Loisaida: Celebrating Latino Pride on the LES

The team at the Loisaida Center includes (from left to right): Libertad Guerra, Chief Curator and Artistic Director; Alejandro Epifanio Juan, Technical and Media Manager; Lymaris Alboris, Acacia’s Director of Project Management, Communications and External Affairs; and Carlos “Tato” Torres, Deputy of Community Affairs. (Photo via Manhattan Times)

The team at the Loisaida Center includes (from left to right): Libertad Guerra, chief curator and artistic director; Alejandro Epifanio Juan, technical and media manager; Lymaris Alboris, Acacia’s director of project management, communications and external affairs; and Carlos “Tato” Torres, deputy of community affairs. (Photo via Manhattan Times)

The Loisaida Festival takes over Avenue C (or “Loisaida Avenue”) this weekend for one of the largest celebrations of Latino heritage in the city. Beyond the performances, workshops, food and other parts of the festivities, it is “a testament to the endurance of a singular legacy of deeply rooted activism and heritage” write Mónica Barnkow and Debralee Santos for Manhattan Times.

Since 1987, the annual event is traditionally held the Sunday before Memorial Day, and is sponsored by Loisaida Inc., the oldest Puerto Rican non-for-profit organization in the neighborhood.

Founded as a grassroots movement by activists and residents in the mid-1970’s, Loisaida Inc. would become formally incorporated as a local development corporation focused on combatting economic and social disenfranchisement and highlighting the rich culture of the surrounding Puerto Rican and Latin American community.

But by 2008, and now at the center of a quickly gentrifying neighborhood, the organization faced hard economic times itself. That same year, the National Trust for Historic Places classified the neighborhood as one of America’s most endangered places.

By September 2012, things started turning around for Loisaida Inc. when it became an affiliate of the Acacia Network, and started receiving resources and support from them. Acacia is described by Cuello as “the largest Hispanic-based non-profit community development organization in New York State.”

Its center offers cultural workshops, hosts community events and projects and also has computer trainings and culinary classes.

Libertad Guerra, Loisaida Center’s chief curator and artistic director explained the meaning behind the term “Loisaida”:

“We want to reclaim the Latino spirit in the Lower East Side,” said Guerra.

She makes reference to the name of the center – and the neighborhood itself: Loisaida, which hails from a Spanglish term originally attributed to poet and activist Bimbo Rivas.

“The word speaks to activism of the time,” said Guerra. “It speaks to who we were, and who we still are.”

For much more on Loisaida Inc., Acacia Network, and of course, further details on the festival, go to Manhattan Times.

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