La Casita presents new exhibit: To The Streets

La Casita Cultural Center
109 Otisco St., Syracuse, NY 13204
September 2019
CONTACT: Luma Trilla – Tel. 315-443-2151

La Casita Cultural Center kicks off Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month 2019 with an exhibition program that explores urban culture, life in the barrios, graffiti, hip-hop, reggaeton, and the inner city Latinx communities.

SYRACUSE, NY: La Casita Cultural Center celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with a grand opening full of music, dance and a new exhibit on September 13, 2019, starting at < 6:00pm. Admission to the event is free and open to the public. A traditional Caribbean menu and refreshments will be served. Opening will include special performances by Raíces dance troupe, and by Dominque’s Dance Creations. La Casita Cultural Center is located at 109 Otisco St, Syracuse NY, 13204.

A new exhibition titled “Pa’ La Calle” (To the Streets), presents the work of Syracuse-based, up and coming artist Bennie Guzmán. The opening reception will be the kick- off event for the 2019 Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month commemorative program at La Casita. As with previous annual exhibitions at La Casita, Pa’ la calle sets the central theme for a series of events and programs that will examine urban cultures, life in the barrio, street art, graffiti, hip-hop and reggaeton throughout the 2019-20 academic year. “I believe that art is the best way to start a conversation,” says Guzmán. “And I believe that for the youth in this community, where Hip-Hop, reggaeton and graffiti art are so prevalent, this is the language we need to use in order to have that conversation.”

“Pa’ la calle / To The Streets” features a collection of paintings, a series of portraits that recognize prominent Latinos and Latinas of Syracuse who are committed to the continued development and well-being of this community and who are enthusiastic partners in support of La Casita’s programs. Portraits include Gregorio Jimenez, executive director of the Near Westside Initiative; Bea Gonzalez, vice president of Community Engagement at Syracuse University; José Miguel Hernández Hurtado, artistic director of La Joven Guardia del Teatro Latino; Hugo Acosta and Marisol Hernández, publisher and editor in chief of CNY Latino, among other members of this community.

Guzmán also worked with a group of teens from the Westside and other local communities to create a mural inspired by the dreams and aspirations of these young talents in our Latinx community. The Spanish Action League’s One Team-One Dream youth program partnered in this project that was completed over the month of July this summer.
“This project is about engaging with our community in new ways,” said Guzman. “It’s about taking all the positive things that come from this community and putting them on display for everyone to see.”

Bennie Guzman’s work as an artist is dedicated to sharing the narratives and lived experiences of marginalized communities. He was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas and received a B.A. from Colgate University in Art & Art History, specializing in Studio Art and English. He is currently a member of the staff at La Casita in charge of media outreach and communications.

Lyrics of Reggaeton

The exhibition opening will be followed by a panel discussion titled “Letra del Reggaeton / Lyrics of Reggaeton” on October 16 starting at 6:00pm at La Casita. Admission will be free and open to the public. A group of SU scholars, faculty, students and local DJs will have an open dialogue about the controversial nature of hip-hop and reggaeton lyrics, the global impact on these genres in the music industry, and its undisputed success in conquering young markets in almost every culture worldwide. Panelists will include Syracuse University professors Todd Herreman, specialist in Music Industry; David Knapp, expert on Arab Hip-Hop; Biko Gray, author of Breaking Bread, Breaking Beats: Churches and Hip-Hop—A Basic Guide to Key Issues. They will be joined by Hasan Stephens, Director of Good Life Youth Foundation and professional DJ; Liamna Pestana Roche, student at Setnor School of Music who will talk about the ban on Reggaeton in her native Cuba, and Roberto Pérez, professional Latin music DJ and co-founder of La Familia de la Salsa.

How a local historical landmark is Supporting Latin Culture in Syracuse

by Maximilian Eyle

If you drive down James St. in Syracuse, you will come across a gorgeous piece of local history – the Barnes Hiscock Mansion. The house was built in 1853 by George and Rebecca Barnes and served as a part of the Underground Railroad. Both George and Rebecca were passionate abolitionists and used their wealth and resources to help fight against slavery and help escaped slaves. The Mansion, which has been beautifully preserved, is now serving as a venue for Syracuse’s Argentine Tango community. Each month, a public milonga (social dance) will be hosted there.

