Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center celebrates its 50th anniversary | Chicago News


Chicago’s oldest Latin cultural institution turns 50 this month.

the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center has brought Afro-Latin dance, music and art to the West Side of Chicago since 1971 – and it has endured through one of the most difficult years arts organizations have ever seen.

Executive Director Omar Torres-Kortright says the SRBCC has always had a foundation and mission based on social justice, starting with the Latin American Defense Board.

“What you could say is the group of citizens, the Latinos, who were very active in seeking a better position (for) Latinos in general and were fighting for justice and equality in the 1970s. “Torres-Kortright said.

“So this little group that came out of Association House, which is a very well-known non-profit organization here, forms what will later be called the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center,” Torres-Kortright said. “Since then, it’s been 50 years of art, music, culture, and also a lot of activism in the history of Segundo Ruiz Belvis… a very rich history. And certainly the first organization – probably the thing we’re best known for (which is) – the first organization that really developed Afro-Puerto Rican music in Chicago.

The Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center has brought Afro-Latin dance, music and art to the West Side of Chicago since 1971. (Courtesy SRBCC)

Of the organization’s many years, Torres-Kortright says his 50e was one of the most difficult.

“It has been a year of many challenges and also a lot of learning and a lot of listening to our community and living up to the historic moment we are in right now,” said Torres-Kortright. “So all of those things come into play and it made us look at our history and what we stand for and what the priorities of the organization are.”

But, he says, the pandemic has woven the SRBCC even more tightly into the fabric of Chicago’s Latino community. Torres-Kortright says he has found innovative ways to stay in touch with the people the SRBCC serves, including a vaccination event, such as combining a cultural festival with a vaccination event.

“We brought in all these musicians playing outside live for the people in line. And then we had DJs inside to create a very festive atmosphere because it was a celebration that we had so many people in our space, who chose our space and trusted us to get us vaccinated ”, Torres-Kortright said. “We were literally pulling people off the streets who we know if we hadn’t asked them to come in for the shot they might not have done it. “

As part of the anniversary celebrations, the SRBCC is organizing its latest screenings of “Raices to the roots», An original performance of dance, music and spoken word, this weekend; a virtual cooking class with chef Roberto Perez and his organization Urban pestle; and Tuesdays on the terrace in partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art.

“Instead of jazz, which is the form of classical music that is presented on Tuesdays on the terrace, we are going to spice it up and bring our salsa musicians… Edwin Sanchez and Papo Santiago, two of the biggest and biggest stars of the scene. local salsa will do original work and original arrangements.

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