Bella Vida by Letty

Puerto Rico

One of My Secrets for Great Tasting Food: Basic Sofrito Recipe

Sofrito Recipe

Here’s my secret to great tasting food.  There’s nothing that will infuse your dish with flavors that will pop in your mouth more than freshly cut herbs and vegetables.  This is a traditional Puerto Rican recipe handed down in my family called sofrito.  I use this to season foods.  It is the base ingredient for many Puerto Rican dishes.  When I cook my meals are infused with loads of flavor, lots of nutrition and loving intentions.  This is my basic sofrito recipe.

What is Sofrito?

Sofrito is a mix of vegetables and herbs which is a seasoning used to give a certain flavor, aroma and taste.

What can I add sofrito to?

Just about anything:

– Chicken, meats and fish

– Seafood                                  -Pork

– Rice                                         – Beans

– Tortilla Espanola               – Frittata

– Stew                                         – Soups

– Eggs                                         – Tacos

This is my basic sofrito recipe.

1 large bunch of cilantro

3 leaves of culantro

1 clove garlic

1/2 a sweet onion

1 tablespoon of olive oil

Place the cilantro, culantro, onions and garlic in food processor and process until coarsely chopped. With the motor running, add the olive oil until smooth.

Super Easy Cooking Tip

If you roast the vegetables before chopping them, your sofrito will taste even better.

Super Easy Time Saving Tip

The sofrito will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  A super easy time saving tip is to freeze it for later use.  You can use an ice tray just remember to cover it so it doesn’t get yucky freezer burn.  Then you can pop them out and place them into a plastic zip lock bag.  So the next time you go to cook you have saved yourself the time of preparing these steps.

Like I said this is my own version of a basic sofrito mix and depending on what I’m using it for I will add more vegetables.  For more ideas here’s a list of fresh ingredients you can add to your sofrito:

  • Sweet peppers
  • Green Peppers
  • Red Peppers
  • Ajices Dulces these are a variety of sweet small perennial peppers found in Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Tomatoes
  • Oregano
  • Coriander Seeds

Keep calm and just add sofrito

There are many varieties of sofrito.  Do you have a particular favorite?

Did you try the recipe? Tell me what you think.


“I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.” W.C. Fields

“Beauty fades, but cooking is eternal.” Cassandra Clare

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!”  Julia Child

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La Respuesta Magazine ~ Reimagining the Puerto Rican Diaspora

la respuesta magazine logoLa Respuesta is an online magazine dedicated to the Boricua diaspora who aspires to be a significant resource for Puerto Ricans in the United States, offering a multitude of creative and provocative media. Guided by a collective of Boricua writers, artists, activists, and scholars in Chicago, with supporters, collaborators, and visionaries in New York City, Boston, Florida, and Rhode Island La Respuesta strives to produce a mosaic of the cultural, artistic, intellectual, spiritual, and political realities within the diverse Puerto Rican Diaspora. It moves towards building inclusive identities and perspectives that recognize the Diaspora as central to understanding the Puerto Rican people..

There purpose reads:

“For over a century, Puerto Ricans have lived and settled in the U.S. (the “Boricua Diaspora”), but now, for the first time, there are more acá than allá. In response to our growing presence and ongoing impact, La Respuesta seeks to invoke a claim to our histories and announce our stories. This will be done by highlighting our assets and distinct experiences, agitating discussion on the crucial issues, and addressing the obstacles that we face.”

chicago Puerto Rican day parade vintage photograph


I feel so honored to be a part of this project. My article about the Puerto Rican Day Parade in Chicago appears on the site.  I would love for you to check them out and leave your comments.  Be sure to look around as I’m sure you will find lots of good reading.


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My Obsession With the Sky Began in Puerto Rico

I think my obsession with the sky began in Puerto Rico as a young daydreaming girl in the backseat of my parents Nissan Sentra on our weekly road trips to visit my grandparents.  My father would take a different route each time.  Sometimes it was the bumpy cement highway zigzagging the island, forcefully cutting through giant mountains, pushing aside hundreds of acres of wild dark green making way for noisy metallic traffic flow.  The radio dial would flip between Salsoul 98 and Casey Kasem’s top 40, whenever an annoying song came on, to camouflage cacophonous highway sounds.  Passing the coastal towns of Canovanas, Rio Grande, Luquillo, Fajardo on one side, while on the other, we felt the grand depth and height of island’s mountainous interior.  Just beyond little towns dangerously perched on steep mountain tops the sky would provide entertainment and put on the greatest cloud coloring and shape changing shows you could never imagine.

