New York City has long been a hub for Latino families, and today 2.3 million (29 percent) of the 8.4 million people living in New York are Latino. Despite these numbers, very few city organizations are dedicated to preserving and elevating Latino culture. Loisaida, Inc. has been doing as much for over 30 years from their home in the Lower East Side, an area whose gentrification rate has been so aggressive that the National Trust for Historic Places classified the neighborhood as one of America’s most endangered places.
One of the most public and biggest displays of that work is the Loisaida Festival, an event that attracts over 15,000 yearly and celebrates Latino culture across the neighborhood, the city and, most recently, the nation. This year the festival returns with a lineup that pays homage to the organization’s original Puerto Rican roots.
The main stage lineup reflects those roots, bringing together a mix of legendary and rising Puerto Rican stars. These include hip-hop singer DayLuv, songstress Maxine Ashley, Lower East Salsa, and Johnny Colón. Macha Colón y Los Okapi will be joining the stage courtesy of La Marqueta Retoña. The carnival procession and Theater Lab return, providing entertainment for children and their families. Puerto Rican icon and international entertainment phenomenon Iris Chacón will host the festivities alongside Marine-combat-vet-turned-actor, singer-activist J.W. Cortes (from Fox’s Gotham).
“Every year we challenge ourselves with pushing the accomplishments of previous years,” Libertad Guerra, chief curator at Loisaida, Inc., shared recently.
And bringing together icons like Iris Chacón and Johnny Colón with a new cadre of edgy, innovative artists will make for a fantastic celebration. Our poster is being created by visual artist Adrian ‘Viajero’ Roman who is doing a commissioned installation at Facebook’s offices as we speak, and Loisaida Inc. is his neighborhood partner in this project. He is also sharing his knowledge in our El Loop Fair, a Latino grassroots innovation fair we are hosting the day before the festival.
“Then you have people like Edgardo Miranda Rodríguez who is elevating Latinos through his work with Marvel and bringing the Guardians of Loisaida Exhibit for the weekend. This year’s festival is really like old-school Puerto Rico meets Puerto Rico 2.0,” she added.
The celebration of Loisaida, Inc.’s roots is a throwback to the organization’s mission and strong social commitment. It’s also a fulfillment of a commitment that started four years ago when Loisaida, Inc. became an affiliate of Acacia Network, an integrated care organization founded by Raul Russi. Raul Russi’s unique leadership style, and a new core team at Loisaida, Inc., injected a new energy into the organization. The move resulted in a revamped festival, a new community space, a host of intergenerational programs, such as their upcoming Senior Days, and efforts to expand into STEAM programming, helping Latinos thrive in tech, engineering, design and creative fields.
The Loisaida Festival’s expanded offerings this year preview a new stage in Loisaida, Inc.’s plans to combine STEAM programming with social services that meet the needs of the local community. Some of the new offerings include the grassroots innovation fair; discussions on how art and digital technologies intersect; an expanded “Healthy Living Zone,” with free dental screenings for children; and a new “Sustainable Innovation Zone,” which will include a bio bus.
“Loisaida, Inc. has always been committed to both preserving and serving our community. This year’s expansion into STEAM and our strengthened Healthy Living Zone speak to that commitment. The Festival entertains, of course, but there’s also a very intentional commitment to elevating Latinos through our offerings,” said Russi, founder and CEO of the Acacia Network.
About the Loisaida Festival: Produced and hosted by Loisaida Inc., the Loisaida Festival has been the biggest carnival in downtown Manhattan since 1987, bringing more than 15,000 neighbors, artists, community organizations, companies, NYC leaders and restaurants together to celebrate their Latino contributions to the city. A signature Puerto Rican and Latin American cultural event, the festival celebrates Loisaida’s pride and diversity while supporting commerce, entrepreneurship, community service and neighborhood revitalization along Loisaida Avenue.
About Acacia Network: Acacia Network is the parent company of Loisaida Inc. and is an integrated care organization with offices in New York City, Buffalo, Albany, Orlando and Puerto Rico. It is the second largest Latino nonprofit organization in the country and the largest in the state of New York. The mission is realized through three main service delivery systems: primary health care, behavioral health care, and housing. The network incorporates several affiliates managed under one executive and senior leadership team. With 63 years of combined experience, Acacia Network has demonstrated ability to scale high-quality, comprehensive services for thousands of the most vulnerable residents.