It had been over ten years since I'd visited this institution devoted to celebrating and promoting Afro-Latin arts and culture in Chicago. So when I wandered into the Hermosa space to vote last month at an ungodly early hour and was immediately greeted by live music and center volunteers there just to hang out, I was delighted to be flooded with memories of visits to a previous location during my first days in the city nearly three decades back. Changes in location and the passage of time haven't chipped away at the vibrant sense of engagement on offer at the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center (SRBCC).
Founded the same year as the Reader—1971—and named in honor of the Puerto Rican patriot and member of a secret abolitionist society that freed slave children under Spanish rule, the center offers percussion classes, live music and art events, and community workshops. It partners with After School Matters to provide paid apprenticeships to young adults to learn traditional Puerto Rican bomba, Afro-Caribbean jazz, and music video production. In recent years the SRBCC has focused on supporting the people of Puerto Rico in the wake of hurricanes Irma and María as a member organization of the Puerto Rican Agenda, which sent two planes full of immediately needed items to Puerto Rico and funded grants in 30 municipalities for projects focusing on sustainable agriculture, health, solar energy, clean water, and more. v