Other times we would cut through the islands center via old, flat tire inducing, pothole laden roads criss crossing  towns with names like Gurabo, Juncos and Las Piedras.  Roads which twisted gracefully, rose precariously and dipped steeply causing awkward sensations in my tummy.  The belly of the  mountain was wet with humidity while at her heights cold whipping winds could make you tremble.  Growing impatient of her sticky embrace I would look up to catch glimpses of an orange, pink and blue sunset just beyond gaps in the canopy.

reflection of the sky among lotus flowers in a pond

reflection of the sky among lotus flowers in a pond

When I felt misunderstood

she was my witness

When I first fell in love

she was my witness

My skies were never empty

They were bursting with movement and shooting stars

She taught me how to paint

demonstrating how colors pop and fade away in different light

She taught me nothing is permanent

moments cannot be repeated

the sky is my witness

Today she is my muse, my connection to the universe, my comfort.  You will find her influence in my artworks, writings, photography and paintings.


Have you been to Puerto Rico?

Tell me what inspires your creativity.


“Always try to keep a patch of sky above your life.”  Marcel Proust 

 “He who leaps for the sky may fall, it’s true. But he may also fly.”  Lauren Oliver

 “Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”  Rabindranath Tagore 

“Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon.”  Paul Brandt

 “Excuse me while I kiss the sky.”  Jimi Hendrix

 “time is a tree (this life one leaf) but love is the sky and i am for you just so long and long enough” E.E. Cummings

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Honoring All of America’s Heroes: US Army’s 65th Infantry Regiment,The Borinqueneers

Honoring All of America’s Heroes: 
US Army’s 65th Infantry Regiment “The Borinqueneers

As many of you know preserving the history of Puerto Rico is near and dear to my heart. I’ve created a tumblr blog and I’ve written countless articles on the subject of Puerto Rico. I feel a responsibility to share this information freely because knowing your history grounds you with roots allowing you to stand taller and stronger. Today you can be a part of making a historical event come to fruition. Here is a simple opportunity for you to get involved.

US Army's 65th Infantry Regiment "The Borinqueneers

“A nation-wide, all-volunteer group of individuals and organizations has formed the Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal Alliance, and is launching an intense campaign to secure the Congressional Gold Medal for the US Army’s 65th Infantry Regiment, better-known as the “Borinqueneers”. The Borinqueneers are the largest and longest-standing, segregated military unit in US history, having fought in WWI, WWII, and the Korean War.

The Congressional Gold Medal has been bestowed to other minority veterans who served in segregated units, including:

• July 26, 2001 – the Native American Navajo Code Talkers
• March 29, 2007 –the African-American Tuskegee Airmen
• November 2, 2011 – the Japanese-American Nisei Soldiers
• June 28, 2012 – the African-American Montford Point Marines

The alliance currently is asking all liked-minded Americans to write to or email their US congressional representatives, including their two US Senators and one US House of Representatives member to support this initiative. The Congressional Gold Medal requires the support of a majority of our US legislators. This should be completed before the end of February, the organization noted.”


Now is the perfect time to present this long overdue honor recognizing these heroes. Like many of you, I have a personal connection to this great cause. My Abuelo fought bravely during World War II for the United States of America as member of the 65th Infantry Army Regiment. I am extremely proud of his and all of our veterans selfless service to protecting the citizens of this country. They deserve this honor so let’s make it happen.


What you can do to help

Contact your (2) U.S. Senators and your (1) US House of Representatives member. The adoption of the Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal will require the vote/support from a majority of our US legislators. Contact them via letter or email before the end of February.





A sample letter/email is available at:

Find your Senators here:

Find your US House of Representatives here:

More information on this important initiative is available at the Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal Alliance  website: and their official Facebook Page:


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November 19th 1493 Columbus Lands in Puerto Rico

1898 US Flag is raised in Puerto Rico

I find it astonishing that in 2012 this date is disrespectfully referred to as the discovery of Puerto Rico because I believe Puerto Rico has yet to be discovered.  Discover means to become aware of but so many people, both islanders and non islanders have no clue who Puerto Ricans are.  Can you tell me?

November 19th 1493 was the day Columbus landed on the island.

The known history of Puerto Rico actually begins with its first settlers, the Ortoiroid, who originated off the Orinoco river in South America before migrating and settling all throughout the Caribbean approximately sometime around 5,000 BCE.

I want to share these photographs of Puerto Rico from the last century.  It’s the closest I’ve come to discovering what a Puerto Rican is.

1898 Mayaguez, Puerto Rico teachers & students

Cidra, Puerto Rico 1938

1937 Ponce, Puerto Rico
Bayamon, Puerto Rico 1941
Puerta de Tierra, Puerto Rico 1938

Yauco, Puerto Rico 1942
Yabucoa, Puerto Rico 1942

School in Aibonito, Puerto Rico 1944
Martin Pena Canal 1973
Political Cartoon, Puerto Rico in Chains 1898-1910

Articles I’ve written about Puerto Rico.

