Reclaiming Abandoned Spaces
The model concept for La Casita at Syracuse University can be traced to Spanish Harlem and the South Bronx, where more than 35 years ago, José (Chema) Soto set out to build a wooden structure similar to the houses that were once typical of the rural Puerto Rican regions and throughout the Caribbean. With the help of neighbors, La Casita de Chema (today, Centro Cultural Ricón Criollo) was created as a bright, lively, and sustainable space for Puerto Rican and other Latino communities to gather, celebrate their culture and traditions, host events, play music, dance, or simply visit. The movement grew throughout the 1970s and 1980s, during which a number of casitas were built, reclaiming socially, environmentally, and culturally damaged barrio ground. Following in these footsteps, Syracuse University's own Casita is also located in a reclaimed and refurbished space, the historic Lincoln Building of the city's Near Westside neighborhood on Otisco Street.
The Center's Space
La Casita Cultural Center is located in the historic Lincoln Building in the city's Near Westside neighborhood. The Center is equipped with an art gallery, a classroom, bilingual library, performance space, workshop facilities, kitchenette, and meeting space.
Initial funding for the renovation of the 100-year-old, former warehouse into mixed-use commercial and residential space came from Syracuse University. The project also garnered funding from the Round 2 Restore New York Communities grant awarded by the state to the City of Syracuse as part of a statewide initiative to revitalize urban areas. The building was renovated using the latest green construction standards.
La Casita's interior was designed by Syracuse University professor, architect Jon Lott, to honor the Center's mission in the New York City-based Casitas tradition. Jon Lott drew inspiration from the Rincon Criollo Cultural Center in the Bronx, and developed a model that incorporates the outdoor/indoor aspect of the original Casita. The Center's different spaces were designed with input from Syracuse University faculty, staff, and students. as well as from local residents of the Near Westside.
Getting to La Casita Center
We invite you to visit our Center and explore this web site to learn more about our programs and events and how to become involved with the Center.
The area is served by the Connective Corridor bus, which links the Near Westside, Downtown Syracuse, and the SU campus. The Connective Corridor bus is free.
Board of Advisors
Bethaida Gonzalez, Board Chair; Dean University College at Syracuse University
Gerry Greenberg, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Humanities, Curriculum, Instruction and Programs
Luis Columna, Associate Professor in the Exercise Science Department at Syracuse University's School of Education
Marilu Lopez Fretts, Photojournalist
Antonio Herrera, Vice-Principal of the Westside Academy at Blodgett, Syracuse City School District
Jose Perez, Esq., Vice President of Nosotros Your Latino Voice and of LULAC
Silvio Torres-Saillant, Professor of English, SU’s College of Arts and Sciences
Nina Vergara, Parent Partnership Program Coordinator for the Syracuse City School District
Contact: For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 315-443-2151. Follow us on Twitter: @LaCasitaCenter and find us on Facebook via La Casita Cultural Center Project