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El Archivo Photo Project To Preserve Chicago’s Puerto Rican LGBTQ History Thanks To A Grant

The Puerto Rican Arts Alliance recently won a $25,000 grant to build an archive around Puerto Rican and Latinx LGBTQ history in Chicago.

Members of Chicago's Puerto Rican and Latin LGTBQ community at the city's pride parade in the '90s.
Courtesy of Roberto Castillo
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LOGAN SQUARE — A local project aimed at documenting and preserving Chicago’s Puerto Rican LGBTQ community has received a major boost in funding.

The Puerto Rican Arts Alliance, a nonprofit based in Logan Square, was one of 11 organizations recently awarded a grant from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation under its Broadening Narratives initiative.

The Logan Square organization won $25,000 to grow its photo-based project, El Archivo, a years-long effort to “document, preserve and share the history and contributions of Puerto Ricans in the Midwest,” according to its website.

With the grant, the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance plans to build an offshoot of El Archivo that focuses specifically on Chicago’s Puerto Rican and Latin LGBTQ community, said Jorge Félix, the organization’s program director. The grant will allow the organization to build a public archive over the course of a few years, Félix said.

The project is being done in partnership with the Association of Latinx Action.

Out of all the events and projects the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance has organized since its founding in 1998, Félix said El Archivo could have the most lasting impact. Families will get access to photos and narratives that illustrate the Puerto Rican community’s rich history in the Midwest. For example, the archive will include photos of the first time the Association of Latinx Action, a local Latino LGBTQ group, marched in the city’s Puerto Rican Parade, in 1994.

Credit: Courtesy of Robert Castillo
A newspaper clipping documenting the first time a local Puerto Rican and Latin LGBTQ group participated in the Puerto Rican Parade, in 1994.

“I can see this … as a key project,” Félix said. “We can do a lot of concerts and art classes and murals and participate in schools, but I think this is a project that’s going to become a legacy for future generations of Latinos in Chicago.”

The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation’s Broadening Narratives grant program “aims to fund specific collections projects that bring forward underrepresented stories,” according to a news release.

Other local award recipients include the Bronzeville Black Chicagoan Historical Society, the Chicago History Museum and the South Side Community Art Center. Each organization won $25,000-$200,000 toward a new project, according to the release.

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