News

La Casita 2021 Year-End Review

Thank you to all the families, students, faculty, sponsors, and community members for being a part of our Fall 2021 semester. After a year and a half of being shut down, La Casita has re-opened it’s doors to our community. This year has been filled with many great events and programs including, the Corazon del Barrio exhibit, our weekly Youth Programs, Trunk or Treat, and our Luces de Navidad holiday open house. La Casita would also like to thank all the student interns and volunteers who contributed to the success of all of these events and programs.

 

Check out this Video highlighting La Casita’s Fall 2021 Programming. Special Thanks to Edward Reynolds for the Photography and Videography. Additional thanks to Liamna Pestana-Roche, Jose More, and Sara Silva for providing the music.

 

La Casita will be closed from Saturday 12/18/2021 until Monday 01/03/2022 for the Holidays. Community programming will resume in February of 2022.

La Casita Memories: Balcón Criollo 2013

Balcon Criollo 2013 Exhibit at La Casita.
El Balcón Criollo, October 8, 2013 at La Casita, Syracuse, NY.

To commemorate La Casita’s 10th anniversary, the center wants to highlight the artists, community members, and events that define its history. In 2013, La Casita hosted its first Balcón Criollo exhibit. Inspired by the work of Puerto Rican artist Pepón Osorio and through a community engagement effort led by Luz Encarnación, the Balcón Criollo has since become the signature program commemorating Hispanic Heritage at La Casita.

La Casita’s gallery walls filled with family photos contributed by community members for the 2013 exhibition program.

La Casita’s Balcón is a permanent corner installation in the center’s gallery. The Balcón, which means porch in Spanish, is representative of the space where we interact with our community. “The front porch is usually where we have coffee with our neighbors, or watch the kids play. The front porch is where our home life connects with our community,” said Tere Paniagua, Executive Director of La Casita.

 

El Balcón Criollo 2013, incorporated photographs, memorabilia and culturally significant artifacts donated by members of La Casita’s Community.

The model concept of the Balcón was inspired by the work of Puerto Rican installation  artist Pepón Osorio. Born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, Osorio was educated at the Universidad Inter-Americana in Puerto Rico and Herbert H. Lehman College in New York and received an MA from Columbia University in 1985. Osorio’s work is influenced by his experience as a social worker in The Bronx. Osorio says, “My principal commitment as an artist is to return art to the community.” Osorio’s work bridges museum installation with field-based community engagement, often incorporating pieces collected directly from his community.

 

It was this concept that inspired La Casita’s Balcón Criollo exhibition program. The 2013 exhibit included a gallery-wide installation of meaningful relics from the homes and heart of the local Hispanic community. “There is a story behind every piece… stories about our neighborhoods, our countries of origin, our families, and our culture,” said Paniagua. The exhibit was a collaborative effort between La Casita staff, volunteers, local artists and community members who contributed pieces and stories to the exhibit’s installation. Highlights of the exhibit were the Balcón and the traditional Piragua cart, both built by local carpenters and community volunteers.

A Piragua Cart created by local carpenter in our community. A Piragua is a Puerto Rican shaved ice dessert, shaped like a cone, consisting of shaved ice and covered with fruit-flavored syrup.

 

Since the initial Balcón Criollo in 2013, La Casita has redesigned the gallery display each year to explore different themes. Although the themes of the installations have varied, the concept behind the Balcón remains the same: community engagement. “The Balcón is the cornerstone of the gallery and has become the signature program of La Casita. The idea behind the Balcón is  for people in our community to see themselves represented and their stories valued and shared,” says Paniagua.

La Casita Memories: 2012 Art Exhibits

Selection from “The Photographer as a Child: Memories from Guatemala” exhibit in 2012

To commemorate La Casita’s 10th anniversary, the center wants to highlight the artists, community members, and events that define its history. In 2012, La Casita hosted two exhibits: “The Photographer as a Child: Memories from Guatemala” and “Angels on the Border”. These are some of the first exhibits presented at La Casita and are representative of the artwork and narratives the center would highlight in the following years.

