Chi-Ricans don’t always get the love they deserve. With the historical center of the Puerto Rican diaspora based around the New York metro area, and the more recent exodus of Boricuas into central Florida, it’s easy to overlook the 100,000-strong community holding it down for la Isla del Encanto in the Windy City.
But that hasn’t stopped Chicago’s Boricuas from repping hard. From the original Young Lords, to the Paseo Boricua, Chicago Ricans have been quietly creating some of the most iconic expressions of puertorriqueñidad in the diaspora. And this year they celebrate another milestone as the U.S.’s only museum dedicated entirely to Puerto Rican arts and culture christens its newly-completed digs in Humboldt Park.
The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture was founded as the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture in 2000, before changing its name in 2014 to reflect its larger ambitions. Now, as the museum celebrates its sweet sixteen with the annual Barrio Arts Fest, they will also commemorate the completion of their rebuilt landmark building in the park.
Located in what was once the Humboldt Park horse stable, the museum’s stunning Queen Ann revival style headquarters was built in 1895 and is the oldest surviving building in the neighborhood. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 10-year renovation brings galleries, performance spaces, classrooms, and concession spaces to the massive building where horses and tool sheds once stood.
The museum is currently hosting three exhibitions on everything from traditional vejigante masks to contemporary Puerto Rican art collectives, and later this year the museum will honor Lin-Manuel Miranda and graphic artist Antonio Martorell as part of their 3rd annual Ceiba Awards. In the meantime, the local Chicago community and visitors alike will be able to celebrate the museum’s milestone in Puerto Rican style, with live music, bomba dancing, and classic cars at this weekend’s Barrio Arts Fest.