I am writing as a social work professional who has supervised and taught graduate level social work students for over 25 years at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Social Work. I am also a member of Taller’s Board and volunteer my expertise in a number of ways such as staff training, professional development, strategic plan development, event planning, evaluation etc. Taller’s Board has grown and is stronger today, along with staff and supporters having increased the organization’s capacity in a number of areas critical for all great nonprofits. I have witnessed the unique leadership of Taller’s CEO Dr. Carmen Febo San Miguel and the impact of an extremely gifted, talented and caring staff on meeting community in needs for children, youth, elderly and families. Taller Puertorriqueño is a premier nonprofit. Celebrating 40 years of providing key services to a deserving community that celebrates, promotes, preserves and expands Puerto Rican and Latino arts and culture is no easy feat. While other nonprofits have succumbed to the economic, social and political challenges of the last decade, Taller remains strong and growing. The numerous awards and honors attest to this as we prepare to break ground on Taller’s state of the art Latino Cultural Arts Center, a Philadelphia destination in the heart of this valuable community. Taller’s educational services for children and youth are among the best in the country. This is another critical accomplishment given that the community served is in the poorest zip code of Philadelphia and with a troubled public school system. Through its afterschool, summer programs and homework club Taller contributes to the children and youth’s educational process and academic success. Tonight I will have the opportunity to observe the accomplishment of the current students (elementary, middle, and high school) as they present their semester end program. This is always a highlight as the dedicated work of the students with the support of a talented and committed educational staff are clearly visible. Taller Puertorriqueño is a Best Non Profit in Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania and across the nation and deserve the highest distinction among great nonprofits. Please stop by and see for yourself. Elena Marie DiLapi
I am writing as a social work professional who has supervised and taught graduate level social work students for over 25 years at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Social Work. I am also a member of Taller’s Board and volunteer my expertise in a number of ways such as staff training, professional development, strategic plan development, event planning, evaluation etc. Taller’s Board has grown and is stronger today, along with staff and supporters having increased the organization’s capacity in a number of areas critical for all great nonprofits. I have witnessed the unique leadership of Taller’s CEO Dr. Carmen Febo San Miguel and the impact of an extremely gifted, talented and caring staff on meeting community in needs for children, youth, elderly and families.
Taller Puertorriqueño is a premier nonprofit. Celebrating 40 years of providing key services to a deserving community that celebrates, promotes, preserves and expands Puerto Rican and Latino arts and culture is no easy feat. While other nonprofits have succumbed to the economic, social and political challenges of the last decade, Taller remains strong and growing. The numerous awards and honors attest to this as we prepare to break ground on Taller’s state of the art Latino Cultural Arts Center, a Philadelphia destination in the heart of this valuable community.
Taller’s educational services for children and youth are among the best in the country. This is another critical accomplishment given that the community served is in the poorest zip code of Philadelphia and with a troubled public school system. Through its afterschool, summer programs and homework club Taller contributes to the children and youth’s educational process and academic success.
Tonight I will have the opportunity to observe the accomplishment of the current students (elementary, middle, and high school) as they present their semester end program. This is always a highlight as the dedicated work of the students with the support of a talented and committed educational staff are clearly visible. Taller Puertorriqueño is a Best Non Profit in Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania and across the nation and deserve the highest distinction among great nonprofits. Please stop by and see for yourself.