Efren Lopez'12
Efren Lopez’12 was a student in the Military Photojournalism Program in Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and the exhibiting artist of “The Photographer as a Child: Memories from Guatemala”

In the Spring of 2012, La Casita hosted an exhibit featuring the photography of Efrén López ’12. Lopez was a student in the Military Photojournalism Program in Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Lopez’s experience as an aerial photographer for the U.S. Air Force allowed him to document real-world situations and the military from around the globe. “The Photographer as a Child: Memories from Guatemala” focused on Lopez’s return trip to Guatemala in 2009. “My life began in a bamboo hut at the side of a road in a tiny town named Petaca, Guatemala, in 1966,” Lopez writes. “It’s a town so small that it is next to impossible to find on most maps of Guatemala, much less Central America.” Additionally, the exhibit included artwork created by students of the Westside Academy at Blodgett Middle School. These students participated in photography workshops led by López while he was a student at Syracuse University.

Retablo
Retablos are devotional art pieces using iconography derived from traditional Catholic Church art. The retablos in this exhibit portray the blessings of the Virgin Mary and the Trinity’s protection of immigrants in their struggles across the border.

In the Fall of 2012, La Casita hosted the exhibit “Angels on the Border”, featuring retablos by Mexican immigrants from 1912 to 1996. Retablos are devotional art pieces using iconography derived from traditional Catholic faith and imagery. The retablos in this exhibit portray the blessings of the Virgin Mary and the Trinity’s protection of immigrants in their struggles across the border. The works include text that describes the miracle, an image of the place where the miracle occurred and an image of the deity to whom the miracle is ascribed. The exhibition was curated by the Mexican Migration Project at Princeton University, co-directed by Jorge Durand, Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Guadalajara (Mexico), and Douglas S. Massey, Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University.

These two exhibits depict the complex nature of life in Latin America. Through these exhibits, La Casita was able to share stories relevant to the Latino communities in Central New York. Commemorating these two exhibits is a way to honor and celebrate the personal and collective narratives shared at La Casita over the past 10 years.

 

Support for this program comes from the Office of Cultural Engagement for the Hispanic Community at the College of Arts & Sciences, the Humanities Center, the Latino-Latin American Studies Program, and the Program on Latin America and the Caribbean at Syracuse University.

BOMBA: The Rhythm of the Barrio

La Casita's Dance Troupe at the opening event of the 2011 Bomba y Plena Festival
La Casita’s Dance Troupe at the opening event of the 2011 Bomba y Plena Festival

Music and dance have always been at the heart of La Casita’s programming. From exhibits to recitals and performances, to youth programs, student projects and more, La Casita has embraced the rhythms that define Latin music and dance, and expands on these traditions. As we commemorate La Casita’s 10th anniversary, we reflect on the Center’s dance programs and the vital role that they play in community building and cultural heritage preservation.

 

Led by Luz Encarnación, La Casita’s very first dance troupe was formed within the year of La Casita’s opening to the public in 2011. Luz already had a long history in the Syracuse community as a Bomba & Plena dance instructor and choreographer, and perhaps more importantly, as a mentor to the youths who participated in her programs. The dance workshops were designed to also educate in wellness and self-care, developing confidence and self-esteem in youths who actively engaged with their community through year-round live performances at La Casita and across the City of Syracuse.

La Casita's exhibit space including 40 limited-edition silkscreen prints
In 2011, La Casita hosted the Bomba y Plena Festival which include a stunning exhibition of 40 limited-edition silkscreens created and signed by master print makers from Puerto Rico

In 2012, La Casita hosted a Bomba y Plena Festival commemorating the start of Hispanic Heritage Month. Bomba & Plena are important genres of folk music from Puerto Rico, typically associated with the coastal parts of the island, where African roots and cultural heritage are strong. The music is characterized by the style of drumming and lively dancers with long swirling skirts. It is especially popular in the Eastern coastal town of Loíza, Puerto Rico, which is the place of origin for a large segment of the Puerto Rican community in Syracuse’s Westside neighborhood.

The 2012 Bomba y Plena Festival included live dance performances and a stunning exhibition of 40 limited-edition silkscreens created and signed by master print makers from Puerto Rico to commemorate the annual Bomba & Plena festivals on the island. Three of the pieces from that exhibit were donated to La Casita and are currently on display as part of La Casita’s exhibit Corazón del Barrio (Heart of the Barrio).

Luz and Marianela Encarnación, and Jaydia Perry, performed at La Casita for a special 360 video.
Luz and Marianela Encarnación, and Jaydia Perry, performed at La Casita for a special 360 video.