The Mansion is currently maintained and owned by the George & Rebecca Barnes Foundation which was started in 2005 to preserve the house and its history. Despite being over 150 years old, it is in beautiful condition and stands as a reminder to Syracuse’s proud history as a center of the abolitionist movement. George and Rebecca Barnes fought hard against the Fugitive Slave Act, and even posted bail for those arrested during the famous Jerry Rescue of 1851. While preserving the history of the Mansion remains the primary purpose of the George & Rebecca Barnes Foundation, they have decided to allow part of the space to be used to support the local Argentine tango community.

Argentine tango also has a long history in Syracuse. It brings together an eclectic mix of dancers of varying ages, abilities, and backgrounds and even attracts dancers from Ithaca, Rochester, Buffalo, and other cities in New York State. They host a weekly práctica on Wednesday nights at the Sky Barn on the Syracuse University Campus, as well as their milonga which happens on the second Saturday of each month at the Barnes Hiscock Mansion.

It is exciting to see Syracuse’s local institutions supporting one another and joining together to encourage the appreciation of art and history in our community. The inclusion of tango into the legacy of the Mansion only adds to its diverse history, while also serving to educate dancers about that part of Syracuse history. For more information, please visit or

Maximilian Eyle is a native of Syracuse, NY and a graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He works as a media consultant and writes each month about a variety of issues for Spanish-language papers across New York State. Maximilian has a love of Hispanic culture and learned Spanish while living in Spain where he studied and worked as an English teacher. He can be contacted at

Latino Village at the NYS Fair

by Miguel Balbuena

The event that many New Yorkers and out-of-state visitors alike have been impatiently waiting for about a year is finally just around the corner. The Latino Village at the Great New York State Fair is scheduled to take place this year between Aug. 30 and Sept. 2. Due to increased popular demand, it has been expanded one extra day from its initial three-day run during last year’s inaugural Latino Village, which, in turn, was the same amount of time that it stretched for under its original name, the seminal La Feria in the Fair, in 2017.

This longer footprint is a milestone toward achieving an objective stated by the Latino Village Superintendent Elisa Morales, who is also executive director of the Spanish Action League of Onondaga County.

In her welcoming message to last year’s event guests, Morales said: “I believe that Latinos add the spice to America’s melting pot. We are thrilled to share the beauty of Latino, Hispanic, Latinx culture, music and food with everyone. The New York State Fair has provided the perfect platform for Latino Village to create a unique cultural experience for all Fair goers. Everyone is welcome to join us for the fiesta. Our goal is to develop the area and expand our presence to all 13 days of the Fair.”

Fair Director Troy Waffner added, in a press release, that the Latino festival “helps us to show the diversity of our great state to all fairgoers. Hispanic and Latino people make up nearly one in every five New Yorkers and contribute wonderful things to our culture. We’re excited to see this celebration grow and prosper.”

Waffner and Morales arranged for some changes to be made in the format of this year’s Latino event, compared to the previous two, in which it was held on the opening weekend of the fair. Now it’s slated for the closing weekend plus Labor Day. In addition, the administration has moved the event’s venue from the western end of the fairgrounds, at the Empire Experience Stage, to a zone next to the Talent Showcase Stage, located in front of the 4-H Youth Building and close to the recently constructed Exposition Center. This 136,000-square foot building is advertised as “the largest expo facility north of New York City between Boston and Cleveland.”

Ursula Rozum, a neighbor from the predominantly-Puerto-Rican Near West Side in Syracuse, said that the placement of the Latino extravaganza during the past two years felt “marginalized” to her since it was situated in a distant corner of the fair.

The new site is likely to increase the fairgoers’ exposure to Latino culture as more foot traffic from passersby run into the Talent Showcase Stage.

There’s still time to find innovative ideas to promote civic engagement and public participation in regards to the New York State Fair. My proposal would be to organize a Naruto run with its starting line in Clinton Square in downtown Syracuse and its finishing line at the fair. The Clinton Square area already serves as the departing point for the annual Mountain Goat Run, which occurs on the first Sunday of May, and for the yearly Paige’s Butterfly Run, which happens on the second Saturday of June.

A Naruto run is a very peculiar way of racing, named after Naruto Uzumaki, a young Japanese ninja possessed by the spirit of the Nine-Tailed Fox. This anime and manga character has received special attention from both the print and digital media precisely because of his aforementioned peculiarity. USA Today described it as “running with his arms stretched out backward and his head forward”; Unilad described it as “running with his arms angled behind his body.”

A Naruto run to the fair would be a first in central New York and perhaps in the whole world, and an excellent way to enhance the visibility of the Great New York State Fair.

About the author: Miguel Balbuena is a writer in the academic, scientific, journalistic and literary fields
(in the fiction and non-fiction genres).

