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25th Anniversary of the Julia de Burgos Cultural Arts Center

On Saturday, November 1st, we went to the 25th Anniversary of the Julia De Burgos Cultural Arts Center which took place at the Main Cleveland Public Library on Superior East in downtown Cleveland. Dr. Daisy Diaz, President, wrote in the program that "this is a landmark event, as we will be celebrating the 25 years of community service in the Greater Cleveland area and recognizing the efforts, hard-work, and dedication of the founders who had the vision and the drive to make the Center a reality; and of volunteers that give selflessly to contribute to the Center's mission of educating, preserving and sharing the Puerto Rican and Latino traditions through the teaching and practice of the visual, performing and literary arts."

Mr. Ramon Torres, Founding Board Trustee, talked about the history of the Center which is a non-profit, family oriented entity dedicated to serving Latino youth through programs and activities dedicated to fostering cultural pride, self-esteem, and art appreciation. He said that he considered it to be a "vibrant organ in the Cleveland community" and talked about its programs namely children's theatre and guitar and percussion classes. Mr. Torres said that its greatest resource was the volunteers who have kept it going for so long. He praised th Center for being a "vehicle of support for Latino artists" a place "where youth can practice their creativity" and, most importantly, a "cross cultural exchange vehicle."

Next we had dinner and were then entertained by a musical group called "Grupo Restauracion Cultural" led by Dr. Pablo Luis Rivera from Puerto Rico and Bomba con Buya from Chicago.

We made a few new friends including Ms. Joy Collas who worked at Tri-C from 1974-1996 in Special Services helping prevent high risk students from dropping out. Ms. Collas also taught English as a second language at Tri-C as well as in such places as Mexico, Peru, Brazil, and Spain. She was very sad about the death of her good friend Mr. Al Lopez who, among other accomplishments, helped found Esperanza in 1983. He was the subject of a column by Robert Smith that appeared in the "Plain Dealer" on that very day of November 1st.

Ms. Edna Fuentes-Casiano, Vice President of the Board of Trustees, is Ms. Collas' good friend and we visited with her for a moment. We shared a table with such people as Ms. Zayra Ramos who is a medical technician who is also a fine photographer, Ms. Joanne Bailis from the Hispanic Alliance who was there with her husband, Michael, and a person who immigrated to the United States from Venezuela to care for a sick friend and would like to stay here.

When we were in the food line, we spoke to our friend Ms. Rachel Napolitano from the Interreligious Task Force on Central America who told us that the annual Day of the Dead celebration was also going on at the Parish Hall of the Cleveland Public Theatre so we decided to leave early and go over there.

Before we left, we asked Mr. Santiago Diaz, who volunteers at the Julia De Burgos Center what makes it so special and he replied that it is a "beautiful resource for the community because it services all walks of life" and that the diversity of the people who go there is very important because we "come to learn from each other." Mr. Diaz's wife Tamara said that it was "a home away from home."

So we drove over to the Parish Hall of the Cleveland Public Theatre on Detroit Avenue for the 10th annual Dia De Muertos/Day of the Dead celebration presented by Artistas Latinos Unidos.

The statement inside of the written program read in part that this was "one of the most respected holidays in many Latin American countries. The event is held in special regard in Mexico where the dead are remembered and honored. It is a time for happiness and celebration...the featured artists from the Northeast Ohio Community have come together to shar their artistic visions of an "ofrenda" (altar). Each ofrenda reflects the artist's personal beliefs and interpretation of a traditional offering in honor of his or her departed loved ones."

The best way that we can describe what we saw was that it was very surreal, spooky, and very enthralling in terms of costumes, make-up, and artwork. We We took a lot of photos and we urge the reader to look at them.

Among the "altars" that we really liked were Ms. Nancy Cintron's tribute to the late actor/art connoisseur/her inspiration Vincent Price; the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network under the supervision of Mr. Solomon Rodezno; and the Immigrant Worker Project. And, especially, we loved the what could only be termed the "graveyard" in back of the Parish Hall.

We talked for a moment with Mr. Hector Castellanos who coordinated the program and he told us that, in spite of the cold weather, the entire day had gone very well and the parade that took place around 3:30 pm was spectacular.

We copied down the poster next to the table devoted to selling items to aid the immigrant workers which urged people to be supportive of the families being held at the Southern border of the United States since they are fleeing oftern terrible conditions in their homeland due to gangs and drugs. We also took a photo of the "Prayer for Unaccompanied Migrant Children".

Let us say that Saturday morning we were a bit regretful that we didn't do anything special for Halloween, the day before, except watch a little of the movie "Sleepy Hollow" with Johnny Depp. Saturday night at Dia De Muertos/Day of the Dead more than made up for it, though, because it was a combination of Halloween, social consciousness, and heart.

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