Honoring Our Puerto Rican Veterans Thank You

Multicultural Familia:  Revealing the Taína Within

Remembering Puerto Rico’s 65th Infantry This Memorial Day

1898 Puerto Rico in Photographs

Chicago’s Puertorican Day Parade in the 60’s

People for the Ethical Treatment of Puerto Ricans:  Qué Bonita Bandera

Women of Puerto Rico in 1899

Favorite Places ~ Old San Juan Puerto Rico

Rainy Photographs of Puerto Rico

My tumblr blog

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Honoring Our Puerto Rican Veterans Thank You

Honoring Our Puerto Rican Veterans
Thank you!

Veterans day was originally established on November 11 to observe the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, which marked the armistice of World War I. Since then it has become a day to honor and remember the sacrifice of all of our Veterans.

Today I would love for you to join me in thanking every single Puerto Rican veteran for their sacrifice and service. Due to lack of positive media coverage most people are unaware that Puerto Rico has been a US territory since 1898 and as such has fought bravely in every war, battle and conflict the United States has ever encountered.

It’s crucial for all of our children to teach a more accurate account of history. It’s time to put an end to separation and segregation and stop endorsing the false ideas that Europeans were the only founders of this country. Latinos/Hispanics have been here since before the United States was united. I’ve said it before and will say it again: Diversity is this country’s strength. Puerto Rican contributions have built and made this nation powerful.


I wrote about my connection to Puerto Rico’s 65th Infantry which you can read about here.
Remembering Puerto Rico’s 65th Infantry This Memorial Day

If you have a link please share it with me in the comments section below.  Here are a few of the links and resources I have found.



List of Puerto Rican Military Personnel 

Puerto Rican Servicewomen in Defense of the Nation

Puerto Rico’s 65th Infantry Regiment

Hispanic America U.S.A

Resource for finding Hispanic military contributions. All U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 Results

Puerto Rican Veterans Monument Square Association: Proudly recognizing all Puerto Rican Veterans that have served in the Armed Forces


Puerto Rico National Cemetery 
Puerto Rico National serves over 150,000 veterans in Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, the Caribbean Region, and Central and South America.



“I am a Veteran, as are most of my personal friends. A Veteran is someone, who at one point in their life, wrote a blank check payable to the United States of America for an amount up to, and including, their life. Regardless of personal or political views, there are way too many people in this country who no longer remember that fact…” José N. Harris

“Most Americans are aware of the brutality and injustice used to maintain the excesses of their selfish consumer society and empire. Yet I suspect…they do not care. They don’t want to see what is done in their name. They do not want to look at the rows of flag-draped coffins, the horribly maimed bodies and faces of veterans, or the human suffering in the blighted and deserted former manufacturing centers. It is too upsetting. Government and corporate censorship is therefore welcomed and appreciated.”   Curtis White

“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation.” George Washington

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” G.K. Chesterton

“Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country’s cause. Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as he best can, the same cause.” Abraham Lincoln

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Hispanic Heritage Month: Latino Culture & History Resources

If history were taught correctly without prejudice or bias we wouldn’t need a Hispanic Heritage month.

Our history has not been properly told or documented.  We are left on our own to dig and discover.  Since I’m the type of person who enjoys constantly learning, I’m always finding the most fascinating things.

I also know the importance of sharing information which is why I created this  tumblr blog.  Not only do I share my artwork and photography there but it has become a rich resource for Latino culture and history.

These are bite sized bits of information I’m pulling together and posting in one spot.  They are pointers to even more resources for you to explore.

You will find loads of information relating to Puerto Rican culture and so much more:  I link to vintage photographs, museums, videos and websites where you can read free texts and peruse historical documents.

Examples of art related posts:

Mi Puerto Rico – Master Painters of the Island
Exhibit organized by the Museo de Arte de Ponce, is the first major exhibition in the continental United States devoted to Puerto Rico’s three greatest masters:
Jose Campeche (1751-1809),
Francisco Oller (1833-1917),
and Meguel Pou (1880-1968). #Video

One of my passions is vintage photography.  I’ve found plenty interesting and probably never before seen images to give you an idea of how much our ancestors have left us.

San Juan Railroad Terminal, Calle Commercio & Calle Harding Puerto Rico

Examples of research related posts:

Marta Caminero-Santangelo, associate professor of English at the University of Kansas, explores how literature can shape who people are, and who they understand themselves to be as a group — specifically, in this case, as an ethnic group: Latinos. Here, she discusses her research as well as KUs new Latino/a studies minor, the power of a good story and the value of service learning.

Present day Taínos argue that they were not entirely killed off and that many of them escaped into the mountains and others intermarried with their conquerors and survived.

Examples of Music History:

The Puerto Rican Decima
An ancient poetic genre created in Spain that has been used in Puerto Rico – and Latin America – since the 17th century. Its themes were usually derived from books that poets read – or had read to them – like the Bible, Don Quixote, etc.