Elena Marie DiLapi
Taller PuertorriqueÃ±o, Inc. is a unique, special, and great non-profit organization. Since 1974, Taller PuertorriqueÃ±o has been an oasis of cultural comfort, a sanctuary for thousands of community members. Although many have found Taller in their youth, Taller has enhanced my world as an adult. Taller continues to be a place to learn about my roots and make cultural connections. You see, I am an adoptee. I was born and raised in New York by very loving and hard working parents. My parents were always open and honest about my adoption. I remember sitting with them as they read to me a “The Family that Grew”, a book about adoption. This children’s book was critical to learning about me, my family, and what it means to be adopted. When I turned 21, my mother gave me this treasured book, and my adoption papers. Such precious gifts! I read this document carefully noting my birth name printed on the front “Marie QuiÃ±ones”. I asked my parents if they knew anything about my birth family or their situation. When I asked about the ethnicity of QuiÃ±ones, my mother said the only thing the social worker told her, was that I was Irish. Interesting, I thought, yet I was not satisfied. A year later, I started the search for my birthparents. Something very important happened as I began this journey; a friend introduced me to Carmen Febo San Miguel, (Taller’s current Executive Director) who kindly suggested that “QuiÃ±ones” is a rather common Puerto Rican name and might be not be Irish, as I was told. This reality was confirmed when I finally met my birthmother. QuiÃ±ones is a Puerto Rican name, MY NAME. Discovering the Puerto Rican roots of my birth name is one of my life’s most significant moments. A moment that has been enriched through Taller. Taller offers many high caliber cultural arts programs, many that I have come to view and value through my unique multicultural lens. Taller’s educational programs and curricula reflect the mosaic of the Latino Diaspora with bilingual readings, educational seminars, multimedia art workshops and exhibits by world-renowned artists. Attending these diverse programs has opened new doors to learning about my Puerto Rican connections within a warm and welcoming community. Because of Taller, I have learned about the unique practices of my ancestors through the sacred Tainos ceremony opening the exhibit of rare cultural artifacts, and have been delighted by the sound of the island’s Coquis throughout the gallery and bookstore. I also have been reminded of the invaluable resource of children’s books while listening to an award-winning author of “There Is a Coqui in My Shoe” read to a room full of mesmerized children and their families. Through these cultural education programs, I watch the children learn, the parents, grandparents, and siblings participate, the community strengthened and I deepened my own sense of identity. Children and youth who have participated in Taller’s programs are successful community leaders and now bring their own children to Taller. Strong partnerships with area schools, government, and other community entities reflect Taller’s continuous commitment to community building and leadership in responding to the changing needs of those it serves. Through these experiences, I know Taller makes a difference in our individual and collective lives. Taller is an organic collaborative of artists, community leaders, children and youth, adults and elderly, students and teachers, puertorriqueÃ±o’s, Latinos, and members of the region’s ever expanding multicultural and diverse communities. Taller’s 35-year legacy of interweaving academics and the arts and creativity and identity, lives on. Rooted in the richness of Puerto Rican arts, Taller continues honoring a broader Latino cultural cornucopia. Valuing Latino diversity is not a goal of Taller, it is its essence. I recall a wonderful spoken word poetry reading one night at Taller. I was particularly taken by renowned poet and performance artist Mariposa who graciously signed a copy of her book “Born Bronxena”. After thanking her, she repeated in Spanish, a line from one of her poems. ”No nacÃ en Puerto Rico Puerto Rico naciÃ³ en mi!” As I was leaving the fabulous event, Taller’s executive director, reminded me of the beauty, power and significance of Mariposa’s [translated] words to me “I was not born in Puerto Rico; Puerto Rico was born in me.” Without Taller, the questions of my identity from my youth would persist today. I feel fortunate to have found the unique offerings of Taller’s cultural awareness programs, arts education initiatives, and community building events. The future is bright for Taller and those we serve. As we celebrate 35 years of cultural education, Latino pride and community enrichment. I join with many others in being very thankful to have Taller in our community. Sincerely, Elena Marie DiLapi, LSW, QCSW
After 40 years of service to the Philadelphia and beyond communities, Taller Puertorriqueno continues to be a premier site for informing visitors as well as elevating and preserving Puerto Rican and Latino culture through arts and cultural programs. As a member or visitor you will have access to a living history through workshops, meetings with artists and cultural icons, workshops and programs for children and adults. I can't wait until their new El Corazon Cultural Center is built (read about it on their website: www.tallerpr.org.).
Taller Puertorriqueño exists in an area where poverty, drugs and teen pregnancy are above the average. Taller provides an alternative to young people. With opportunities to express themselves in art and theater, and with adults who have survived and excelled in a rough environment, youngsters can feel that there is a future beyond the danger and anger they experience in their environment. Soon, with enough money, there will be a new neighborhood center for Taller's activities and neighborhood events. What a bonus it can be for the North Philadelphia neighborhood.
As a non-Hispanic, I have long supported and volunteered for Taller Puertorriqueno because, despite its origins and hence its name, it represents the cultures of the peoples of all our Spanish speaking Caribbean island and Latin America neighbors - cultures whose art, music, dance, literature and architecture are deep and rich. As our own country becomes more Hispanic, it is vital to promote the creative brilliance of our Latin neighbors as a tool for understanding and friendship. For over 35 years and with an excellence that has earned it so many awards and accolades, Taller Puertorriqueno has enriched the Philadelphia region with the gift of the Latino arts.
