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Twenty-Five Years Of Celebrating; Puerto Rican Group Turns 25

Twenty-Five Years Of Celebrating

Khalid Moss, Dayton Daily News

April 4, 2003
Copyright © 2003 Dayton Daily News. All rights reserved.

Chamber-music concert to feature piece for Dayton

Jose Davila remembers strolling through the Dayton International Festival (now called A World A'fair) with his wife, Levia. They saw colorful displays from China, Mexico, Germany and many other countries - but they didn't see anything from their native Puerto Rico.

Heady with purpose, the Davilas and other local Puerto Rican professionals created an arts organization committed to raising the profile of Puerto Rican heritage and culture in the Miami Valley. They named their group the Puerto Rican Cultural Society (PRCS).

That was 25 years ago.

This weekend the PRCS will celebrate its silver anniversary with a series of programs and performances showcasing Latin American artists.

Much of the growth and success of the PRCS can be attributed to the raw energy of Jose Davila. He writes PRCS grants, recruits sponsors, juggles schedules and works closely with artists. Davila is past president of the PRCS, sits on its Board of Trustees and is chairman of the Special Activities Committee.

`The purpose of our organization has never wavered from the beginning,' Davila said from society offices inside the Metropolitan Arts Building, 126 N. Main St. `We want to promote the culture of Puerto Rico and provide information to the community of Dayton about Puerto Rico.'

In the past quarter century, the PRCS has sponsored performances by Ballet Hispanico (1994), vocalist Elena Santiago and the Just Note Us Orchestra (1996), Musical Ensemble Kalinda (1999), actress Teresa Martinez in When I Was a Puerto Rican (2000) and 1997's `Fiesta Filharmonica,' a collaboration with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, guitarist Emilio `Millito' Cruz and guest conductor Jaime Morales-Matos.

Morales-Matos, who lives in Cincinnati, returns to Dayton for the cornerstone of the anniversary, a chamber-music concert at 2 p.m. Sunday.

The concert will integrate the talents of two acclaimed classical ensembles: the internationally renowned Figueroa Quartet and Puerto Rico's first family of song, the Morales-Matos Family. This marks the first joint performance of the gifted clan.

Morales-Matos is assistant professor of trombone at the Miami University and conductor of the Central Ohio Symphony Orchestra. The trombonist has served as cover conductor for the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra and musical director of the Dayton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra.

On Sunday he will be joined by brothers Ricardo, principal clarinetist for the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; Jesus, cellist for the Puerto Rico Symphony; and Jose, a pianist/educator; and sisters Denise, violist for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra; and Sonia, a composer and pianist.

With all this musical talent in one family, you might assume that the muse was passed down from the parents. `Not so,' Morales-Matos said.

`We are the first generation of the Morales-Matos musicians,' he said. `My father is a librarian, and my mother is a therapist. But we (children) all went to a performing-arts high school in Puerto Rico called Esquela Libre de Musica (Free School of Music). Music became a way for us to get together as a family. We played at hospitals and parties, but after high school we all went into music professionally.'

In addition to playing works by Bartok, Schubert and Mozart, the musicians will debut a work by Sonia Morales-Matos - Divertimento for Dayton, a piece commissioned for the anniversary.

A divertimento is a light and easy piece of instrumental music in several movements.

`This will be the world premier of this composition,' Jaime Morales-Matos said. `I haven't seen it yet, but I'll tell you what we want: We want something light. That's why its called Divertimento for Dayton. The work will probably have some Latin rhythms and melodies.'

At about 10 minutes, Divertimento for Dayton will be relatively short and will feature everyone in the ensemble.

Morales-Matos has performed at venues around the world, but he has a special place in his heart for Dayton and its audiences.

`Dayton is one of the places where two things stand out,' he said. `One is the quality of living, and two are the values of the people. Dayton has a magnificent philharmonic, a great opera, the wonderful Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, the Dayton Ballet and so many other arts institutions that they support.

`When I say Dayton has a high quality of living, I don't mean how much money you make, but how your time is well spent. I love Dayton audiences for their knowledge, sensitivity and level of appreciation.'