A found musical recording from 1939.

Examples of Political History:

Images of a strike against the sugar industry.

Vintage photograph of sugar plantation owners mansion sitting high above worker shacks.

Albizu Campos speech with captions in Spanish and English.

I hope you are encouraged to learn more about your cultural heritage and share it with others.

You can visit my tumbler blog HERE.

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How Close Are We to Our Ancestors? The Taína in me is revealed.

Yesterday, I was browsing through photos from last weekend’s outing when I was struck by the image of a woman I didn’t recognize. The photo captured the profile of a Taína with long black hair, high red cheekbones and a straight nose. It reminded me of Taíno cacique Hatuey, an image I actually was familiar with.

According to Bartolomé de Las Casas, Hatuey gave the following warning to Cuba:

“Here is the God the Spaniards worship. For these they fight and kill; for these they persecute us and that is why we have to throw them into the sea… They tell us, these tyrants, that they adore a God of peace and equality, and yet they usurp our land and make us their slaves. They speak to us of an immortal soul and of their eternal rewards and punishments, and yet they rob our belongings, seduce our women, violate our daughters. Incapable of matching us in valor, these cowards cover themselves with iron that our weapons cannot break…”

Eventually the Spaniards succeeded in capturing him and on February 2, 1512, Hatuey was tied to a stake and burned alive. Before he was burned, a priest asked him if he would accept Jesus and go to heaven. La Casas recalled the reaction of the chief:

“[Hatuey], thinking a little, asked the religious man if Spaniards went to heaven. The religious man answered yes… The chief then said without further thought that he did not want to go there but to hell so as not to be where they were and where he would not see such cruel people. “

This however was not an image I was familiar with. Who is this woman? I certainly don’t spend much time in the mirror and much less checking out my profile.  I was bewildered because I’d never seen this woman before. If I had any Taíno ancestors I do not know of them. I’ve never heard their names or their stories but here they are reflected in my cheekbones and straight nose. I’ve been unknowingly carrying them with me my entire life. Could I be a long lost daughter of Hatuey?

My curious nature insists on learning more and my rebellious spirit is angered at the thought I’ve been denied my true history. But that is the life of Puertoricans. We are told bits and pieces of our history for example how we are mesh of many cultures but our blindness to colonization reveals itself in these moments when we fail to be able to name our ancestors. In the process of absorption and assimilation we have lost our identity. Many of our Puertorican ancestors left no trace because they were poor and kept illiterate. The Taínos had an even worse fate, they had to run away to the highest mountains and hide to escape slavery and death. Only recently is there a movement to reveal their true history.

My family tree has many hidden branches with a few exceptions. I’ve been told of my paternal Italian great great grandfather, I recently found a Portuguese paternal great great great great great grandmother but little is known of my maternal great great great grandmother other than she looked Native Indian and was married to a European.

How far back are you able to trace your family tree?
Do you look like one of your ancestors?


The Taínos were pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Bahamas, Greater Antilles, and the northern Lesser Antilles. The seafaring Taínos are relatives of the Arawak people of South America whose language is member of the Arawakan language family, which ranges from South America across the Caribbean.

Links to explore

Tribal Government of the Jatibonicu Taino People of Puerto Rico

Interview with Professor Juan Manuel Delgado, a historian, discusses the fallacy of the Taino extinction. This is part 1 of 2 of a one hour interview.
Entrevista con Profesor Juan Manuel Delgado, historiador, analiza la falacia de la extinción Taína. Parte 1 de 2 entrevista de una hora.

Juan Carlos Martínez Cruzado is Professor of Genetics at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus and has made important research contributions in Genetics to the study of Population History and Anthropology in Puerto Rico. Amerindian contribution to the Puerto Rican gene pool.

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1898 Puerto Rico in Photographs

1898 Puerto Rico in Photographs
Utuado Mountainside 1898 Puerto Rico two men ride horses on dirt road


When I think of Puerto Rico
in my minds eye

I feel a dance …
her sway
in the protective embrace
of the deepest blue ocean
and salty sapphire sea
gentle caresses
bubbling white foam
rhythmic waves
lapping at her edges
lush green mountains
wind caresses
upon every
peak, crest
and valley
island sounds
secret songs only parrots
and frogs know
of love
forever home
1898 Puerto Rico in Photographs
Central mountainous zone 1898 Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico stuck in the persistent state of 1898.  Unwilling to change.
A one hundred year old child.

1898 Puerto Rico in Photographs
Military Road Juana Diaz 1898 Puerto Rico Horse drawn carriage
1898 Puerto Rico in Photographs
Caguas, Puerto Rico 1898 village

Economically poor then and now.