Woodstock Nation

by Miguel Balbuena

Nowadays the media are constantly reminding us about the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, which took place half a century ago between Aug. 15 and 18. The Woodstock festival had a cosmological underpinning in that it was one of the landmark expressions of the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, one of whose preceding manifestations was the rock musical “Hair.”

“Hair” debuted in New York City in October 1967. It featured prominently the song “Aquarius,” which was subsequently sold in three ways: as a recording by the Broadway cast, known as the Tribe; as a single, performed by the African American pop band the 5th Dimension and released in March 1969, and; as a track in the album “The Age of Aquarius,” by the same group, released two months later.

The historical relevance of the tune “Aquarius” cannot be overstated. In the 12th Annual Grammy Awards in 1970, it went to win accolades for Record of the Year and Best Contemporary Vocal Performance by a Group, trouncing in the second category the album “Abbey Road” by the top rock band ever, the Beatles, even though their album contained 17 songs.

The lyrics sheet of “Aquarius,” which became the anthem of the New Age, read: “When the Moon is in the Seventh House / and Jupiter aligns with Mars, / then peace will guide the planets / and love will

steer the stars. / This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, / Age of Aquarius, / Aquarius, / Aquarius. / Harmony and understanding, / sympathy and trust abounding. / No more falsehoods or derisions. / Golden living dreams of visions, / mystic crystal revelation / and the mind’s true liberation.”

These words, penned by James Rado and Gerome Ragni, didn’t strike like a bolt of lightning coming out of a clear blue sky, suggested Sally Eaton, an actress in the play. Apparently, the creation of the lyrics was more in line with what inventor Thomas Edison said in 1903, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration,” as she alleged that Rado conducted astral research to come up with them.

Besides the sheet, another significant document of this age came in the form of the poster advertising Woodstock. It promoted the festival as “an Aquarian exposition” with “3 days of peace & music.” We can see peace as a thread between both documents. To leave no doubts about this connection the crowd in attendance at Woodstock sung “Aquarius,” whose recording is on the double album Woodstock Two, released in 1971.

To the best of my knowledge, no birth certificate for the Age of Aquarius was issued by official authorities. Nonetheless, its arrival was predicted in the book “The Message of Aquarius,” published in 1960, and its growth and development were assessed four years later, in the book “Grand Gnostic Manifesto of the Third Year of Aquarius,” both written by Colombian avatar Samael Aun Weor.

“This Era of Aquarius started again on the fourth of February of 1962 between two and three in the afternoon. At that moment, all the astronomers of the world could see with their telescopes the heavenly transit rush under the constellation of the Water Carrier,” Aun Weor is quoted as having said in “The Aquarian Message,” a reissue of the first book. “The plain reality is that the Age of Aquarius started on the date already mentioned and that this phenomenon was seen in all of the countries of the world by all of the scientists, astronomers, astrologers, etc. This scientific cosmic event is a concrete, official,

and irrefutable fact. On that date, there was a solar and a lunar eclipse that some of you might remember.”

Moreover, spiritual messengers proposed that on that Feb. 4 there was a conjunction of the seven primary celestial bodies, namely the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, as they aligned with the planet Earth and, in addition, they were all within three degrees of one another. This was purportedly the signal of the emergence of a long celestial cycle known as the Age of Aquarius, represented by the constellation of the Water Carrier.

Aug. 15 through 18, the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, in the original Woodstock site, will celebrate the festival’s 50th anniversary.

About the author: Miguel Balbuena is a writer in the academic, scientific, journalistic and literary fields

(in the fiction and non-fiction genres).

New Music Director at SU

VPA Names Pianist, Scholar Milton Laufer New Setnor School of Music Director
by Erica Blust

The College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) has announced that Milton Rubén Laufer, a pianist and scholar and current director of Western Carolina University’s School of Music, has been named director of the Rose, Jules R. and Stanford S. Setnor School of Music, effective July 1.

Laufer will be responsible for the Setnor School of Music’s creative, academic and strategic leadership, and he will provide public advocacy for the school at the University, regional and national levels. He will also serve as an associate professor of music.
Laufer succeeds Martha Sutter, who will return to the faculty following a one-year research leave.

“I am delighted to welcome Dr. Laufer to Syracuse University, the college and the Setnor School,” says VPA Dean Michael S. Tick. “Our hard-working search committee, led by Ralph Zito, chair and professor of our Department of Drama, commended him for being a skilled and dedicated musician as well as an accomplished entrepreneurial leader in music education, arts consulting and arts advocacy. I look forward to collaborating with him on his vision for the Setnor School.”

