HUMBOLDT PARK — Police shut down Humboldt Park’s Fiesta Boricua over the weekend due to a fight on festival grounds, and initial reports someone had been shot during the festivities were wrong, organizers said.
About 6:30 p.m. Saturday, a “physical altercation” broke out at the long-standing Puerto Rican festival as it was winding down, organizers said. Police emptied out the festival within “a matter of minutes,” organizers said. The festivities were slated to end at 8 p.m.
A police spokesperson declined to answer questions about the fight or what triggered the shutdown.
CBS Chicago reported the shutdown occurred after someone was shot, but police had no record of a shooting on or near Division Street where the event took place. Organizers said someone had been shot on Washtenaw Avenue a couple of blocks away 30 to 45 minutes after the festival wrapped for the night, but police also have no record of anyone shot in that area.
CBS later updated its story, saying police shut down the festival after reports of people throwing bottles, saying someone was shot and critically wounded “a short time later and a couple of blocks away.”
“The Puerto Rican Cultural Center is disappointed in the inaccurate and bias[ed] media coverage of this year’s annual Fiesta Boricua festival,” organizers with the Puerto Rican Cultural Center said in a written statement.
“This year, like every year, we held multiple kick-off events and invited the media to showcase the best of our culture, but no major news outlets came to cover these wonderful events … Instead, news outlets have published false headlines claiming that the 29th Fiesta Boricua festival was shut down due to a shooting.”
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The 29th Fiesta Boricua De Bandera a Bandera kicked off noon Saturday with a lineup of Puerto Rican performances and food and art vendors, along with activities for kids.
This year’s festival, billed as “a total immersion into Puerto Rican culture,” was a celebration of two long-standing Humboldt Park institutions: the 50-year-old Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School and Café Teatro Batey Urbano, a cultural space and youth center that has called the neighborhood home for 20 years.
Throngs of people filled Division Street to partake in the festivities Saturday. The festival also drew city leaders, including Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) and Mayor Lori Lightfoot, along with Luis Irizarry Pabón, the mayor of Ponce, Puerto Rico.
The festival went on as planned Sunday despite the scuffle. Organizers said they employed security guards, community leaders and groups trained in deescalation and mediation to keep festival-goers safe.
Community leaders gathered Sunday evening to celebrate the recent landmark designation of Humboldt Park’s steel Puerto Rican flags, sculptures that serve as a powerful symbol of Puerto Rican pride in Chicago and throughout the Midwest.
“We invite the media to come see our community for who we truly are,” organizers said in the statement. “We have been resilient in the face of great obstacles. Through trials and tribulations this community always comes together to advance as a people, and these flags are a perfect symbol of this resiliency.”
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