1898 Puerto Rico in Photographs
San Juan Railroad 1898

Puerto Rico is 1898 encapsulated.

1898 Puerto Rico in Photographs
1898 Puerto Rico in Photographs



Puerto Rico refusing to change remains a commonwealth  suppressed. A prize of the Spanish American war.  An American possession needing protection since 1898.  Protection from what exactly, I cannot explain.  Culturally rich, with traces from every corner of the planet proudly waving two flags.  Bearing children with double identities.  Holding on tightly to illusions of self government.  Forever scrambling in frustration caused by this duality.

Puerto Rico, there is no denying your richness, beauty and my love for you.


Images from Puerto Rico: its conditions and possibilities

By William Dinwiddie

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Why I created the Petition to ask ABC to stop Perpetuating Toxic Stereotypes

Why I created the Petition to ask ABC to stop Perpetuating Toxic 
Stereotypes  against the Puerto Rican community
Puerto Rico has been part of US territory since 
 1898 – 2012 = 114 years ago
Puerto Ricans became US citizens in 
1917 – 2012 = 95 years ago

Puerto Ricans have contributed and helped build the United States of America we all enjoy today by serving in the military, as government officials, teachers, doctors, lawyers, artist and have even gone into space.

1. I don’t find it funny that the only portrayals of Puerto Ricans media chooses to broadcast across all of their platforms are negative stereotypes. 

When media abuses their power bombarding the entire world with negative stereotypes without any attempt at presenting positive images of the Puerto Rican community its NOT funny.
It IS irresponsible, racist and unacceptable.

Why hasn’t media (in this case ABC networks) present 100 positive images? 50? 20? or even 10?

2. It poisons the human collective consciousness.

As humans we need to feel heard and respected, like we have a voice and that our voice matters. In 1943 American professor of psychology, Abraham Maslow, listed the Basic Human Needs as: Physiological needs, Safety needs, Love and belonging, Esteem, Self-actualization and Self-transcendence.

The imbalanced views the media have created are abusive, toxic and destructive to us all.

What do you think happens when generations of children grow up without seeing their reflection in the world?  Do they grow up feeling like they are not good enough?  Do they feel like they should be hidden away in the same way they are kept out of history books and school books?
3. Responsibility.  As human citizens of this planet it is our responsibility to care for it and make it better for our children, our families, our communities and future generations.

If you do not feel comfortable taking action. Please support those that do.

It’s 2012. We know better. Let’s do better.  Be a catalyst for change.

Please sign and share this petition.


You do not need to be Puerto Rican to be offended by inequality and racism. People from Finland, Spain, Portugal, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Switzerland,Trinidad and Tobago, France and the Czech Republic have already signed.  Won’t you?

Notable People raising awareness on this issue:
US Rep. José Serrano, Rep. Nydia Velázquez, Assemblyman José Rivera, Resident Commissioner and a non-voting member of the US House of Representatives Pedro Pierluisi, Former New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson, Julio Pabon and Lucky Rivera creators of Boricuas for a Positive Image, Puerto Rican actor Darlene Vazquetelles, and director Carlos Jiménez, who recently formed the nonprofit Puerto Rican Alliance for Awareness (PRAA): Raul Colon creator of Papa Heroes and VegLatino, Julio Varela creator of Latino Rebels

Links & Resources for Puerto Rico and its History

To Puerto Rico. ORG

Virtual Field Trip

History of Puerto Rico on Sol Boricua

STOP Racism

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Chicago’s Puerto Rican Day Parade in the 60’s

Last Friday on my weekly visit to my parents house the subject of old photos came up.  Enthusiastically, I began digging around closets in search of old boxes and bins. I hit the jackpot when I found these super cool photos of Chicago in the 60’s.  At first I thought my Pops had snapped these photos because he’s such a gadget junkie but it turns out its my Mom who is the historical documentarian.

Puerto Rican Day Parade Float Vintage Chicago

In 1968, about a year after my Mom moved to Chicago from Puerto Rico her cousins took her to see the Puerto Rican Day Parade in downtown Chicago.  It was an annual event the entire community looked forward to.  First a fabulous parade then more festivities at its conclusion in Humboldt Park with performances and music.

They are far from professional shots but they are a treasure because they do capture the enthusiasm and tangible excitement of the people present at this Puerto Rican cultural event.  Using her Kodak camera my Mom has captured 1960’s fashion trends, hairstyles and dress.

They also capture the wonderful multi-story brick architecture of the windy city as well as the businesses that occupied them; Lerner Shops, Karolls Men’s Wear & Woolworths.  Stores used eye-catching advertising of all sorts including filling windows with slogans in colorful neon lights.

