|From "The Immortal Plena" by Antonio Martorell
Okay, it was my idea, but they embraced it. Teamwork.
Now, I don't want to suggest that I'd never seen the building before, or had no idea it existed. That would be crazy, and, more important, would go against my brand as the all-seeing-eye, the omniopticon of Chicago. Particularly if you skipped around the structure as a child and knew about it intimately for your entire life and hold in lip-curled contempt anyone who has been pinballing around the city for 40 years yet somehow didn't know it was there until last Thursday. Really, to admit that would be to risk a taunting note from Lee Bey, assuming he cared enough about what I know or don't know about Chicago architecture to do that, which, spoiler alert, he doesn't.
Having ballyhooed the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen, it seemed only fair that I go in and see what the Puerto Ricans have going. The Immortal Plena," a show of the colorfully morbid celebration of the danse macabre by artist Antonio Martorell, which seems very apt to share today, it being Halloween.
And upstairs, "Nostalgia for My Island," works of artists in America celebrating their homeland.
As we walked, I showed off the fact that I actually know something about the Puerto Rican community — that it really was the first ethnic group to immigrate to the United States entirely by air. That the great majority of Puerto Rican immigrants came to Chicago from small villages, so had the triple challenge of adjusting to a new country, a foreign language, and the challenges of city life. As with every immigrant group that ever came to Chicago, their more-established countrymen alternated between helping them and ripping them off.
This I know thanks to my new book, "Every Goddamn Day," which, among its wonders, spotlights the enormous growth of the Puerto Rican community in the 1950s. In 1950, there were 255 Puerto Ricans living in Chicago. By 1960, there were 32,371.