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The Puerto Rican Home Club hosts its 11th Annual Boricua Festival

By: Ingrid M. Rivera, Special to La Prensa

A wide variety of Latin music ranging from merengue to reggaeton and a talent show opened the 11th Annual Boricua Festival at the Puerto Rican Home Club in Lorain this past weekend, Aug. 8-10, 2008. This year, the festival had its first, soon to be annual, Puerto Rican Parade.

Several club members, with membership of decades, say the festival’s goal is to celebrate the Puerto Rican culture but with this year's festival, they hope to introduce more young people to the Club.

“We want to bring more young people to show them the tradition,” said Juan A. Silva, President of the Puerto Rican Home Club and member for 7 years. He said the festival “It’s like a family-reunion. The old-timers come out.”

Raúl Ortiz, member of the club for 42 years and singer of the festival’s Jibaro Show, said the festival transports him to Puerto Rico. “It's like you close your eyes and you are in Puerto Rico,” Ortiz said “We have so much love (at the Club) no one can imagine,” he said.

Ortiz, who has served as the home’s secretary for 16 years, said he sings for the Jibaro Show every year and has sang in Ponce, Puerto Rico and New York. His wife, Helen Ortiz, has been a member for 28 years and his daughter, Julie Ortiz, has been a member for several years. Ortiz, from Coamo, Puerto Rico, doesn’t plan to return to Puerto Rico anytime soon however; most of his family lives in Ohio and Florida.

The festival, serving as the Club’s main fundraiser, welcomed quite a crowd of long-time members and young people despite some rain. While some attendees danced on the back patio, others played pool and drank inside the club adorned with paintings of the Lorain Lighthouse and the Fuerte San Felipe del Morro.

Others purchased souvenirs ranging from hats, jerseys, and key chains all showcasing Puerto Rico. The festival featured a domino tournament, car show, and a 5K Health and Wellness Walk/Run.

Jonathan Rosado, 20, was dancing bachata with his aunt Madelin Bruno, 33 on the dancing floor behind the club. They traveled from Cleveland for the festival. Rosado said this was his second year attending the festival; the first year he entered the Talent Show and won first place. Rosado said he would sing in the reggaeton, pop, and salsa genres this year.

The parade Saturday morning ran for only 30 minutes though previously planned to run for 90 minutes. The parade brought quite a crowd of spectators waving and wearing Puerto Rican flags and shirts. It featured a Plena and Reggaeton float, the Puerto Rican Home Pageant Princesas and Reinas and even motorcyclists.

This year was the 4th annual Puerto Rican Home Club Pageant. Sarah Rojeck, of Italian heritage, entered her daughter Anexie Pérez, 5, in the Miss Chiquitita 2008 section and Pérez won. Rojeck, of Lorain, said she attends the festival every year because she loves “the dancing, food and music.”

Rojeck decided to enter her daughter in the pageant because “it’s part of her heritage. Her father is Puerto Rican and her family are Club members.”

The pageant has three divisions: Miss Chiquitita, Princesa, and Reina. 2008 winners also include Princesa Angelique Castillo, 9 and Reina Jenee Perry, 14.

Apart from the parade, a reggaeton concert was new this year. Diana Marrero-Pinto, Parade Committee Chair, said a reggaeton concert was added to bring in more youth. “This year's theme will incorporate the youth in a way they had never before. The goal is to bridge the gap between the youth and its founders. The youth are just as important to us,” Marrero-Pinto said.

One goal is to recruit more young people”
Silva, of Lorain and from Morovis, agreed the youth are important to the Club. Silva, who is serving his first year as president and served three years as vice president, said they are needed to keep the club alive. Membership fees and the festival are the club’s main fundraisers, but the young people are not joining the club at the same rate as the young people did in the past generations.

Overall, the memberships are on the decline – a trend seen nationally, including neighboring Mexican Mutual Society. Silva said the Puerto Rican Home is one of only two Latin clubs left in the Lorain area. “If members don't support a club, you ain’t gonna have a club,” Silva said, “Support the Club or its going to die.

“You don’t have to be Puerto Rican to come here,” he said.

Silva’s future plan for the Club is to include a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle club because he said “Harleys are gaining popularity within the Puerto Rican community,” and would be another way of recruiting more members.

Nelson Rosas, Vice President of the Club and member for 15 years, said most members of the Club are 30 and older. Rosas, of Lorain and from Hormigueros, Puerto Rico, said “This is a family type club. It’s a family type thing.” After being approached by two young men requesting to perform at the festival, Rosas, entertainment organizer, said he would allow them to perform as long they “don’t say bad words.” Rosas then said “I like to give the young people opportunity.”

Ortiz agrees with Rosas when he said the goal of the home is “to keep young people here and not in the streets.”







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