One of the projects commemorating La Casita’s 10th anniversary this fall, involved a reunion of dancers from the original troupe, once again led by Luz Encarnación. The trio included Luz and Marianela Encarnación, and Jaydia Perry. Their Plena dance performance was caught on video by Professor Dan Pacheco and his students at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications. Pacheco, a specialist in emerging technologies, developed a class project to collectively produce a 360 video with his students. It was especially moving for Professor Pacheco to work on a project that represented his own Puerto Rican roots and cultural heritage. The video features dancers in full costume, dancing to an original piece of Plena music composed and recorded especially for La Casita by Rochester-based musician from Puerto Rico, José Mora. You can view the video using this link: La Casita Plena 

Children from our community join our Danza program every year.
Children from our community join our Danza program every year.

Through the years, SU students have followed in Luz Encarnación’s footsteps. Luz inspired the work of these students by setting the precedent as dance instructors and as mentors to our youths and familias. To this day, La Casita continues to offer weekly dance workshops through its Danza Program for children on Saturday afternoons. For more information about joining the workshops for children or for adults, please call La Casita at 315-443-2151. Everyone is welcome!

The rhythms, rich music and dance traditions from around Latin America bring us together to celebrate our culture as a community.

 

Building Community

La Casita Blueprints
The Original Blueprints diagram the selected building project that would later become La Casita

Prior to 2011, the historic Lincoln Supply Building remained an empty warehouse space located on Syracuse’s Near Westside. In September of 2011 it became the home to La Casita Cultural Center, a vibrant and colorful space dedicated to Hispanic and Latino communities. It was the combined efforts of Syracuse University faculty, staff, students and community stakeholders that made La Casita the space it is today.

La Casita Blueprints
Blueprints presented by the Para Project. PARA is an office for architecture in New York City and Cambridge, Massachusetts, led by principal Jon Lott.

 

In September 2009, a ceremony was held to commemorate the start of a $3.2 million renovation project of the Lincoln Building, located at 109 Otisco Street, Syracuse. Initial funding for the renovation of the 100-year-old, former warehouse into mixed-use commercial and residential space came from Syracuse University (SU). 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.

Ricon Criollo Cultural Center
Ricon Criollo Cultural Center served as the deign inspiration for La Casita at Syracuse University

The model concept for La Casita at SU can be traced to Spanish Harlem and the South Bronx. La Casita’s interior was designed by former SU professor in the School of Architecture, Jon Lott, to honor the Center’s mission in the New York City-based Casitas tradition. Lott drew inspiration from the Rincón 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.

The original blueprints and design proposals show the collaborative nature of this project. It was the combined efforts of architects, designers, community organizers, academic scholars and students, that made La Casita the place it is today.

This year La Casita commemorates its 10th anniversary with its exhibit: Corazón del Barrio (Heart of the Barrio), which celebrates the community that have collaborated, participated and filled this space with life. Their art, their music, their wisdom, their stories and dreams create indelible learning experiences for all who enter here. They are the true Heart of the Barrio.

Interior design concepts for La Casita
The Interior design of La Casita was created with input for the educators and community leaders to meet the needs for the community.

 

 

Support for La Casita’s 10th Anniversary program comes from the College of Arts & Sciences at Syracuse University.
Additional support comes from Syracuse University’s Humanities Center and its 2021 Syracuse Symposium on “Conventions”
Office of Cultural Engagement for the Hispanic Community
Latino Latin-American Studies Program
Program on Latin America and the Caribbean (PLACA)
The Central NY Community Foundation on behalf of the Zayas Family

La Casita Honors the Founding of the Center

Syracuse Post Standard Article announcing La Casita Cultural Center's Grand Opening in 2011
Syracuse Post Standard Article announcing La Casita Cultural Center’s Grand Opening in 2011

 

As La Casita celebrates its 10th Anniversary with the latest exhibit, “Corazón del Barrio/Heart of the Barrio”, the center looks back at its milestones and accomplishments. The opening of the center in the fall of 2011 is one of those landmark achievements.

In 2011, La Casita Cultural Center, found a home located in the heart of Syracuse’s Near Westside. It all began as an initiative of Syracuse University’s Latino-Latin American Studies Program (LLAS) in collaboration with partners within the local community. Co-founders, Inmaculada Lara-Bonilla (now a faculty member of Hostos Community College, CUNY) and Silvio Torres-Saillant (Professor in the English Dept. and former director of LLAS at Syracuse University) spent two years getting to know this community and hosting open dialogues to discuss the needs and wants of the local Hispanic communities. These conversations informed the design of the space and the programs that continue to develop at La Casita today.

