Published in SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS


Puerto Ricans Enrich Our Lone Star State

Story by Julio Noboa
San Antonio Express-News
December 7, 2002

When most people refer to Hispanic or Latino here in South Texas, it is usually synonymous with Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano, or Tejano for obvious reasons. Our city in infused throughout with the sounds, sights, styles, and vibrancy of Mexico, the madre tierra (motherland) that gave San Antonio its traditional stamp of original identity.

Yet, there is another Latino group here in our diverse state, who speak Spanish with a different accent, dance to more complex Caribbean rhythms, and consume a traditional cuisine that has nothing to do with tacos, burritos, or pico de gallo. Although a long way from their tropical island home, Puerto Ricans have been here for decades in Texas and in San Antonio.

As American citizens by birth, Puerto Ricans or Boricuas, as we often call ourselves, have traveled freely throughout our nation, and actually represent the first major airborne migration in US history. Beginning in the early 1950's, Boricuas came to New York City, New Jersey, Chicago, and other major metropolitan areas in the East coast and the Midwest. They sought work, better opportunities, and all the promises of the American Dream which drives the indomitable will of every new immigrant.

Over the years, a few have also come this way to South Texas, where the climate is warmer, and the Hispanic influence creates a more welcoming cultural climate. Many came here as young soldiers at first, but later, professionals arrived as well, and they have gradually begun to distinguish themselves as judges, doctors, musicians, small-town mayors, and an entire array of occupations as fully contributing members to our city and state.

Like other immigrants from all over the globe, Boricuas have formed cultural organizations dedicated to the preservation and presentation of their heritage. Here in San Antonio we are fortunate to have the Sociedad Herencia PuertorriqueNa which has sponsored events such as the Feast of the Three Kings, and the annual Puerto Rican Festival at La Villita, both thoroughly enjoyed by the entire San Antonio and South Texas community.

Just last month the Sociedad hosted a most singular event by a sister organization in Austin, the Puerto Rican Folkoric Dance & Cultural Center. It was truly one of the most energetic and captivating presentations of folk dance I have witnessed in years. The triple roots of Boricua culture, Spain, West Africa and the Taino Indians, were blended in varying combinations in each performance through sight, sound and movement.

The Center has already gained visibility and recognition in the state capital since its founding in 1997 through extensive educational programs and outstanding performances in traditional Puerto Rican dance and music. With the energetic leadership of it's Founding Director, Dr. Ana Maria Maynard, the Center is building its resources and supporters with the help of a website (www.prfdance.org) and a newsletter, Ritmo Y Cultura, which features elements of history, literature, cuisine and traditional arts.

It was their premier performance company, Puerto Rican Folkoric Dance, which swept me away last month with the time-traveling effect of dances and costumes from different periods of the islands 500 year recorded history. Not knowing when they will return to our town, I was pleased to discover that this very evening in Austin, the PRFDance will be offering their annual performance, Sembrando Herencia 2002.

Beginning at 7:30 pm in the Schroeder Performance Hall at Concordia University, (3400 N. IH-35), the program will also showcase a children's choir from the island, Coro de NiNos de la Escuela Libre de Musica. This year, the PRFDance will premier their new number, Oye Como Va, from the classic cha-cha standard by the late, great Tito Puente, further popularized by Santana.

Admission is only $7, and well worth it especially for those who have already experienced the contagious and engaging energy of Boricua dance. It will be a wonderful way of welcoming the joyous spirit of the holiday season, and exploring all the Latino flavors Texas has to offer.

Julio Noboa is a teacher educator and free-lance writer. He has been a biweekly columnist with the San Antonio Express-News since 1994. Julio can be contacted by email at jnpapr@aol.com.
Copyright 2002 Julio Noboa