Temple’s Latin American Studies Program hosted a virtual event to celebrate Latinx arts and culture in Philadelphia on April 16. The Latinx community is one of many that are using art to advocate for social change. Matheus Fronza, one of 4 moderators, says “our main goal [was] to celebrate…the diversity that the city has with Temple students.”
Latinx Artist Betsy Casañas
The event featured artist Betsy Casañas who unites the community through arts and horticulture. She is the founder of Semilla Arts Initiative and the director of A Seed on Diamond Gallery. “My work isn’t just about painting murals. My work is about actively involving community members in the process of transforming [it],” Casañas says.
Born to Puerto Rican migrants, her mural “Cruzando el Charco” (crossing the puddle) on N. 5th and Dauphin Streets depicts the Puerto Rican migration to North Philly. She witnessed a shootout while painting, inspiring her to launch Semilla Arts Initiative. She wanted to transform the neglected Fairhill neighborhood into a safe and colorful space.
“Beautiful things aren’t only for communities that have money…[they are] for all of us,” Betsy says. She wants her Latinx neighbors to see themselves reflected in her murals. She hopes to “change the narrative that has been created for us by humanizing our collected stories.”
Capoeira Mestre Doutor
The event also featured martial artist Mestre Doutor. He specializes in Capoeira, a form of martial arts that blends Brazilian customs and music. Native to Brazil, he is known as a “community culture-keeper.” Mestre Doutor founded Project Capoeira to preserve and share Capoeira and Brazilian culture with Greater Philadelphia. Project Capoeira serves 25,000 individuals annually.
In addition, he founded the U.S. Capoeira Federation. Also, he is the co-founder of web radio organization A Voz da Capoeira (the voice of Capoeira). As the director of ASCAB, Mestre Doutor has the most impact on Gambia and the United States.
Aside from martial arts, Mestre Doutor also organized Brazilian Day Philadelphia. The festival returns September to celebrate Brazilian music and culture.
In conclusion, this event gave attendees a look at Latinx culture through mural showcases, demonstrations, and videos. The speakers and their art have an impact on Philadelphia and the students as well.