Puerto Rican Day Parade Float Vintage Chicago

This is my favorite photo of the bunch for many reasons. First, because we have the American flag swaying in the breeze like a hand inviting this elegant procession forward.  The American flag is then greeted by this float sponsored by Comunidad Santa Maria, with the Puerto Rican Flag proudly exhibited under the words Amor y Paz (Love & Peace).  Second is the fact  there is a band playing live music.  I can imagine the Caribbean musical notes echoing loudly against the tall buildings carried away by the wind bringing swaying hips and smiles to caressed ears.  Lastly, it gives us a clear example of how Puerto Ricans have adapted or assimilated to American culture of the 1960’s in the dress of the beautiful ladies on the float.  The women attired in elegant long ball gowns holding bright blood-red roses, the perfect contrast to their matching white gloves.  Donning wigs in the hairdo of the time, the beehive, carefully balanced on their heads.

Puerto Rican Day Parade Float Vintage Chicago

On the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce float we have a handful of elegant ladies in long formal gowns of varying pastel shades with formal long white gloves.  Waving left and right looking like they belong in a beauty pageant. Especially the ones wearing crowns.

Puerto Rican Day Parade Float Vintage Chicago

The Confraternidad Cidrena float has even more beautiful young ladies in formal wear.  Only one woman gets to wear a crown on this float but they all  seem to really be enjoying themselves energetically waving to the crowd in every direction. One or two seem to be responding to someone they saw in the crowd.  Maybe a family member or friend.  (Cidra is a town located in Central Puerto Rico.)

Puerto Rican Day Parade Float Vintage Chicago

This two story float is sponsored by the Puerto Rican Union of Chicago.  It’s amazing how many young beautiful elegant women there are representing our culture.  Each wearing a slightly different gown with each head of hair perfectly groomed either with a ribbon or the perfect curls.  The queen of this float wears a red cape over her wide white skirted dress reminding me of a Puerto Rican folk bridal doll.

Puerto Rican Day Parade Float Vintage Chicago

In the next floats we have examples of the type of corporate sponsors who participated in the parade.  The name of the beer company is cut off in the photo but I can make out the Meister. I did find a reference to a Meister Brau Inc. a 1960’s Chicago brewery later purchased by Milwaukee based Miller Brewing Co.  The immense horses are beautifully adorned and expertly driven by a man in costume.

Puerto Rican Day Parade Float Vintage Chicago

This float says “El correo de Chicago celebra el dia de los Puertorriqueños.”  The worlds largest post office celebrates the day of Puerto Ricans.  Puerto Ricans are big business for the post office sending plenty of letters and care packages back and forth from the island.

A little history lesson . . .

  • Puerto Rico has been part of US territory since 1898. Notable migration from Puerto Rico to Chicago began in the 1940’s to fill jobs in various US industries.
  • The Puerto Rican Parade Committee is the oldest existing Puerto Rican organization in Chicago.
  • When the parade was founded in 1964 the celebration originally commemorated El Día de San Juan and was organized by Los Caballeros de San Juan, one of the first Puerto Rican religious and social organizations in Chicago. Los Caballeros de San Juan was a religious institution with the goal of promoting integration of Puerto Rican migrants into mainstream Chicago life.
  • El Día de San Juan celebrations was renamed to the Puerto Rican Parade in the year 1966.
  • It was during the first Puerto Rican Parade on June 12, 1966 that one of the first Puerto Rican riots in the U.S. began. The riot, one of many urban disturbances across the nation in the 1960s was in response to the shooting of a young Puerto Rican man by Chicago police.

I was a bit shocked at first when I read this but then not so much the event is placed within context of the period.  The 1960’s saw Rock n Roll, Hippies, the first Man on the Moon, the Vietnam War, the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., war protests and the Civil Rights movement.

Arriving from a different country meant adapting to a new place, new customs and new people who did not understand that not everyone who spoke Spanish was Mexican or that speaking Spanish did not mean they were not American citizens.  Puerto Ricans in Chicago encountered racism in many forms;  having their rent raised so they could not afford to live in certain areas forcing moves to other neighborhoods, being charged higher prices at stores because they were not fluent in the language; racial profiling by police . . .

My take away . . .

I’ve read about the riots from various sources and have come to the conclusion that the riots came in response to years of racist abuse from police, politicians and other citizens upon the Puerto Rican community.  The murder of a young man by police was THE last straw. The riots mark a time in history for change. Young  Puerto Rican men and women fought back against armed police dressed in riot gear releasing trained attack dogs on them.  Racism and abuse of power would not be tolerated any longer.  The riots made it clear to police and local government change must happen.

More importantly these events brought to light the issues that needed addressing as well as the education that needed to be spread inspiring community activism and education programs.  One of the purposes of the parade as well as community organizations was to educate others about Puerto Rico, its American citizenship, culture, customs and bilingual people.  I’m in awe of the people who came together the next year and every year after that to continue the Puerto Rican parade cultural educational campaign.

