La Fortaleza NewsLetter
"Sharing the Concept"
Our area of concentration is East Harlem, a community with a rich history of Puerto Rican/Latinos, and in the last ten-plus years has been going through a transformation: from El Barrio to Spanish Harlem, to East Harlem.
La Fortaleza Service area: Pleasant Avenue to 5th Avenue, from 106th Street to 123rd Street.
La Fortaleza seeks to create strategies to jumpstart the business and economic development of East Harlem; we plan to achieve this mission or meet our goal by bringing together the local businesses with our poets, writers, artist, authors, and other members of the arts community. Our request for assistance is based on the need to reconnect these human resources, working together, feeding each other to begin building a business and economic development infrastructure, and we will, and are already, using the “Arts” as the theme to accomplish this mission and goal.
We need to inform and educate the Puerto Rican/Latino community of the essential role that Latino arts, business, and economic development play in the development of a strong and striving community. We will accomplish this mission by committing to and implementing three (3) strategies:
La Fortaleza Information & Education: To develop and survive today, and to deal competitively with New York City’s aggressive economy, our Latino businesses and art communities must learn about the roles
the following issues play in our daily lives: Gentrification, displacement, affordable housing, landmarks, finance/banking, education, art, etc.
Art & Cultural Program Implementation: We have created several art and cultural projects to meet this need. We now sponsor “El Festival del Libro” (Festival of Books) right in the heart of the community. This project introduces Puerto Rican/Latino authors, writers, and poets in a forum setting, where they present their work, provide a brief introduction of their publication, and the books are available for sale to the participants and the public. This project has been a success, we are now going into our seven annual “Festival del Libro.” The project is made possible by the financial support and sponsorship from community organizations, writers’ unions and organizations, businesses, and grants from local government agencies. Another program created by La Fortaleza is the HerSpanic Achievement Celebration. This project sponsors an annual dinner in honor of women selected for recognition by their spouses or family member. This is a way of bringing community families together as a symbol of the “Village”, using the event to promote harmony, unity, and community partnership.
We make sure to contract the art community to participate and display their talent at all events, thus pushing the art theme as the carrot to business and economic development.
Transforming a community into an art community: We are working directly with the local businesses to provide art space to feature the artwork (prints/posters) of our artists to expose Latino art to a Latino community that has a low attendance record in attending art exhibitions. If space is available, our poets, writers, and artist will have a place to perform, which further enhances consumer traffic. Our plan is to transform the whole designated or target area into a Community Art & Cultural Community Center.
Our quote: “If our community does not go to an art gallery, we will bring the art gallery to the community.”
La Fortaleza believes that it has developed a unique and different approach to community development. Based on this belief, we have shared our program concepts with other Latinos outside of New York. For example, a Puerto Rican/Latino group in Buffalo, NY has adopted our concept and is now working on sponsoring similar programs such as “El Festival del Libro”, and the community Latino art gallery. This has led to the sharing of ideas both ways, helping each region to enhance and provide better community service.
As an appreciation for our community partnership, they have offered us a monthly column in their publication, Buffalo Latino Village. We have a similar partnership in Connecticut and Tennessee.
Our immediate need to continue this vision and concept project is sufficient financial seed money. We plan that within five (5) years, La Fortaleza will be financially independent, and able to fund and support its own programs. We are proud to report that since the development of La Fortaleza in 2012, it has been responsible for retaining more than $500 million of lost revenue or income by creating a service that was not there “yesterday.”
Our effort alone has created new consumer traffic with our businesses, and there is more to come.
Photo: Felix Leo Campos, Executive Director