The Morales-Matos Family will share the stage with the Figueroa Quartet. Dubbed the official chamber music quartet of Puerto Rico, the quartet features violinists Guillermo Figueroa and Narciso Figueroa, cellist Rafael Figueroa and pianist Ivonne Figueroa. Leader Guillermo Figueroa is recognized as one of the most versatile violinists of his generation and conductor of the Puerto Rico Symphony.

The 25th anniversary celebration of the PRCS begins at 6:30 p.m. Saturday with a black-tie ball at the Dayton Art Institute. Dinner and dancing follows in the DAI's Gothic Cloister at 7:30 p.m. Music will be provided by Son del Caribe Orchestra.

In conjunction with the anniversary, the PRCS is also hosting the 2003 Ohio Latino Arts Association (OLAA) conference. OLAA is a statewide organization funded by the Ohio Arts Council that works with local Latino arts groups. The conference begins at 7 p.m. today with a reception at the University of Dayton's Alumni Hall. Saturday will feature workshops and panels at the Dayton Art Institute and leads up to the 25th anniversary banquet and dance at 6:30 p.m.

About the PRCS

* Instead of offering memberships, contributors to the Puerto Rican Cultural Society automatically become members and have a say in the election of the board of directors.

* Support for the PRCS comes from the Ohio Arts Council, CultureWorks, Arts Midwest, the Dayton Art Institute and Latino Arts for Humanity. Grants make up 55 percent of the group's income.

* Several PRCS members make up Rondalla Puerto Rico, a vocal group that will entertain today at the opening ceremony of the Ohio Latin Arts Association conference. Rondalla started casually as a get-together of singers but has blossomed into a performing ensemble. Made up primarily of engineers, the group has performed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

* El Coqui is the newsletter for members of the PRCS. Aside from information on special activities, the newsletter contains poems and short stories in Spanish and anecdotal travelogues. El coqui is a frog found only on the island of Puerto Rico. `It doesn't croak like a frog, it sings like a bird,' Jose Davila said of the PRCS. El coqui is one of the national symbols of Puerto Rico and recent mascot of the Pan American Games.

Schedule of events

The 25th anniversary of the Puerto Rican Cultural Society will be celebrated with a ball on Saturday night and a concert Sunday. This weekend the group also hosts the Ohio Latino Arts Association's annual conference.

All events are open to the public.


7 p.m.: Opening reception and registration for the OLAA conference; the University of Dayton's Alumni Hall, 300 College Park.

Entertainment includes music by Rondalla Puerto Rico.


(At the Dayton Art Institute)

9 a.m.: OLAA registration at the Dayton Art Institute Rotunda. Breakfast.

9:45 a.m.: Keynote speaker Dr. Felix Padilla.

10:45 a.m.: Workshops and panels (grant writing, video documentary making, dances of the Caribbean and Latin America and building Latino cultural awareness).

12:45 p.m.: Lunch.

1 p.m.: Awards ceremony, entertainment by the Caribe Dancers.

2:30 p.m.: Workshops and panels.

3:45 p.m.: Closing ceremonies for the OLAA.

6:30 p.m.: PRCS's 25th anniversary banquet and dance (music by Son del Caribe).


2 p.m.: Chamber-music concert at the Dayton Art Institute Renaissance Auditorium, 456 Belmonte Park N. (See separate `how-to- go' box for details.)

Cost: $85 for OLAA conference activities including the anniversary ball and concert. $50 for OLAA conference activities only. $50 for the 25th anniversary ball.

For more information: Call 222-1505.

How to go

* WHAT: Chamber-music concert with the Figueroa Quartet and the Morales-Matos Family, part of this weekend's events marking the 25th anniversary of the Puerto Rican Cultural Society.

* WHEN: 2 p.m. Sunday.

* WHERE: The Dayton Art Institute Renaissance Auditorium, 456 Belmonte Park N.

* COST: $10; $7 for students and senior citizens.

* MORE INFO: Call 222-1505 (the Puerto Rican Cultural Society).