Now 45 years after that first parade I can report Puerto Ricans are still seen in a negative light.   These are the consequences of denying a variety of faces, shapes, sizes and cultures to be seen on television, movies or even be mentioned in history books.  A vast majority of Americans don’t even know we are citizens.  Puerto Rico has been part of the United States for over a century contributing and building the America we live in today.

I know what I will do.  I will continue to write poetry and stories, create all kinds of art and share it with you and the entire world.  I will be a catalyst for change.

What you can do:

– Support your local community and local organizations.

– Address local issues where they matter, your local government.



The following is a wonderful list of resources for more information on the Puerto Rican Day Parade as well as the history of Puerto Ricans in Chicago.

Encyclopedia of Chicago

Puerto Ricans in Chicago on Wikipedia

Paseo Boricua on Wikipedia

Spanish Action Committee of Chicago Historical Archives

Puerto Rican Parade on NBC Chicago


Do you have any Puerto Rican day Parade photos?

If you do, I would LOVE for you to share them with me.

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Purple is a range of hues of color occurring between red and blue. The color is associated with both nobility and spirituality.
Synonyms: amaranthine, amethyst, blue-violet, bluish red, color, heliotrope, lavender, lilac, magenta, mauve, mulberry, orchid, periwinkle, perse, plum, pomegranate, reddish blue, violaceous, violet, wine

Embroidery 1. The act or art of embroidering. 2. Ornamentation of fabric with needlework. 3. A piece of embroidered fabric. 4. Embellishment with fanciful details.

These photos feature a few hand embroidered handkerchiefs from my collection. My grandmother passed on her love and appreciation for the beauty and quality of hand made works to me like her grandmother before. She taught me to sew and embroider as a small child. I think we started when I was four or five. My Dad bought me a safe giant ugly green plastic needle kit which I hated because it wasn’t like grandmas. But when no one was looking Abuela let me use ‘real’ needle and thread. It makes me laugh to remember how she kept her colorful threads protected inside of an old cookie tin.

During World War I Puerto Rican embroidery became known worldwide for it’s quality. Production was performed by contracted women and children. Due to US influence Puerto Rico’s three largest exports during this era was tobacco, fruit and cotton goods. To prepare young girls for careers educational policy in the early 1900’s was modified to spend half the day on traditional subjects and the other half learning needlework.

Local contractors would distribute bundles of cut fabric ready to be sewn to women all across the island. The women would return the finished products with beautifully sewn and embroidered details done completely by hand.

“Needlepoint: the delicious art of filling in holes with wool.” Carole Berman

“Knitting is very conducive to thought. It is nice to knit a while, put down the needles, write a while, then take up the sock again.” Dorothy Day

“I like making a piece of string into something I can wear.” Unknown

“Stitch your stress away.” Unknown

“Sewing: A creative mess is better than tidy idleness.” Unknown

“Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to weave.” Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960

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Women of Puerto Rico in 1899

I just love looking at old photos and rediscovering the roles of women throughout history.  I’m fascinated with the history of Puerto Rico and her people because in some way they are my ancestors.

The Puertorican women I know today have great inner strength comparible to the steel frame of skyscrapers. Do we carry these traits in our DNA or is it learned?  I believe it is a combination of both.

The following photos are from the archives of the Library of Congress.  I go there to dig and play since I have never found an accurate account of our history:  

Puertorican history, Taino history, African history in the Americas, 
European history in the Americas, my history.

 I have found pieces here and there but wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a huge accurate archive today?

The history books thrust upon me in school are filled from beginning to end with so many lies and one sided stories. It’s a disservice to the planet as well to European history in the Americas. In an attempt to make them seem intelligent and superior in these texts, today ‘s  interpretation would paint them as inhumane monsters lacking morals or values in their treatment of fellow man.

I’m hoping that by gazing on these beautiful faces I can connect the dots. ~ Maybe even connect with them or the essence of who they once were.  ~ Maybe find a balance that makes logical sense by weaving the unwritten stories and the written lies.

Title: Porto Rico, Hoeing sugar cane Date Created/Published: Niagara Falls, N.Y. : M.H. Zahner, publisher, c1899              Two women hoeing field, with child standing behind.

In this series of photos I’m focusing on life in the year 1899, the year my maternal grandfather was born. The photo shows women working in the Sugar Cane Fields. Until now, I never imagined women working in this setting. I had only heard and read stories of men performing this back breaking hard labor.

My maternal grandfather worked in these fields before organizing the first workers union in his town. He later went on to become a farmer. Before going into the army my paternal grandfather also worked in sugar cane fields.

I look at these women and picture myself in their place. I could find peace in the rhythm of the task, in connecting with the earth herself and being thankful for the nourishment she provides, I a link in that chain. But when the sun shone at it’s peak beaming upon my forehead I would want to seek the sanctuary of shade and an ice cold drink. Surely adding to that discomfort would be witnessing my young child working in the sweltering heat of midday alongside me.

