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Be a Boriqua for a Day at the One-Night ¡Puerto Rico Presente! Festival

Fourtoul Brothers lend their artistic skills to an event celebrating Puerto Rican cultureEXPAND
Fourtoul Brothers lend their artistic skills to an event celebrating Puerto Rican culture
Fortoul Brothers

Yes, Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, and nope, you don’t need a passport to go there.

Those are answers to some of the reoccurring questions Jessica Gonzalez, of the nonprofit organizations Movimiento Borikua, and Arriba PR, gets asked on the regular.

Last September’s horrific Hurricane Maria put a spotlight on the island, along with a realization of how much confusion still exists about the United States’ relationship with its island territory.

Gonzalez, who migrated to New Jersey from the island as a child, wants to be a part of changing that by broadening knowledge about her birthplace and sharing the cultural aspects that make it unique. On September 23 at downtown’s Crescent Ballroom, she is hosting a family-friendly, Puerto Rican-style carnival, called ¡Puerto Rico Presente! The night is co-hosted by another Phoenix-area charitable group, Mujeres Del Sol.

Another goal of the event – and the prime mission of Movimiento Borikua – is to mobilize the Puerto Rican diaspora in Maricopa County.

For ¡Puerto Rico Presente!, Gonzalez chose Crescent Ballroom because she thought it would be the best spot to recreate la plaza, the town-square type of gathering spot located at the heart of many Puerto Rican cities.

And like in la plaza, there will be plenty of ways to engage and be entertained. Kids can learn about Puerto Rico through an hour of skits performed by Rising Youth Theater or get artsy at an interactive station fostering creativity. There will also be an interactive art project for guests of all ages curated by Hector Fernando.

Tables will be set up around the venue where visitors can pop in on a game of dominos, a favorite Puerto Rican pastime. A photo booth created by the ASU Latino Architecture Student Organization features a backdrop you can take selfies at for a take-home memento.

In addition to some area performers, a couple of acts are coming in from out of town to be a part of the musical backdrop.

Sandra Antongiorgi is one of them. The Chicago-based Puerto Rican singer-songwriter who has been hitting the guitar strings since age five is flying in for the night, armed with songs that fuse Latin sounds with rock and neo-soul. Also an accomplished muralist, her work permeates Chicago’s urban landscape.

If you’re in need of beats, Suce a.k.a. DJ Sucio Smash has got you covered. A fixture in NYC’s hip-hop and club scenes, he heads to the desert to spin tunes that show off Caribbean sounds. He’s been actively lending a voice to spread the needs of Puerto Rico, in the aftermath of last September’s natural disaster.

In another act of building community, Gonzalez asked Gabriel and Isaac Fortoul – best known as the acclaimed artistic team the Fortoul Brothers – to create the promotional materials for the one-night fest. “We worked with Jessica before,” Gabriel says, “and were excited to design the poster and invitation.”

Puerto Rican culture was part of the brothers' upbringing. “We grew up just outside of NYC in a Latino community, and many of our friends were Puerto Rican, and were exposed to the beauty and color of Puerto Rican food, music, and culture. The poster image was inspired by the Taino sun, as well as the joy and pride of Puerto Rican people. The color represents the island and its vibrant and diverse people."

People coming together to create and strengthen connections is a big part of what Gonzalez hopes will happen on this lively evening. "It’s geared toward getting people to engage with Puerto Rican culture and talent, but we want to show them ways to get involved, too,” Gonzalez tells us. “There will be a voter registration table, as well as a video presentation that offers statistics and a look at the reality of the island.”

¡Puerto Rico Presente! 5 p.m. Sunday, September 23, at Crescent Ballroom, 308 North Second Avenue; 602-715-2222; crescentphx.com. Admission is $10 for adults and free for 18 and under.

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