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Celebrating Latino Culture in Massachusetts
Vanessa Calderón-Rosado, Ph.D. is CEO of IBA – Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción, a non-profit organization and a dynamic community development corporation in Boston’s South End that serves as New England’s premier Latino arts hub. We spoke to Vanessa about her work promoting Latino culture and heritage.
Tell us about your professional background and about your work at IBA-Boston.
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and came to Boston 1992 to join the doctoral program in public policy at UMASS Boston. After completing my Ph.D., I conducted policy research on health disparities, among others. I took a risk in making a detour from my academic track path to going back to community work at IBA, but I have not looked back! For the past 16 years, I have dedicated myself to increase equity for low-income families, particularly Latino families.
I am passionate about improving access and opportunities in housing, education and the arts for children, youth, elders and families. This passion has taken me to sit on Boards such as the MA Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and more recently a number of foundation Boards. Through my work at IBA and these other institutions, I strive for a more equitable Commonwealth.
IBA-Boston offers year round cultural programming, including the amazing Betances Festival, a summer highlight for visitors and residents alike. What does IBA have coming up this fall?
Latino arts and culture are core to IBA’s mission and work! We develop affordable housing and create vibrant communities by serving as a multi-disciplinary arts presenter and producer of Latino arts. Since our founding in 1968, we have leveraged the power of arts and culture to celebrate our heritage, serve our community, revitalize our neighborhood, drive social change and translate cross-cultural differences. Festival Betances, along with our music and performance series, and our art gallery, provide a space for enjoyment, artistic expression, dialogue and community building.
We are excited about what we have in store for the 2019 fall season. On September 20, we begin with the opening of “The Frailty of Strength and Vice-versa,” an art exhibit by Puerto Rican artist Richard Santiago (TIAGO). TIAGO uses monotypes to tell the stories of Puerto Ricans who died after Hurricane Maria. This exhibit opens on the second anniversary of the storm hitting the island.
We continue on November 8 with the debut of Patricia Zárate Pérez’s highly anticipated jazz album, “Violetas,” in collaboration with the Museum of Fine Arts. We close on November 9 with the art installation of Cuban-American artist Allison María Rodríguez, “Legends Breathe,” where she explores the power of creativity in overcoming trauma highlighting the strength of the human mind.
How does IBA collaborate with others to present Latino culture and heritage throughout the year?
The key to sustain our work is to partner with government agencies, arts organizations, advocacy groups, schools, and other community based organizations. As a result, we have robust collaborations with many partners that support our work, help us bring it to diverse audiences and help us bridge cross-cultural divides. Among these, IBA is a proud partner of Massachusetts Cultural Council and MassCreative. We also partner with the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, as well as Boston Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture.
Over the past 13 years, in close collaboration with Berklee College of Music and Boston’s Department of Parks and Recreation, we have presented the Tito Puente Latin Music Series – which brings live Latin rhythms to parks across the city. This music series is a favorite every summer attracting over 600 people to each of the six weekly concerts! Finally, we are collaborating with the Museum of Fine Arts to bring more Latino visual and performing arts to this important arts institution.
The Latino community is a vibrant part of Massachusetts. Can you give us a quick snapshot of the state’s Latino community?
According to a Boston Foundation report, Latinos have grown in numbers in Boston, accounting for 92% of the City’s population growth from 1980 to 2015. This growth is expected to continue in Boston and across the Commonwealth, as shown in a recent UMASS-Boston study. Currently, one in five Bostonians is Latino with Dominicans and Puerto Ricans comprising 40%, followed by Salvadorans (8%), Colombians (5%) and Mexicans (4%). In Massachusetts, 12% of the population is Latino, and they are concentrated in Lawrence (77% of the city population), Chelsea (66%), Holyoke (50%), Springfield (42%) and Lynn (36%).
What are some highlights of this year’s Hispanic National Heritage Month (September 15- October 15) in Massachusetts that would appeal to out-of-state visitors as well as local residents?
In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, I hope visitors will join artist TIAGO for his exhibit at IBA’s La Galería on September 20. Also, we invite visitors to stop by Plaza Betances in Villa Victoria and admire the Betances Mural, which is #7 on the WBUR’s ARTery list of the 50 Best Works of Public Art in Greater Boston.
There are many other events happening to celebrate our rich heritage and culture, including Amplify Latinx Heritage Night event on September 18 at the MFA. Finally, visitors can celebrate our culture by enjoying our mouthwatering cuisine in the many great Latino restaurants in Boston and across the Commonwealth.
Thank you Vanessa!