The model concept for La Casita can be traced to Spanish Harlem and the South Bronx. With the help of neighbors, Jose (Chema) Soto created a bright, lively, and sustainable space for Latino communities to gather, celebrate their culture and traditions, host events, play music, dance, or simply visit. “Our mission is artistic, cultural, educational, and it has to do with this neighborhood. It has to do with the Latino population in Central New York and anything that relates to Latin American and Caribbean-American heritage,” said Lara-Bonilla at the opening of the center.

10-years later, La Casita is still dedicated to the addressing the needs of the local Hispanic communities. To this day the center continues to engage with the organizations, community leaders, and families, who have collaborated and participated in La Casita’s programs. To each of them we dedicate this exhibit since they are the true heart of the barrio.

 

Support for this program comes from the Office of Cultural Engagement for the Hispanic Community at the College of Arts & Sciences, the Humanities Center, the Latino-Latin American Studies Program, and the Program on Latin America and the Caribbean at Syracuse University.

Heart of the Barrio Opening at La Casita, Celebrating 10 Years

Milagro Heart rendering with SU colors by artist Bennie Guzman
Milagro Heart rendering with SU colors by artist Bennie Guzman

La Casita commemorates its 10th Anniversary and the start of Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month 2021 with a new exhibit: Corazón del Barrio (Heart of the Barrio)

OPENING RECEPTION
September 18 / 6pm to 8pm
This will be a live event in-person at La Casita and also online via Zoom.

La Casita will honor the community of artists, educators, SU alumni, students and families who contributed to the achievement of this 10-year milestone. Opening festivities will include a tour of the exhibit, live performance by Colombian violinist, Sara Silva (G ’06), in a duet with Cuban classical guitarist and soprano Liamna Pestana (’21); a spoken word performance by Noel Quiñones, live salsa by Henry Rosado and his Grupo Boricua with dance performance by Dominique’s Dance Creations.

Admission is FREE.
CLICK HERE to REGISTER for online viewing.

Guests in attendance will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test.
Use of masks will also be required.

 

SARA SILVA & LIAMNA PESTANA

Sara Silva and Liamna Pestana performed together in Symphoria's "Healing Harmonies" program at Upstate Cancer Center (2020).
Sara Silva and Liamna Pestana performed together in Symphoria’s “Healing Harmonies” program at Upstate Cancer Center (2020).

A violinist with Symphoria, Sara Silva also plays with the Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes, the Tri-Cities Opera, the Binghamton Philharmonic Orchestra, and formerly with the National Symphony Orchestra of Colombia in her native Bogotá. She has a Master’s degree from the Syracuse University Setnor School of Music (2006).

Liamna Pestana, from Ciego de Ávila, Cuba, plays classical guitar, medieval citole, lute, oud, archlute, Cuban tres, and Anglo-Saxon lyre. She is also a soprano and has performed with various vocal and instrumental groups in Cuba, Mexico, Argentina and the US. Liamna now lives in Syracuse and is a Syracuse University student in the Setnor School of Music.

Both Sara and Liamna have contributed immensely to the development of music education youth programs at La Casita. Sara Silva and Liamna Pestana performed together in Symphoria’s “Healing Harmonies” program at Upstate Cancer Center (2020).

NOEL QUIÑONES

Noel Quiñones visited La Casita in 2018 and donated signed copies of two poems, currently on display.
Noel Quiñones visited La Casita in 2018 and donated signed copies of two poems,
currently on display.

A Puerto Rican writer, educator, performer, and community organizer from the Bronx, Noel Quiñones has received fellowships from Poets House, the Poetry Foundation, CantoMundo, Candor Arts, and SAFTA (Sundress Academy for the Arts). As a performer, he has been featured at Lincoln Center, Harvard University, BAM, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, and the Honolulu Museum of Art. His work has been published in POETRY, Green Mountains Review, the Latin American Review, Rattle, Kweli Journal, and elsewhere. In 2016, he founded Project X, a Bronx-based arts organization. He is currently an M.F.A. candidate in poetry at the University of Mississippi. His work was published in the Point of Contact poetry series Corresponding Voices (2018).

