Fiesta de Loíza in El Barrio Celebrates 50th

50th Annual Festival Santiago Apóstol De Loiza En El BarrioThe new street sign honoring Festival Santiago Apóstol De Loíza En El Barrio co-founder Doña Aida Perez.

(July 28, 2017)
All weekend, The 50th Annual Festival Santiago Apóstol De Loíza En El Barrio celebrated the African heritage of Puerto Ricans here, on the island, and across the Diaspora.

Marking this El Barrio tradition’s longevity in a city where gentrification continues to destroy such notions was a street-naming ceremony honoring the festival’s co-founder Doña Aida Perez. An unveiling of the new sign took place on ‘Day One’ (Friday) which is designated as ‘Children’s Day’. The corner at 105th Street & Lexington Avenue is now known as ‘Miss Aida Perez – Loiza Aldea Lane’. Her daughter, Iris Robles, President of Los Hermanos Fraterno de Loíza, shed joyful tears, as she gave thanks to those in her community and its leaders for honoring her mother in such a way. Doña Aida Perez passed in October of 2012.

One of Doña Perez’ last wishes was that her family would not allow the local observance of the festival to fall. That last wish, more or less, has became a fragile cry of hope. A hope that has turned increasingly elusive throughout a NYC area where whitewashing continues to take its toll on cultural traditions. For Puerto Ricans and their descendants in NYC, those traditions are quickly fading.

For the past six years, the Caribbean Cultural Center & African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI) has partnered with Los Hermanos Fraterno de Loíza in a consorted effort to preserve this tradition that celebrates and educates about the African influence in Puerto Rico’s cultural heritage. According to Melody Capote, Director of External Affairs CCCADI, the center is committed to the cause of preserving the local tradition. However, she makes it clear that the community has to want it, and that they too have to work to preserve it. An El Barrio tradition like the Festival Santiago Apóstol De Loíza En El Barrio that has stood for 50 years is rare, and is one worthy of protecting.

Saturday performances included mixed African rhythms and chant by Mateo y Cumbalaya. Traditional plena music and more was peaked with Nelson Ramirez y Herencia de Mi Tambo. Afro-Cuban musics brought a swing to the day with the sounds of Ellas Son, Son de Monte, and Johnny “Dandy” Rodriguez and the Mambo Dream Team. There was also an unscheduled performance by a singer from Panama (name tba), as organizers continue to open windows to the African Diaspora for the community.

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