This is a year of cultural growth for me. By the end of 2016 if I know my heritage and that of other Hispanic and Latino cultures in at least minor common sense details, become an intermediate Spanish speaker learn how to cook anything other than Spanish rice, beans and pastelillos and feel confident enough to easily engage in Hispanic/Latino social engagements, I will feel accomplished.
Luckily for me, in Allegheny County there are a few organizations that are going to help me do just that!
Jesabel Rivera-Guerra, director of Latin American Cultural Union, has a goal to be resourceful. What event? Whose hiring? And my personal favorite question WHO SELLS THIS FOOD!? These are all questions one can usually easily answer through LACU and most times at their website Lacunet.org. The website is armed with information about different Latin@ organizations, an events calendar that LACU partners can use, and even a grocery store list (chills). Jesabel and her partner Kenya Dworkin save my soul on a regular basis.
In fact through LACU I met a giant heart by the name of Mayela Taylor. As the director of Latina Productions she is on a mission to spread Latin@ culture through choreographed dancing! Which she did at BCLA’s Art Lending Collection beautifully (the proof is in the pictures). Latina Productions is probably the main influence to my mission this year. Every song came with a new costume and brief history lesson. I walked away from this event much prouder of who I am and what I represent. Then to top that off, I turned around to the audience. I believe (aside from those aiding Latina Productions) there was only one Latino present but the seats were filled, and there were people outside watching! When that realization first presented itself I thought “Man, where’s the Latinos? This is for them!” But I immediately realized that yes it was for Latinos, but to be understood by those present. When cultures at least understand each other the bondage of prejudice is destroyed. When these young ladies and gentleman danced, faces lit with joy, some with new experiences and others with realization of familiarity. Then I brought out the cultural food, and love for a people grew with every bite. “I need to make some Puerto Rican friends just because of these rice and beans!” said one patron.
After getting everyone excited about the culture, it was pretty easy to find friends who wanted to further the experience by learning Spanish. Angeles Stiteler answered the call and is now teaching at the Braddock Library every Monday from 1-2 and Wednesday from 5-6. She comes with 30 years of teaching experience and a wealth of knowledge about the local Hispanic/Latino movement.
Another chain reaction my connection to LACU started is Cafe Con Leche! Tara Sherry-Torres, the founder of Cafe Con Leche, is an exceptional event planner. You can count on her to bring culture to any gathering whether she’s helping you plan an event or teaching a group of people how to cook Puerto Rican dishes. You can learn more about her services and events at her website Cafeconlechepgh.com.
With these people by my side I’m sure my mission will be easy to complete. I might even join Hope Rawls Zumba classes at the library with all this ambition. Or maybe not, I got scared just thinking about it but hey maybe you can every Thursday 6:30-7:30.
Oh and by the way! Free Oscar Lopez Rivera