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International Festival recognizes achievements of Puerto Ricans
By Ingrid Marie Rivera, La Prensa Correspondent

LORAIN: Several Puerto Ricans have worked tirelessly to guarantee the cuatros and maracas play very loudly this summer.

 The Puerto Rican community has been chosen as the spotlight nationality for this year's Lorain International Festival, June 21 – 28, 2009. For months, a group of Puerto Ricans have been mobilized through the Puerto Rican Cultural Committee to create events that will honor the Puerto Rican traditions throughout the weeklong festivities.

The 43rd annual International Festival and Bazaar celebrates a wide array of cultures present in Lorain - better known as the “International City.” Puerto Ricans make up about 20 percent of the population of Lorain. Being spotlighted provides the nationality a great opportunity to showcase the richness of its culture—it’s been 13 years since Puerto Ricans were chosen for the recognition.

Ingrid Marie Rivera

“I’m very excited that (Puerto Ricans) got called again (to be spotlighted),” Antonio Barrios, PRCC chair said, “It's a very precious moment. It’s an opportunity to educate other people that don’t know about the Puerto Rican community, our rich community. We’re proud of being Puerto Rican and proud of being American. Most Puerto Ricans are very excited,” said Barrios, of Santurce, Puerto Rico.

Terri Soto, President of the Lorain International Association and of both Puerto Rican and Mexican background, said it was an honor to spotlight a group that are “hard workers and very family-oriented,” she said.

PRCC, with roughly 20 steady members, has done much more than simply provide ideas to the Lorain International Association; instead, they have organized and searched the sponsoring for their events, Barrios said.   

Since its inception last October, members of PRCC have been planning fund-raisers, scheduling the entertainment, selecting the speakers, and choosing the foods.

Among their fund-raisers were wine tasting events and the Arts and Crafts event held at the Puerto Rican Home, where cuatros painted by local artists were sold.

Barrios said the two most significant and biggest events planned and sponsored by PRCC are the Boxing program featuring Wilkins Santiago and others from Freddy’s Boxing Club on June 20 and the Elegant Evening of Culture that celebrated the Puerto Rican culture on June 24, 2009.

Among the many subcommittees of PRCC, José Pepe Rivera, a DJ for an Oberlin radio station, has been assigned to lead the entertainment selections and play the cuatro, and María Córtez-González, secretary of the Puerto Rican Home, was chosen to lead the design and creation of PRCC’s float to be presented in the International Festival parade.

Some members of the group, who have met every Thursday, said planning so many activities has been challenging but rewarding.



Tim Carrion, a Lorain business owner and organizer of the Boxing event, said getting several individuals who are all leaders to work together was the most challenging part when being involved with PRCC.

“This only comes around once in a couple decades and I wanted to make this spotlight event a success for our community,” Carrion said about his decision to help PRCC.

“Even though everyone has different opinions, everyone has come together to meet one goal, ” Carrion said.

Richard Romero, chairman of the Ohio Commission on Latino Affairs and member of PRCC in charge of organizing the LIA Breakfast for June 22, said the current economic state posed a challenge for the group.

“I think the economy has put a damper but it has put us in a situation to be creative,” Romero said “We’re thinking outside the box when coming up with ideas. We would have liked to bring some national stars but we're bringing the locals. We decided to make Lorain our Puerto Rican Island,” Romero said.

Although PRCC was newly created last year to organize this year’s International Festival events honoring the Puerto Rican community “rumor has it some people are thinking of keeping it running,” Barrios said.

Dennis Flores, Lorain city councilman and organizer of the Boxing program, said his participation with PRCC has been quite a challenge. “It’s been very stressful and it’s been very hard. Some members got sick and dropped out. But this group has a lot to be very proud of. We’re approaching the festival, and under the circumstances...the way the economy is now, we’ve triumphed,” he said.






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