Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Summer in the City

There's something about summer in Chicago that, for me anyway, brings out the multicultural mélange that makes living here a wonderful thing. A couple of factors are really bringing that to the fore this year. First, there was the awfulness of the polar vortex winter combined with a rather dreary and rainy spring. This one-two punch has kept me indoors a lot, but starting around the middle of June sunny, warm days became more common than the other kind. It was time to break out.

The other thing that started in the middle of June was the World Cup. Despite all the well deserved controversy leading up to the Cup (FIFA corruption, political corruption, you-name-it corruption), I've been hopelessly hooked since the games began. I confess that I'm a relative newbie to futbol, having first gotten excited during the 2010 Cup in South Africa. This year, though, Univision (By all means watch the games in Spanish, even if you don't understand a word. It's a lot more fun than ESPN.) is getting a serious workout on my TV. Catching broadcasts in public is fun as well. The phenomenon that is the Cup can leave even the most isolated individual feeling part of a larger global community. Whether your loyalties lies with Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Germany or the United States, there is a party somewhere. I keep seeing this guy walk past my house (I'm pretty sure it's the same guy) with a large flag flowing behind him. The thing is, it's never the same flag. One day it's Spain, the next Switzerland, the next Brazil. I don't know where he's going, but I may follow him the next time he comes by.

So, let me tell you about my weekend.

It started quietly enough at home on Friday evening, although I did try out a new Italian recipe and watched a Mexican film that I borrowed from the library. I had a number of things that I needed to do during the day on Saturday, but the double hit of two World Cup semi-final games featuring all Latin American teams kind of obliterated that plan, especially the overtime + penalty kick Brazil-Chile nail biter.

Saturday evening began one of those 'only in Chicago' nights. First up was delicious Cuban food on the patio at 90 Miles, although that was a bit rushed because of an approaching summer thunderstorm. Fortunately, by the time we reached our next destination, the storm had passed and the sun was shining.

Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center is named after a Puerto Rican abolitionist. The center was screening a documentary about a nearly (and, some argue, deliberately) forgotten figure in Puerto Rican history who, in the mid 19th century, had a vision of a united and free Antillean confederation consisting of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Puerto Rico. Only Haiti was a nation at the time. Only Puerto Rico remains a colony today. You can see why the schools in Puerto Rico might not want to teach kids about Ramón Emeterio Betances, or El Antillano as he was known.

Segundo Ruiz itself is quite a remarkable place, which I wrote about here last December. The screening was the second one of the day (one of the organizers told me that he spent most of the 3pm screening watching the Colombia-Uruguay game on his iPhone) and both were well attended. The community served by the center probably has divergent thoughts about Puerto Rican independence, but most everybody feels that there is something not quite right about the United States still ruling the island over 100 years after invading it. The film was a thoughtful call to arms, a questioning of why this is still the case. 

I would have loved to stick around for the post screening reception, but we still had one more thing to do.

A local band that I love, Dos Santos Anti-Beat Orchestra, was opening for Chicha Libre, a band from Brooklyn that mines some of the same Peruvian and Colombian sources for inspiration. That was an irresistible double bill, so we we're off to Martyrs, a rock club in the North Center neighborhood. We unfortunately arrived near the end of Dos Santos' set, but managed to catch 4 songs. They were on fire, and I'm glad they'll be playing again in a few weeks at a street festival in my neighborhood. Chicha Libre was awesome, and we ran into some Peruvian friends who welcomed them as heroes. I'm getting up there in age a bit, but Chicha Libre had me dancing at the foot of the stage for well over an hour.  Exhausted and sweaty, we finally stumbled home at 1:30am.

Sunday is a day of rest, but the Mexico-Netherlands game demanded that the rest be had over tequila sunrises and huevos con chorizo at a Mexican restaurant, so there we were meeting a friend at the bar at 10:30 the next morning. Could it be a coincidence that one of the stars of El Tri is named Dos Santos? Mexico ultimately lost in a heartbreaking finish, but for 88 minutes I was in the happiest place in the world. Well, outside of Mexico City.  Costa Rica relieved some of the sadness with their surprise win over Greece later that day.

Monday is work day, but looky here, it's a short week because of the 4th of July holiday and Brazil faces Colombia on Friday afternoon. There's this little Brazilian bar I know and I hear a samba band will be there...

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