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Exhibit at Illinois commemorates anniversary of political imprisonment

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — An international touring exhibit marking the 25th anniversary of the incarceration of two Puerto Rican political prisoners in U.S. federal facilities will open May 7 (Saturday) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The exhibit, “Not Enough Space,” commemorates the imprisonments of Oscar López Rivera and Carlos Alberto Torres, who are serving 70- and 78-year terms respectively. López Rivera, arrested in 1981, is in the penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind.; Torres, arrested in 1980, is in the correctional institution in Oxford, Wis.

“Not Enough Space” is free and open to the public and will continue throughout May on the first floor of the U. of I. Main Library, 1408 W. Gregory Drive, Urbana.

A reception, also free and open to the public, will precede the opening. The reception will begin at 2 p.m. at the University YMCA, 1001 S. Wright St., Champaign. Two winners of the Young Chicago Authors’ fifth annual “Louder Than a Bomb Teen Poetry Slam,” held in March, will perform: Alberto “Che” Guevara, who won first place in the individual competition, and Janeida Rivera, part of the Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School team that placed third out of 40 high schools.

According to its national organizers, the Chicago-based National Boricua Human Rights Network (, the exhibit aims to educate viewers about Puerto Rican political prisoners, the reasons for their imprisonment and their “inhumane treatment and living conditions.”

“The exhibit speaks about the lives and the spirit of the two Puerto Ricans who are symbols of freedom in spite of their limiting conditions,” said Jorge Félix, curator of the exhibit, in a news release announcing the event. The prisoners’ artworks are among the items to be displayed.

López Rivera, 62, and Torres, 52, share many life experiences. Both were born in Puerto Rico, raised in Chicago, helped found an alternative school for Puerto Ricans in Chicago now known as the Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School, and were community, welfare and social-justice activists.

They both also were suspected of participating in Puerto Rico’s independence movement, convicted of seditious conspiracy (attempting to overthrow the U.S. government), given long terms and imprisoned. From prison López Rivera and Torres continue the cause for Puerto Rican liberation through writing, frequently contributing to periodicals and books in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

In 1999, 12 of 14 jailed Puerto Rican nationalists agreed to a clemency deal offered by outgoing President Bill Clinton. López Rivera refused the offer; U.S. government officials never made the offer to Torres. López Rivera’s projected release date is 2027; Torres’ is 2024.

The result of a national effort, the exhibit will tour 10 cities in the continental United States, plus venues in Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. Representing “an innovative example of community curatorial process,” Félix said, the exhibit opened its national tour at “La Galeria que No Era” in Chicago.

Ann Bishop, a professor in the U. of I. Graduate School of Library and Information Science, is on the local organizing committee for the exhibit, whose presentation in Champaign-Urbana is sponsored by the U. of I.-based Community Informatics Initiative.

The CII, which Bishop co-founded with library school professor Bertram “Chip” Bruce, “serves as a hub for research, learning and action related to how communities enlist information technologies to create and share knowledge in support of local goals in healthcare, education, the arts, community and economic development, environmental protection, civic engagement, etc.,” Bishop said.

Several U. of I. units and community groups are co-sponsoring the local exhibit.

For more information contact Bishop at 217-244-3299 or, or Félix at 773-486-8345 or