Affirmative action hurts dignity

April 4, 2003
Copyright © 2003 USA Today. All rights reserved.

I am a first-generation American; my parents emigrated from Peru and Puerto Rico. I would benefit greatly from affirmative-action policies. However, I am against the use of affirmative action in schools and the workplace ("Affirmative action foes field skeptical queries," News, Wednesday).

Universities and employers should make their decisions based on what one can produce, not one's ethnicity, which has no effect on intelligence. The argument that minorities do not have the same opportunities as Caucasians has no foundation. They may not have the same economic opportunities, but not all minorities are at an economic disadvantage.

Both minorities and Caucasians have the same opportunity to learn, whether or not they take advantage of it. Because of affirmative action, minorities cannot know if they were accepted to universities or hired for jobs because of their qualifications or ethnicity. The same principle holds true for Caucasians who are rejected.

My intelligence is insulted when I realize that my grades, which I have worked hard for, may not have been a determining factor in my acceptance to a university. Affirmative action must be eradicated for the dignity of all.

Gina Llanos
Paterson, N.J.


Stephen Smith, GLOBE STAFF

April 4, 2003
Copyright © 2003 The Boston Globe. All rights reserved.

The number of Hispanic infants in Massachusetts who died before the age of 1 soared nearly 44 percent in 2001, according to public health authorities who pledged yesterday to investigate the causes of the sharp increase and find ways to reverse it.

The rise in Hispanic infant deaths reflects one of the most persistent and troubling aspects of America's health-care divide: For decades, black and Hispanic infants have died at rates far higher than white babies, despite concerted efforts to bridge that gap.

The causes of elevated infant mortality, specialists said yesterday, are rooted in issues ranging from inferior health care for black and Hispanic women before pregnancy to stress exacerbated by racism to poor nutrition stemming from poverty.

"The whole picture is very, very complicated and so many efforts have to go into improving the situation," said Mary Ioven, director of clinical services at the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center.

As the state released its annual review of births and infant deaths, Public Health Commissioner Christine C. Ferguson called the continued disparity in infant death rates "very troubling" and suggested that an array of public and private agencies must be enlisted in the campaign.

"Putting this in the hands of the Rotary Clubs and the Lions Clubs and making them aware of the problem is going to be very important," Ferguson said. "It's not only talking to ourselves and preaching to the choir."

Through much of the 1990s, infant mortality rates for all racial and ethnic groups had been on a steady decline. Infant mortality has long been regarded as a seminal measure of both health and broader issues related to social equality.

But among black infants, deaths began to rise again in 1999. And while the rate for 2001 - 12.1 deaths for every 1,000 births - was slightly lower than the year before, it was almost three times higher than the figure for white babies.

As specialists have investigated this syndrome, they increasingly have focused on the ramifications of stress in the lives of black and Hispanic women. That stress appears to cut across economic lines and can result in broad health effects and more specific conditions, such as the release of hormones that may induce premature labor.

"If you look for patterns over time, you see a lot of evidence that we need to pay attention to racism and what is different about the lives of black women," said Barbara Ferrer, deputy director of the Boston Public Health Commission. "When you talk to black women, they talk about the stress of discrimination every day."

Increasingly, physicians working to reduce infant mortality are focusing just as much on a woman's health before she gets pregnant as during her pregnancy, said Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, director of women's, family, and community programs at Brigham and Women's Hospital. That's being done to assure that women begin their pregnancies with sufficiently robust health to raise their prospects for a full-term delivery.

Babies born too soon are often born too small, and that's among the factors contributing to the increase in deaths among Hispanic infants. While 48 Hispanic infants died in 2000, 69 didn't live to celebrate their first birthday in 2001.

Much of that increase, analysts said, can be traced to Lawrence and Holyoke. Each recorded five additional deaths of Hispanic infants in 2001.

Specialists said they are still trying to decipher the increases in those two communities. Ioven reported that some women enter into prenatal care too late, sometimes having moved from communities in Puerto Rico and elsewhere during their pregnancies.

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