Last Friday, Maria Sanchez, professor in the Spanish department, took two of her Spanish classes on an overnight trip to Chicago to see the Puerto Rican neighborhood established in the city. Students also had the opportunity to become more familiar with the Spanish and Mexican culture in Chicago.

I had the privilege of going on this trip, and it was an unforgettable experience. When the group arrived in Chicago, the first thing we did was go and study the murals made by Puerto Rican artists. We saw many different murals, and it was a great way to learn about Puerto Rican culture in Chicago. When we were done learning about typical Puerto Rican art, we transitioned to learning about Oscar Lopez Rivera. Lopez Rivera is a political prisoner who went to prison for pushing for the independence of Puerto Rico. He was found guilty of conspiracy and was sentenced to 70 years in prison. This sentence made Lopez Rivera the political prisoner with the longest sentence in Puerto Rico.

We also visited Sida Vida, and it was here that we talked about AIDS and how it affects Latinos and especially how it affects Puerto Ricans. This was a very special presentation for me, and it had a meaning that stuck with me. My uncle passed away almost five years ago, and he lived with AIDS for almost twenty years. Hearing how AIDS destroyed the lives of so many in the 80’s deeply saddens me. However, at the same time I am very happy to know that there are resources in Chicago like Sida Vida that are made to help Latinos.

The first day of the trip concluded with a dinner at a Puerto Rican restaurant where we were able to try some of their native cuisine. After dinner, we made our way to the hotel to get some rest and recharge ourselves for the next day. Saturday morning, we woke up and left for the Cervantes Institute where we learned about Spanish literature and culture. Lastly, we went to the Mexican community where we visited a museum and had lunch at a Mexican restaurant.

This trip was a lot of fun. We did so many activities that it’s hard to name them all. I had never been on an overnight trip in all of my college career. We learned so many new things about the history and culture of Puerto Rico, Mexico and Spain in just two days. In all honesty, I had a great time on this trip and I would love to return to the Latin communities in Chicago in the near future.