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New York Post

Rican Royalty - The Communities Brightest Lights Are Captured Forever On Camera


June 9, 2004
Copyright © 2004 N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

'We should have had this a long time ago... We cant afford cultural amnesia. If we begin to praise our heroes, leaders, icons, pioneers, we keep ourselves alive.' -Felipe Luciano

Miguel Algarin said it best: Poetry was created in Spanish Harlem. One beautiful Nuyorican poem.

The portrait of 80 Puerto Rican leaders in the courtyard of El Museo Del Barrio was historic on many levels.

"We all made it on time, that should be the headline," shouted CBS senior correspondent David Diaz, "Latino time is now an urban legend."

The predicted thunderstorms for that hazy Saturday in late May were diverted.

Instead warm embraces, kisses and laughter filled the day.

It was a big family picnic.

Six generations were present, from the first Puerto Rican to win a seat in Congress, Herman Badillo, to the newest member of the City Council from the Bronx, Annabel Palma; from the velvety voice of Jimmy Sabater to rapper of the moment, Fat Joe. There was salsa royalty and boogaloo kings, word masters and cultural warriors.

Community activist Elba Cabrera reunited with former Young Lord Olguie Robles Toro after 30 years.

She last saw Olguie when she was a teen activist fighting for Boricua rights.

Boxing champ Jose "Chegui" Torres reunited with his 1965 championship belt. He loaned it to the Boxing Hall of Fame and they kept it for four years.

We requested it for the shoot and he took it back.

"Gracias!" he beamed, holding on tight. "Me dio verguenza asking for it back, they were only supposed to hold it for a year."

Star-struck revelers couldnt pass up the opportunity to greet Broadway legend Chita Rivera or the elegant Emmy-winner Jimmy Smits.

In fact, Smits ditched his rehearsal for Shakespeare in the Parks "Much Ado About Nothing" to join his compaeros.

He warned that he only had 30 minutes, but he stayed for two hours.

For 80s pop star Lisa Lisa, it was an opportunity to take pictures, collect autographs and make great connections.

"I want Jimmy Sabater to come up to me and ask me to do a Spanish album," she said, hopefully. "Im telling

you, Im going to die when I see him."

As the trailblazers rejoiced about their magnificent contributions in the past, present and in their immediate future, it wasnt surprising to discover that their thoughts were also on fallen legends.

Pedro Pietri, Richie Perez, Tito Puente, as well as Cubana (and honorary Boricua) Celia Cruz, were all there in spirit.

As the photo shoot began - and the afternoon sun became more sweltering - rousing chants of "Que viva Puerto Rico" and "Que vivan las mujeres," among others, brought even bigger smiles.

Saturday, May 22, 2004, became one small step toward inspiring young people and one giant leap towards getting them to reach for their dreams.

Its love between Chita Rivera and DJ Tony Touch. [NY Post/David Rentas]

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