“El Poeta de la Division”

Interview with Eduardo Arocho, former Editor of QOS

By Abraham Esparza

A poet, activist, and community leader are some of the roles that Eduardo Arocho plays in the neighborhood of Humboldt Park. He currently serves his community as the Executive Director of Division Street Business Development Association. From that position he takes care of services needed to maintain Division Street clean and safe. Arocho was born and raised in the Humboldt Park area. Although his job keeps him quite occupied, he always finds time to write. Poetry is an essential part of Arocho’s life and has been ever since he was young. His poetry led him to activism and it continues to inspire him. He is currently working on a book: Nació Maestro.

QOS: Could you please describe Northeastern during your time at the university. What were the major issues or most memorable student and community struggles during that period?

EA: Well, when I went there I was very excited to be going to college because that’s what I was always raised to do. It was not a dream; I always knew I was going to go to college after high school. I went in through Proyecto Pa’Lante and when I was there I had a work-study job with them. I was the receptionist and I worked with Max and Miriam, who are probably not there anymore. The school was not as grand as it is now. Now they have a lot of new buildings. When I was there they didn’t have as many computers.

One of the most memorable community struggles I remember occurred in 1992. I was on the bus reading the Chicago Sun-Times and I came across an article talking about the controversy over the Pedro Albizu Campos. Something was said that I will never forget by the women who wrote the article, “The first statue [of Pedro Albizu Campos] should go to Puerto Rico and not the dirt of a Chicago park.” This really impacted me because I was from Humboldt Park, but I didn’t know who Albizu was. So I decided to go to the library and pick up a book on him. After I finished the book I started working on a poem about the statue. I read the poem at the [Puerto Rican] cultural center that was on Milwaukee [Avenue] at the time. Mark, who was a student at NEIU and worked with UPRS and QOS, liked the poem and said he wanted to publish it in the magazine. I later went on to read that same poem at the unveiling of the statue.

QOS: What challenges did UPRS and QOS face and how did you try to address them? What alliances were important?

EA:  As a student it was hard to know how to manage a newspaper. For every student organization the challenge is to get a person to come in and meet and organize. To do so is usually a real challenge when you’re a full-time student. Often you have to have a part-time job. That was a challenge for me and it is probably still a challenge for students today. I saw a lot of things I wanted to change. When I became co-editor, then editor, one of the things that I saw that needed to be changed was that QOS had an outdated look. QOS had a standard way of looking and, to make matters worse, it was starting to reprint a lot of articles it had previously printed. As a result the magazine was not appealing and was not being read. So what I wanted to do was change the layout of the magazine to make it more appealing. To do that I had to go through the administration. To work with the administration was, for the most part, a constant struggle because we were known as the rebellious group; so the administration did not approve a lot of our requests. It was really stressful and tedious going through all the paperwork but eventually the administration caved in. So, I was finally able to get more funding for the magazine. This meant that we could afford simple things like staples. Before the magazines weren’t stapled together, so getting staples was an accomplishment. And we were able to have a unique cover for every issue of the magazine after that.

We made an important alliance with the group ChiMexLa [Chicano Mexicano Latino Union]. I recall that we worked together on a big march from the university all the way to the Chicago Sun-Times. The group was composed of students, professors, and protesters who were just furious about the articles written about Clemente and Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High Schools, which said that these schools supported terrorists. It was such a memorable event that I will never forget it!

QOS: What is the importance of a Latino and Latin American Studies major and the recent building of a Latina/o Cultural & Resource Center?

EA: This is very important, because it was something that we’ve been struggling to achieve for a long time. It wasn’t until my senior year that I really began to make these two projects a priority. I made a couple of calls to organize a meeting to pick up the issue again. Dr. [Angelina] Pedroso put a lot of effort into getting this major initiated at NEIU and thanks to her support it was a little easier to deal with the administration. I actually haven’t been inside the building but I hope to go because it’s an immense triumph to have place on the campus where Latino/a students can go and not be ignored.

QOS: Are there any ideas or experiences you would like to share with the present membership of these organizations and the broader Puerto Rican and Latina/o community?

EA: Well it’s important to maintain QOS because it’s vital for Puerto Rican students and all Latino/a students to have a voice when you’re invisible. That was the issue back then. It’s important to recognize that you are not invisible among your peers. Puerto Rico is small, when it is compared to other countries. So our ability to do the work we do and achieve what we have achieved is really important. Our ability to win these victories is a mighty tool that should be handed down to each generation with great pride. Knowledge about your past at the university creates a sense of belonging which can be important in the career of all students.


Originally Published in QOS April 2012 Special Edition, Vol. 40 No. 4

One Response to ““El Poeta de la Division””

  1. Admito que me siento enganchada. Un fuerte abrazo

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