“I am so honored to have been chosen to serve this remarkable institution,” says Laufer. “Music has been woven into the fabric of Syracuse University for 142 years. I endeavor to honor this great legacy while working alongside the extraordinary faculty, staff and talented students of the Setnor School of Music toward a bright and prosperous future.”
A Chicago native of Puerto Rican and Cuban parents, Laufer began playing the piano at three years of age, and his training includes studies at the Music Institute of Chicago, the Gnessin Institute, the Eastman School of Music, the University of Michigan (B.M.) and Rice University (M.M., D.M.A.).

Laufer has delighted audiences on four continents in prestigious venues from Lincoln Center to Tchaikowsky Hall. A versatile artist, he has shared the stage with artists ranging from Natalie Cole to Guerassim Voronkov. His appearances on Spanish-speaking television and radio have been aired throughout Europe, South America, Central America and the Caribbean.

Laufer is recognized internationally as a leading interpreter and scholar of Spanish piano music. His editions of Isaac Albéniz’s Three Improvisations for Piano and “La Vega” are published by G. Henle Verlag of Munich and available worldwide. Currently he is writing the book “The Pianist’s Guide to the Repertoire of Spain.”

In addition, he has two recording projects planned: an album featuring piano and vocal works by Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona and recording of Latin works for cello and piano with Canadian cellist Nigel Boehm. His recording credits include albums on the Naxos, Zenph Sound Innovations, Bis Records and Beauport Classics record labels.

As an educator, Laufer is guided by the principle that students must be adaptable to the changing vocational landscape that awaits them. They must not only be skilled, expressive technicians, but also entrepreneurs and convincing communicators who understand the value of their art as a commodity in the marketplace and its power as a force for change within their community.

Laufer is a charter trustee and lifetime member of the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame and an active voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (Grammys) and Latin Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (Latin Grammys)

Everson Museum exhibits the art of Juan Cruz

by Ricardo Loubriel

Juan Cruz is a Puerto Rican artist who at the early age of five was forced to leave the island and move to New York City, where his journey as an artist took form. Life situations and setbacks sparked the flame of creativity.

Cruz is 77 years old and a resident of Syracuse NY since 1975. He has been invited by the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse to present a retrospective exhibit that includes works from 1960 to the present. The show titled Juan Cruz: A Retrospective, opens on May 4 at 10am, at the Everson Museum, 401 Harrison St. Syracuse, NY 13202. The show will remain on view through August 4th, 2019.

In recent days, we had a chance to interview the artist, who has contributed so much in the fields of painting, sculpture, and the education of our youth in the arts. This is an excerpt of our conversation.

RL: What was the reason for your family to move out from Puerto Rico?
JC: Necessity and lack of resources.

RL: At what age did you first hold a brush?
JC: I was around 20 years old, but even as a five year old, ever since I can remember I spent my time drawing with pencils. This exhibition at the Everson will include one of my first paintings, a portrait of a young girl. That was in the 1960s.

RL: Did your parents in any way influence your career as an artist?
JC: I think about that and a lot. We were a poor family. I met my father when I was 12-years-old. My mom was a seamstress and she had that creative vision for drawing and designing dresses.

RL: Do you feel that the island of Puerto Rico influence your work?
JC: I do not know. My first influences were when I decided that art was more than painting pretty things, like flowers. I felt there had to be something more profound. I used to paint what I saw, very realistic. At that time I was struggling to make money. But when I started to analyze what I was doing, I opened my eyes realizing that art is not painting everything that you see. My work evolved in an attempt to reflect my experiences and my moods.

RL: Do you have a memory or anecdote that continually comes back to mind in relation to your art?
JC: I always liked to draw; I never had an interest in baseball or other sports. The truth is that all children are creators. The first thing they do is draw on walls, on the floor or the stove. We are all artists, but there comes a time when we take other interests or shift directions. For me, art comes from another planet. I am centered on personal experiences and social problems such as abuse, in all its manifestations.

RL: What does your art express, or what is the primary focus in relation with your work?
JC: My experiences, what I have lived through. Art for me is like music. Sometimes it grabs you and it speaks to your spirit. It pulls something out of us that provokes a certain connection. It is different for each person. The same happens with painting.

