa’s influence on Puerto Rico, I highly recommend adding the monthly Bombazo to your event calendar; booking AfriCaribe for one of your events; or considering some of their other services, such as workshops, lectures, or curriculum design.
We LOVE the work that this organization is doing in the Chicago community to celebrate Afro-Latino/a and Afro-Caribbean cultures; so we recently interviewed the founder, Evaristo “Tito” Rodriguez. Check out the conversation and photos below!
Tito, you are a trailblazer for establishing this organization which fuses music, dance, performances, events, and educational workshops to recognize and celebrate the African influence in Puerto Rico and throughout the Caribbean. What sparked your desire to launch this nonprofit, here in Chicago?
Prior to 2000 and the foundation of AfriCaribe, I had been working in Cultural and Artistic projects in the city for over 20 years. In 2000, I believed it was time for me to create my dream organization, and that is how AfriCaribe was born.
Based on your experience, what do you think are some of the misconceptions about people who are of Afro-Caribbean descent?
One of the misconceptions of Latinos in general is that if you speak Spanish then you are from Mexico, or if you speak French, you are from Haiti, etc. Although Language is an important part of who we are as Latino and Caribbean, also cultural traits that are founded in the traditions and belief systems of those components that makes up the Caribbean people—such as the Indigenous people or pre-Columbian people in the Caribbean mixed with Spaniards and other Europeans and also with Africans. This combination of bloods and cultures makes up the people of the region. In addition, the Islands have always been a bridge of migrations, sharing and influencing each other in all aspects of life. These experiences bind us as Family. We come in all colors, shapes, and with multiple languages, but one heart.
In thinking about your work with this organization, how has AfriCaribe impacted the Chicago community? What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment?
Since it’s foundation, AfriCaribe has exposed and demonstrated the various music and dance tradition of the Caribbean and Latin America. We have created artistic bridges with other communities to collaborate and make more efficient the development of our communities and our people. We have performed all over the Chicago, the Midwest and the Nation. I like to believe that because of AfriCaribe, people in general have a better idea of the similarities and differences of music and dance in the Caribbean, Latin America and its relationship to the culture of Africans in the continent and Diaspora.
As you celebrate your 13th year, what’s next? What’s on the horizon for AfriCaribe?
We hope to continue to grow and maintain our Cultural Center. We hope to make a recording production to expose an example of our musical group and also to develop a few instructional videos to reach a broader audience.
How can the public support AfriCaribe?
People can support us in many ways. They can volunteer and help in our activities and Center. They can support our events by participating and/or helping us advertise. They can join our Academy and also invite families and friends to join us too. They can even buy a certificate to give as gifts in the holiday season or for birthdays and other occasions. They can hire us for their next event (we are so much fun. lol), and they can give a tax-exempt donation to the organization.
They can like us on FB and help us to share events and activities with their friends. People can also rent the Center for meetings, small private parties, exhibits, etc.
What are your upcoming events?
At AfriCaribe, we always have ongoing events. We have made history in Chicago by having a monthly Bombazo (gathering of the people by using Bomba music) for the past 11 years without interruptions. This event is the last Saturday of every month at the AfriCaribe Cultural Center and when it’s warm and the weather allows at the outdoor batey at La Casita De Don Pedro (all on Paseo Boricua – Division street between the flags). This is a family and community friendly event, children, and musicians of other genres are highly welcomed.
We are also midway thru our Academy, in which our students will have a recital before the June Bombazo. The new academy will begin in the fall, as we prepare this summer for our performances. However, during this time we continue to offer workshops at our center. As mentioned before, we will be in many festivals and events in the community and suburbs. For more information on our events, workshops, Bombazos, and the Academy, you can visit our website calendar.
To connect with Tito and AfriCaribe, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org and also check out their channels below:
All photos above are courtesy of AfriCaribe.
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