Friday, May 1, 2015

Boricuans vs. punks? Let's hope not!

It will be interesting to see how the politicking plays out over an alderman’s desire to chase a music festival away from the public park that gives his community its name.

We’re talking about the Humboldt Park neighborhood on the Northwest Side that has become the heard of Chicago’s Puerto Rican community.

THE PARK PROPER is supposed to be the site of Riot Fest from Sept. 11-13, and it’s already possible to go on the Internet to get tickets to the punk music festival that has been held in Chicago in past years.

But the news reports on Thursday indicate that 26th Ward Alderman Roberto Maldonado doesn’t like the fact that the festival that definitely won’t be attracting a Puerto Rican ethnic vibe to the neighborhood wants to use the public park again.

For the record, Maldonado isn’t bad-mouthing punks (as in music fans, not no-good hoodlums). He says the festival expanded itself to a larger portion of the park last year and that many of the ball fields used by the public wound up being damaged.

He also claims the organizers of Riot Fest did not fulfill their promises to repair any damage to the grounds that was caused by the music festival.

RIOT FEST OFFICIALS were quick to deny such claims, saying their event has the potential to create jobs and other financial opportunities for local businesses that are savvy enough to feed off the crowds that will come to Humboldt Park for the event.

They also say that Maldonado has supported their event in the past – to the point where the organizers actually made a $1,500 donation to the Citizens for Maldonado campaign fund in 2014 – which gave him the finances to enable him to win re-election earlier this year without having to endure a run-off election like many of his City Council colleagues had to.

The smart-aleck in me wants to say that Maldonado is quite a guy – he takes the political payoff, then refuses to provide the expected services in return.

Although I’m not really trying to imply any criminal intent on Maldonado’s part, or on the part of Riot Fest organizers. Perhaps the alderman is merely an example of an honest guy.

OR PERHAPS HE’S just peeved at the condition of the grounds, which the Chicago Sun-Times reported are worn in spots and some work is still being done to repair them.

Meaning it is likely the place could be in proper shape by the time the Chicago event (there also will be Riot Fest events in Denver and Toronto later this year) is scheduled to take place.

Unless this devolves into some sort of ethnic brawl. I wouldn’t be shocked if at least part of the motivation for any negative talk is neighborhood residents who enjoy the thought of the annual Fiesta Boricua that takes place there wondering where all these weird-looking, pink-haired people are coming from. Either that, or they're the types of people who think the Illinois State Fair will be a "hip" and "happenin'" type of place this year because Meat Loaf AND Styx will be performing there.

Or maybe somebody thinks they can get the Riot Fest organizers to shell out more of the cost of rehabilitating the park grounds – which in theory isn’t a bad idea. If a public park is to be used for a for-profit event, then perhaps the park ought to receive some sort of fix-up that enables improved use of the grounds in the future.

NOW I’M NOT a Riot Fest type of guy – I’ll be the first to admit to not having a clue as to whom most of the musical acts are who performed at last year’s event.

I would just hope that any potential for cultural disputes could be held to a minimum – the last thing anybody needs is a Boricuan vs. Punks type of skirmish. We don’t need to be that stupid.

Besides, I have to admit to respecting an event that includes Lucha Libre (as in Mexican-style) wrestling as part of the spectacle, and also uses its website to, “promise never to book Justin Bieber or make a Harlem Shake video.”

That would be the ultimate crime against culture.


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