 

 

GRUPO BORICUA

Henry Rosado (third from the right) and Grupo Boricua performing at La Casita in 2017.
Henry Rosado (third from the right)
and Grupo Boricua performing at La Casita in 2017.

Henry Rosado is a US Marine Corps veteran from Salinas, Puerto Rico, superintendent at the City of Syracuse Water Dept. and a Syracuse resident of many years. He is a talented musician and founder of the Latin music band Grupo Boricua, which performs regularly throughout the City of Syracuse, the Central and Upstate NY regions and at La Casita on numerous occasions over the past 10 years.

 DOMINIQUE’S DANCE CREATIONS

Dominique's Dance Creations performed at La Casita in 2019
Dominique’s Dance Creations
performed at La Casita in 2019

Dominique’s Dance Creations is a Pre-Professional/Professional Dance Company and competitive team that focuses on the preparation of dancers for the professional world of dance and the arts. Dancers learn choreography for competitions and performances. DDC’s mission is to create a safe space through dance, diversity, creativity and the arts. The goal is growth, and the motto is: dare to be different, dare to create.

 

 

 

For more details about La Casita’s opening event CLICK HERE

C.A.R.T. captioning available in English and Spanish upon request. For all accessibility request please contact La Casita by Sept. 10. Please email: lacasita@syr.edu

This program is part of Syracuse Symposium 2021. More details at:  Syracuse Symposium 2021: CONVENTIONS

 

 

La Casita’s Cultural Memory Archive to Go Live

La Casita Librarian & Archivist, Dragana Drobnjak
La Casita Librarian & Archivist, Dragana Drobnjak

La Casita’s digital collection of well over 1000 community-sourced stories, photos and videos, has been awarded an Access and Digitization Grant that will enable the archive to be accessible and searchable online in 2021. The project in partnership with Syracuse University Libraries and the Central New York Library Resources Council (CLRC), aims to make the content of La Casita’s digital archive accessible through the New York Heritage Digital Collection and SU Libraries. Phase 1 of the project to be completed this year, will include 200 videos.

“This project coincides with the commemoration of La Casita’s 10th anniversary next fall and we are super excited to make this archive available to scholars, artists and researchers on a much wider scale,” said Tere Paniagua, executive director of the Office of Cultural Engagement for the Hispanic Community at Syracuse University.

The New York Heritage Digital Collection is a research portal for students, educators, historians, genealogists, and anyone interested in learning more about the peoples, places, and institutions of New York State. “We look forward to adding new content to the archive at least once a year,” expressed La Casita’s librarian and archivist, Dragana Drobnjak. “Our aim is to make our entire collection accessible and make sure that the Latinx communities and cultures of Central NY are well represented in these important collections for the first time.”

Abuelitas/Little Grandmas Now Available in Print

Copies of "Abuelitas" (Little Grandmas) Children book now in printLa Casita presents its 4th bilingual edition now also in print. This bilingual edition was written and illustrated by the children the Dual Language Reading Circles after-school program at La Casita Cultural Center in Syracuse, NY. It was released on September 18, 2020 as part of the Abuelas exhibition program commemorating the start of Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month and features our authors memories of special times with their Abuelas (Grandmothers).

CONGRATULATIONS to our young authors!
Ailanees León (7th grade, Liverpool School District), Aliana Russell Anamaría (9th grade, Charter Schools of Syracuse NY), Karla Anamaría (5th grade, Liverpool School District), Kiana Anamaría (7th grade, Liverpool School District), Lalazia Daniels (6th grade, Syracuse City School District), Talivo Salley (3rd grade, Syracuse City School District), and Naibella Morris-Rodríguez (Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Syracuse NY)

A huge THANK YOU to our partners who collaborated in this publication project:

SU professor Emma Ticio and her students of Spanish 439/639: Language in Action, who assisted in the writing workshops with the children as well as the editing of the Spanish translation and graphic composition.

Our Coeditors: Christian Andino Borrero, Margot Clark and Dragana Drobnjak.

Our student volunteers in the writing workshops: Paul Alfonso Soto, Andrea Moreno Nogueda, Madison Snyder, César Iván Suárez, Pariz Malik, Grace Del Pino, and Julia Del Pino

To order a copy of the book for $10 please email La Casita : lacasita@syr.edu. All proceeds go to support our Dual Language Literacy Program.

Support comes from the Humanities Center at Syracuse University and the 2020 Syracuse Symposium on Futures.