RL: How do you feel about this upcoming exhibition at the Everson Museum?
JC: Last New Year’s Eve, I was wondering what would happen to me this year. I was sick, alone, far from my family, broke and very cold. I read in a horoscope, “This year, something will open up for you.” I thought to myself, “There’s no other way around it!” One week later I got an invitation from the Everson to organize a show.

RL: Is there anything else you would like to say?
JC: Yes, art is therapy. I would like to send a message to our youth and tell them to think about what they are doing. Life in street gangs hit me hard when I was 17 years old, and landed me in prison without even speaking English. I did not know to read or write. I learned
to read, write and paint in prison. Not knowing English was a problem and one of the reasons why I would not advocate in my own defense. I learned that it is important to think before taking any action, rather than act without thinking. Any decision made thoughtlessly can change your life in a second. I spent 16 and a half years in prison, for a moment’s action that I made without thinking. That can take you to jail or to your grave. I want to advise our youth and tell them that it is never too late; that education is super important and it is what will pull you out of many miseries. It is important to be patient, think about what you do and work hard to move ahead. I was able to overcome that crisis in my life. I held on to my art. It saved me. Many do not have that life support. I want to tell our young people to not waste time, to get an education, seek understanding and do not let anyone pressure you to act without thinking. Art is therapy

Young Art Exhibit at La Casita

By Ricardo Loubriel

Boys and girls from our community present their new collection of paintings and drawings at the Young Art 2019 exhibition at La Casita Cultural Center. The opening reception will take place on Saturday, April 27 from 1:00pm to 3:00pm. This event is free and open to the community. The exhibit will remain on view through June 14.

All the works were produced during the workshops of El Punto Art Studio last February. Two artists from our own community who exhibited their own art in the Cuba exhibition this year, Sanlly and Dalgis Viera, facilitated the workshops that produced this colorful art installation.

In addition to the exhibit, the young talents in La Casita’s music programs will perform live on the piano, violin and guitar as part of the opening celebration. Syracuse University students from the Setnor School of Music were the music instructors this year: Aleksandre Roderick-Lorenz (violin), Mia Tsai (piano) and Sebastian Escribano (guitar).

The young authors of La Casita’s Dual Language Reading Circles, will also be featured at this event. The program will release a new storybook in English and Spanish with an original story by the participants. This is the fourth edition produced by the program, edited by Margot Clark and Tere Paniagua. Olivia Flores, a Political Sciences sophomore at S.U., coordinated and facilitated the reading workshops.

All programs in arts, music and language arts education involve the participation of children from the local Latino communities locally and near Syracuse. The programs are offered at no cost to participants. During the school year, workshops include drawing and painting, bomba and plena dance and drumming, piano, violin, guitar and activities that combine the arts and sciences, facilitated by Ashley Jimenez and her group of engineering students from S.U.

Tere Paniagua, Executive Director of Cultural Engagement for the Hispanic Community, an SU initiative, is in charge of managing La Casita.
“We are extremely proud of our youth’s accomplishments and deeply grateful for the commitment of our partners and sponsors on and off the Syracuse University campus,” said Paniagua. “The dedication and contribution of SU students volunteering in support of our programs and our children is invaluable and extremely positive.”

The Young Art exhibit is a project of La Casita Cultural Center in collaboration with the Point of Contact Gallery, the Spanish Action League, and the Partners in Learning Manos pre-school program. Support for these program comes from the College of Arts & Sciences at Syracuse University, Mercy Works, Molina Healthcare and Wegmans. This program is supported by funding from the New York State Council of the Arts (NYSCA).

Your Stories, Your Library

La Casita’s Bilingual Library is a vital resource for the education programs at the Center. Your Stories, Your Library is a new campaign to raise awareness and support from the community for the work of the library. The bilingual library offers an interactive, program-driven space where students, researchers and community members of all ages learn about U.S. Latino and Latin American literatures and cultures. To support this initiative, please contact La Casita: Tel. 315-443-2151 or email:

La Casita is located at 109 Otisco St. Syracuse, NY 13204.

Young Art Exhibit Photo Descriptions

Young Art Exhibit_01 -“Artist Sanlly Viera working with two children at the El Punto Art Studio”
Young Art Exhibit_02 – “Two children working on artwork during the El Punto Art Studio”
Young Art Exhibit_03 – “Young girl working on artwork during the El Punto Art Studio”
Young Art Exhibit_04 – “Young girl and her artwork at the El Punto Art Studio”
Young Art Exhibit_05 – “Painting made by students in the El Punto Art Studio”
Young Art Exhibit_06 -“Painting made by students in the El Punto Art Studio”