Sometime around 1515, after abusing and exploiting the Indian population of the island through hard labor and poor working conditions for approximately 60 years after the first Europeans landed they began aggressively introducing African slaves. Over 350 years later on March 22, 1873, slavery was abolished in Puerto Rico. This photo was taken 26 years later.

Were these women really free? Do you feel free today?

Title: Amidst the charms of Porto Rico – delicious pineapples in the fields of Mayaguez Date Created/Published: NY: Strohmeyer & Wyman, c1899 Aug. 22.  Women and children in pineapple field.

In 1899 long sleeves and skirts protect these women from the knifelike leaves of the pineapple plant. We are left to wonder why these women and children would expose themselves to the sharpness surrounding them in this field.

We know the pineapple was brought to the Caribbean area through Indian migration and commerce. These nautical experts traversed this entire side of the planet for centuries before Europeans accidentally found it. The sweet fruit producing plant originally evolved in South American inland areas of what is now Brazil and Paraguay. Pineapple was a staple of Indian feasts and rites. It was used to produce Indian wine as well as a medicinal plant. The root and fruit were used as an anti-inflammatory with enzymes that help the digestive system, as an anti-parasitic agent and a diuretic. The plants leaves are considered to be useful in encouraging the onset of menstrual periods and easing painful ones.

My maternal grandmother had curly hair as long as the woman in this picture. During the day she wore it in a bun then at night it was like the revelation of a secret to see it hanging down to her waist. As a very young girl I would beg her to let me comb sweet smelling coconut oil through it with her fancy comb. Sometimes she would actually let me and I am grateful today for this memory still brings me joy. Grandmothers are the greatest. I wish I had a jar of that coconut hair product so I could inhale its aroma to help me remember even more details.

How do you preserve your family history?

HISTORY: past events, experiences, ancient times, antiquity, bygone times, good old days, old days, olden days, past, yesterday, yesteryear, chronicle of events, account, annals, autobiography, biography, diary, epic, journal, memoirs, narration, narrative, prehistory, recapitulation, recital, record, relation, report, saga, story, tale, version

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Mastering your Point of View

Maunabo Puerto Rico

Point of view:
A position from which something is observed or considered; a standpoint.

In photography you can change the way your subject is perceived by changing the camera position. The position, direction and height of the camera define the point of view of a picture.

In literature the narrative point of view determines through whose perspective the story is viewed.

In painting perspective is an approximate representation of an image as it is seen by the eye.

Tree Tops Park

As an artist, when I’m creating or brainstorming I’m constantly searching for a different point of view.  In each of my photographs I am revealing my style.  If you look at the photos above; they were each taken at different locations, different cameras and even different years but there is something tying them together.  It is my palpable point of view.

It’s my style = the brand I’ve created as: ©BellaVidabyLetty

When you are creating, painting, writing, etc. how do you decide upon point of view?


“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.” Henry Ford

“There is nothing insignificant in the world. It all depends on the point of view.” Goethe

“There are neither good nor bad subjects. From the point of view of pure Art, you could almost establish it as an axiom that the subject is irrelevant, style itself being an absolute manner of seeing things.” Gustave Flaubert


more examples of my photography

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The Art of Play

“Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning.” Diane Ackerman
Barbie goes to Puerto Rico Guayama 2008

Being an artist allows me to be playful and imaginative everyday of my life.  I would never want to do anything else.

foolery, happiness, humor, jest, joking, lark, pastime, pleasure, prank, recreation, relaxation, romp, teasing, amuse oneself, be life of party, caper, carouse, carry on, cavort, clown, cut capers, cut up, dally, dance, entertain oneself, fool around, frisk, frolic,  horse around, idle away, joke, jump, kibitz, kick up heels, let go, let loose, let one’s hair down, make merry, mess around, rejoice, revel, romp, show off, skip, sport, toy, trifle

Here’s a collage of photos taken of me over the past few years.  I’m running away laughing in St. Augustine in the top left; cracking up hysterically on the beach in PR on the right; getting serenaded at Plaza las America’s by Incubus’ Brandon bottom left; and lastly wearing Choco cat ears at the Hello Kitty bday celebration. Who knew I was so playful?  ;P

Do you have silly photos of yourself to share?  Go ahead and post your link in the comments.

“Punk is musical freedom. It’s saying, doing and playing what you want. In Webster’s terms, ‘nirvana’ means freedom from pain, suffering and the external world, and that’s pretty close to my definition of Punk Rock.” Kurt Cobain

“Play energizes us and enlivens us. It eases our burdens. It renews our natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities.” Stuart Brown

“Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.” Joseph Chilton Pearce

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Plato


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