Posing for the camera: (L-R) Jose Lopez, Xavier Luis Burgos, and Congressman Luis Gutierrez.
On April 20, 2012 NEIU and Que Ondee Sola celebrated the 40th anniversary of Que Ondee Sola. The atmosphere was busy in the beginning, but the room was awash in smiles and abrazos (hugs) from students, alumni and honored guests. The event was initiated by tables being called to eat while the sweet melodies of salsa music played throughout Village Square. After everyone ate their fill, the Co-editor of Que Ondee Sola, Jessie Fuentes, gave thanks to everyone that helped Que Ondee Sola become what it is today, and went on to say that Que Ondee Sola is “a labor of love and passion.”
Before beginning the second half of the event in Alumni Hall, Fuentes asked Que Ondee Sola Panels Artist, Patricia Pérez, and former Que Ondee Sola Editor–in-chief, Xavier Luis Burgos, to say a few words. Pérez said that she was going to “leave something for future students, to inspire them and make them curious about our truth and culture [as Puerto Ricans].” Burgos concluded that it is “hard to capture 40 years in a conversation or event, but this is history and it has impacted me and my family.”
The team of Que Ondee Sola finished off its 40th anniversary celebration with a discussion surrounding the topic of making the impossible, possible. The topic: “Affirming Identity as a Praxis for Solidarity,” which is also the Que Ondee Sola slogan, served as the point of reference for the night’s discussion. Numerous times throughout the night, one particular verse from the Quran was recited; ‘I have made you different, so that you can know each other.’ This statement became the thematic strand for the evening’s event.
Michael Rodriguez, NEIU Alumni and PhD student at Brown University, explained to the audience that they were being graced by two maestros – Congressman Luis Gutierrez, and Professor Antonio Martorell of the University of Puerto Rico. The two gentlemen discussed conditions, experiences, and the ramifications of both during 1972 to 1976 in Chicago and Puerto Rico. The two described travels between Chicago and Puerto Rico, as Martorell created a live charcoal drawing of Congressman Gutierrez. The charcoal drawing was later auctioned to the highest bidder in a silent auction.
Gutierrez spoke about having to move to Puerto Rico, and learn Spanish fluently as the crowd laughed at his anecdotes. “Everywhere I went, people back in the states were talking about ‘Tengo Puerto Rico mi Corazon,’ I wanted to see for myself what this was all about,” said Gutierrez, “there was a great deal I learned from being on the island,” he said.
Martorell discussed being born and raised in Puerto Rico, but became increasingly aware that Puerto Ricans were not alone in the struggle. The fight for human rights, the recognition of marginalized people in higher education courses, and freedom in Puerto Rico were just some of the struggles of the people para libertad. Both guests spoke highly of the work of Chicago Puerto Ricans, and Que Ondee Sola in particular. “We could not have anything like this on the island, it is an honor for me to be here,” he said. Martorell told the audience how racism in Puerto Rico is still a strong factor, as is migration.
Gutierrez also spoke highly of the students who run Que Ondee Sola, and of NEIU in general, “I found my center here among all of the wonderful professors,” Gutierrez said. He touted the promise of a good education for all students at NEIU and said “the future of the United States is already being reflected at NEIU. Gutierrez continued by telling students, “you have a responsibility to expand and build onto your mission.” Gutierrez also advised students to realize that, “this nation belongs to all of us, and to the extent, that we collaborate, and need to work together, not only are we going to forge a better opportunity for ourselves as people of color, but for all Americans – and I really think we have a wonderful opportunity to do exactly that.”