Your browser is unsupported

We recommend using the latest version of IE11, Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

GC PIF scholar creates a new photo exhibit celebrates Chicago’s vibrant Puerto Rican community

CBS news

Liliana Macias is a doctoral student in history at UIC and one of our Pipeline to an Inclusive Faculty scholars.

As we begin our celebration of Pride Month, we focus in on Chicago's vibrant Puerto Rican community. CBS 2's Marie Saavedra paid a visit to the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance, and learned about a very interesting project aimed at preserving history and culture.

"We're a group that has provided and contributed to society, to the building of Chicago," said Puerto Rican Arts Alliance program manager Jorge Felix.

The stories of Chicago's LGBTQ Puerto Rican community are stories of hardship and joy, courage and pride.

Now they're finding a home in the El Archivo Project, a collection of photos and other digital images coming to life at the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance in Logan Square.

"It's important that we preserve those stories for our future generations," Felix said.

The LGBTQ collection is part of a larger archive of Puerto Rican life in Chicago.

"One of the subjects of our history we realized that it was missing was the LGBTQ community in the Puerto Rican/Latino community," Felix said.

The idea for an LGBTQ collection took off in 2019, with the alliance's exhibit La Primera Parada. It looked back at 1994, when members of the Puerto Rican LGBTQ community first walked in Chicago's Puerto Rican Parade. It was a contentious and dangerous time.

"They decided to fight to claim space in the community. We have the same rights as anyone to participate in the Puerto Rican or any other parade," Felix said. "We realized that, you know, this is missing in our archive. So let's try to build a collection."

When word got out, there was a surprising and overwhelming response.

"We found many members of the community that came to our space. They donated images, photographs. They shared stories," Felix said.

But it can take years to organize an archive, and it is painstaking work.

"When you want to start a collection, you have to plan this out. … thinking about understanding the historical context," said Liliana Macias, a graduate student in history at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Macias is helping research and digitize thousands of photos; and for her, it's also personal.

"That collection is definitely going to highlight; it's definitely going to highlight the struggles, but it's definitely also going to going to look at the joy that we've experienced as a community," she said.

Macias said it's a community that's widespread and loving.

"One of beautiful potentials that this archive has is to show that resistance isn't always people putting themselves in harm's way," she said. "It's also about continuing to build communities where we are supporting one another; that it doesn't just have queer people, it has people who are genuinely interested in our wellbeing."

The historians hope to have the archive online within months. They're also working on an oral history full of people telling their stories for future generations.

To learn more, go to

Marie Saavedra joined the CBS2 Chicago news team in October 2020 as an anchor. She grew up in Evanston and is a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism.