Celebrating Latino culture

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Grupo Cultural Latinos en Rochester’s celebration showcases artists from the Rochester community and around the world. Called Latin Celebration, A LatinX project, it also marks GCLER’s ten year anniversary.

Established in 2013, GCLER aims to promote Latin American folklore in Western New York through educational events, community workshops and meaningful live performances.

Latin Celebration, a LatinX Project is a first of its kind event for the nonprofit, and will take place at Nazareth University’s Callahan Theater on Sept. 2 at 7:00pm. 

The event will showcase emerging local talent, including Rochester-based DJ and host of Noche Latina DJ Pabony and the band Sonidos Unidos. Local artist Thalia Pabon, will launch the music video for her song “Yo soy Latina.” Latin Celebration will also feature performances and artwork from community members, including dance numbers and baton twirling by participants with disabilities. Community members have been rehearsing for over six months in preparation for Saturday’s showcase. 

Joel Claudio, a Puerto Rican baton twirling champion, who appeared on Season 16 of “America’s Got Talent,” will perform for the audience. In addition, GCLER will bring Mexico’s Ensemble Aztlan to Rochester. 

“This is our largest event in terms of collaboration,” says Evelyn D’Agostino, GCLER’s founder and treasurer. “We have never had so many sponsors. We are bringing six musicians with unique traditional instruments from Mexico. That itself is a huge expense—you have to cover food, hotels and flight tickets. We are able to do this due to the support we’ve found.”

Over a year in the making, the event is supported through a grant from Creatives Rebuild New York’s Artist Employment Program. The program funds employment for artists, culture bearers and culture makers in collaboration with community-based organizations across New York State. Artists in the program receive a salary and benefits, while participating organizations like GCLER receive funds to support artists’ employment.  For GCLER’s event, each of the five artists were granted an annual pay of $60,000. The grant covered two years of employment.

In planning the celebration, D’Agostino says accessibility was a priority. In addition to an accessible venue, GCLER wanted to make attending and participating in the event an opportunity for all.  

“For us to make this an accessible event, we have given tickets to community members for free or at a very low cost,” D’Agostino says. “We’ve distributed tickets to students, people who are interested in Latin American arts, and to those who live in areas that do not have access to theatrical productions. We have arranged transportation to mobilize participants and attendees from more rural areas so they can make it to the event.”

Authenticity was also important. The event will feature authentic costumes and props made by a team of local artists or sourced from Latin American countries. Some artistic components can take 40 hours to 50 hours to make by hand. 

“We are showcasing traditional art, so we have to be authentic with what we are presenting. This is the dignity of our culture, of our people and our ancestors,” says D’Agostino. 

Alongside the 200 community members and artists who have been working to make the event possible, GCLER is expecting a turnout of 500 people on Saturday. 

“The reaction among the community has been a lot of support. The enthusiasm is there,” says D’Agostino. “Showcasing events like this allows the next generation to understand that they are a part of this culture, and makes them more empowered and proud of who they are.”

Even though Latin Celebration, a LatinX Project is a one-time event for GCLER, the organization plans to host similar events highlighting artists in the future. To further celebrate its ten year anniversary, the organization  is looking forward to upcoming events with the Memorial Art Gallery and the Central Library of Rochester in September and October. 

Tickets for the event can be found here.

Evan Coleman is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer and a recent University of Rochester graduate. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

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