With a three-day cultural blast, the Annual Festival Santiago Apóstol de Loíza in El Barrio celebrates a half century of African influence of the Puerto Rican and Latino immigrant communities in New York City’s East Harlem neighborhood.
Fondly known as the Loíza Festival in El Barrio, the summer cultural event will commemorate 50 years of infusing Afro-Boricua flavor to New York City. Traditional African diaspora costumes, music, dance, handcrafts, and food come to the Festival’s new location on E. 109th Street Between 2nd Avenue and 3rd Avenue from July 28th to July 30th. The festival kicks off on Friday with a fun-filled child-friendly day of cultural arts and craft workshops, games, face painting, magicians and more.
Saturday welcomes some of the most awaited elements of the festival–vibrant live performances of bomba, plena and salsa, sounds that make the Afro-Latino rhythms reverberate throughout the city. Among the celebrated performers to follow on Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th will be Milteri Tucker & Bombazo; Mateo y Cumbalaya; Bronx Charanga, Ellas Son, Son de Monte, Johnny “Dandy” Rodriguez (of the Tito Puente orchestra), Legacy Women, Los Pleneros de la 21, Nelson Ramirez y Herencia de Mi Tambo, and Flaco Navaja & The Razor Blades, among others.
Sunday is marked by the traditional ritual Processional of Saints, connecting this hallmark of the festivities in Puerto Rico with the interpretation of the African diaspora while offering a lively display of Loiza culture in an urban New York City setting. The general public is encouraged to join the procession that departs from St. Cecilia Church at 106th Street and Park Avenue at 1 PM.
“This festival pays homage to our African ancestors and those forefathers and community leaders who paved the way and dedicated their lives to claiming their negritud so that we are able to preserve and celebrate today our Afro-Boricua roots,” said Dra. Marta Moreno Vega, founder and president of CCCADI, one of the Festival’s organizers. “It is an important time to be an Afro-descendant, as our culture continues to provide safes paces, at a challenging moment when our Black and Latino communities are under attack. Spaces like the Loiza Festival connect us to our history of political resistance and struggles for civil rights. It strengthens our resolve to continue organizing as a community, defending our people, culture, and place in history.”
This year, the festival will feature a special street naming in honor of one of its fierce founders Aida Perez, who died in 2012 after a life of bringing Afro-Boricua history to NYC streets. Aida Pérez and other community members of Los Hermanos Fraternos de Loiza, including Carmelo Acosta Lacen, Rafael Sanjurgo, Pablo and Macho Lacen, started the festival in 1967 aiming to replicate the annual celebrations of their hometown of Loiza, Puerto Rico, founded by the descendants of enslaved Africans who settled in Loiza and maintained their roots and traditions as a form of resistance and expression.
Fast forward 50 years and 3 generations, today the Festival has transformed into a uniquely New York experience, celebrating the Afro-Latino diaspora. The festival is one of the few remaining Puerto Rican cultural festivals, but Aida Perez’s legacy will still carry on and will be perennially recognized and visible into the streets of El Barrio–where this tradition started.
Admission is FREE.