A Visit with Ricardo Alegria

at the The Institute of Puerto Rican Culture
by the Puerto Rican Folkloric Dance & Cultural Center
and Chicago's Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center

[This article was written in October 2006.]

In October 2006, after several years of keeping contact via the internet, Directors of the Puerto Rican Folkloric Dance & Cultural Center and Chicago's Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center were excited to travel to the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture where they would meet in person for the first time! Representing two of the four currently "active" US-based cultural centers (Casas de Cultura) Affiliated by the The Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (ICPR) they journeyed to Old San Juan for a status meeting with ICPR Executive Director Dr. Jose Luis Vega, and other ICPR program Directors.

The highlight of the trip was spending time with Ricardo Alegria, founder of the Institute of PR Culture (photo, left). Alegria founded the Institute in 1955, and today, it is the arm of the Puerto Rican government dedicated to preserving and promoting Puerto Rican culture and traditions. Our PRFDance Director, Ana Maria Maynard, who Alegria calls the "Embajadora de Texas," enjoys visiting her "hero" Alegria every other year to provide an update on the PRFDance cultural center in Austin, and the mission being carried out that is serving the people of Central Texas.

She fondly remembers the first time she met Don Ricardo. When he came out to greet her, he took her to see his amazing library that was filled with books, up and down the walls, floor to ceiling, as well as piles and piles, and mountainous piles of books on a long conference room table that sat in the center of the room. The funny moment was when he directed her to sit in a chair at one side of the table, and went to sit on the other side of the table featuring a pile of books. When he sat down he was no longer visible! But our Director was content to listen to her hero's voice talked about Puerto Rico's wonderful, cultural history.

During that trip, it was also inspiring to meet America, who founded the Chicago Ruiz Belvis cultural center 30 years before (botton photo, second from right). America travelled to Puerto Rico with her new generation of Board leadership. Celebrating it's 10th year, PRFDance aspires for a such a long and successful run, as well as someday, when our Director is older and gray, a dedicated new generation to help her run the PRFDance cultural center!

The PRFDance & Cultural Center, one of the newest US-based affiliated cultural centers to the ICPR received its affiliation in October 2005. This designation brings Austin on par with Chicago and Florida where the other active cultural centers are located. Affiliated Cultural Centers are recognized as the legitimate representatives of the Intitute of Puerto Rican Culture in their respective towns in Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican communities outside the Island. They are the preferred and natural vehicle of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture to channel cultural initiatives to the community.

Directors of the ICPR, PRFDance, and Chicago's Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center (Oct 2006)

Photo credits: Andre Briganti, Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center, Used with Permission.

For more information:
Dr. Ana María Tekina-eirú Maynard
Puerto Rican Cultural Center
Cultural Center Address: 701 Tillery Street #13, Austin TX 78702-3738 (Map & Directions)
Mailing Address: 15228 Quiet Pond Court, Austin TX 78728-4555
Phone: +1.512.251.8122      Email: dance@prfdance.org          Web: www.prfdance.org     
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