My connections to Taller PuertorriqueÃ±o began many years ago as a Spanish Teacher for the public schools of Philadelphia. I wanted to bring in authentic cultural realia for my students to appreciate. At the time Taller PuertorriqueÃ±o was the only place with a bookstore that would offer what I was looking for, and it still is. It became a place to which I would often recommend my students to visit. I wanted them to take advantage and learn from the the cultural programs Taller offers. Later on, I became the first Museum Teacher that the School District of Philadelphia assigned to Taller PuertorriqueÃ±o and served in this capacity for a year. This was an awesome experience. Although I was born in Puerto Rico, all my schooling had been in Philadelphia and in school, no one ever taught us about any Latino culture. In developing the many culture and art lessons for a little over 5,000 students served in a year, I too had learned a lot about my own culture. I will always be grateful to Taller PuertorriqueÃ±o for this. I often volunteer at Taller PuertorriqueÃ±o throughout the year in whatever capacity is need. The Julia de Burgos bookstore offers the opportunity to for us enrich our personal libraries on an infinite number literary topics in English and/or Spanish. It also offers the opportunity to expand our knowledge base on many cultural issues related to Puerto Ricans and other Latino cultures. The books store amply provides us with a look into the rich cultural diversity among Latinos from the many Spanish speaking countries around the world. Not only does if offer books but also the opportunity to meet a number of well known as well as emerging authors, even young high school authors. Taller PuertorriqueÃ±o is much more than just the bookstore. It is also the cultural hub for the surrounding neighborhoods and beyond. It has promoted (and continues to do so) many of the well known Latino artists in the city. It is "El Corazon del Barrio"(The Heart of the Neighborhood, as its logo states.) The Cultural presentations also reaches out to many who are not in the immediate neighborhood. The receptions for opening night of the art exhibits brings people from throughout the city, Latinos and non-Latinos alike. Some of the events even brings visitors from other towns in Pennsylvania as well as New York, Washington, DC. Two of these event the come to mind are the Annual Schomburg Symposium and the Annual Feria del Barrio. The Later is done in partnership with other Latino community organizations. As an educator, however, the programs that are most dear to me are the education programs. The cultural arts programming (CAP) offers young opportunities to learn about culture through the arts and includes tutoring for helping the students improve on their weak areas. The YAP program offers high school students interested in the arts a rich experience for developing their skills and their portfolio. Eventually I became a board member for this community organization. Although I serve on many community boards, I am most proud and privileged to be part of this community organization that takes to heart our children and our culture.
I adopted Philadelphia as my home after college in part because of the strength of its neighborhoods. Friendships drew me to the Puerto Rican community and then to Taller which well earned its name as "the Cultural Heart of the Barrio". I am drawn to the energy, passion, warmth of their events. I love learning and experiencing the richness of latin culture. I love the mixing of generations. I have such respect for their commitment to staying in the barrio despite the many challenges this presents.
I came to live in Philadelphia in 2001. Taller PuertorriqueÃ±o provided a cultural gate to the arts in Philadelphia for me. I came to meet people, to attend special events and to celebrate the Latino heritage with my new community. New immigrants, like myself, need to develop connections and start new friendships quickly. Taller PuertorriqueÃ±o was and continues to be the place to enjoy, to learn, to volunteer and to share dreams.
Taller is an amazing organization and has had a transformative effect for the past thirty-five years on the culture of Philadelphia and on the Latino community. With a focus on Latino graphic arts, Taller has had an impact internationally, nationally and locally, involving everyone from renowned artists to young children in elementary school. Taller has also contributed artistically in literature, poetry and music, blending these with a focus on the graphic arts. The special focus of Taller on children from grade school through high school is especially important. Elementary and high school children participate in after-school programs that develop their artistic skills and also support their academic work. It is the goal of many of these children to further their learning at the college level by attending art institutes and colleges. There is no limit to what Taller could do to provide opportunities for young Latinos and others in the inner-city.
From the moment I first stepped into Taller Puertorriqueno, Inc. I knew this was a very special place. I felt connected and wanted to be a part of this wonderful place. I became a member and actively participated in Taller's activity. Taller helped me reconnect with my culture and my roots. What makes Taller unique to me is the connection it creates between the past and the present. Also Taller's Staff makes everyone feel welcomed and never turns anyone away. It is a cultural center but at the same time it provides a link betwwen one community agency to another. People know that if they need help Taller' will point them to the right place. Also when it comes to the arts Taller links it's members and the community exhibition that links the past to the present and beyond. Taller exposes the community to the up and coming artist as well as already established artists from Puerto Rico, Philadelphia and Latin America. Taller's dedication to the education of the children , teenagers and adults is what drew me to want to be a prt of it. My years as Museum teacher are one of my most treasured memories. I was able to not only service the students from the School District Of Philadelphia and expose them to the Puerto Rican culture and and Latin America but I was able to service other community agencies that wanted to come to Taller for its programs. The many artists and peolpe I met was extraordinary.To be able to meet many artists and learn about their experiences as well as their art is what I like about Taller. Also their various progarms such as "meet the Author" series gives peolpe the opportunity to meet current authors, the annual "Arturo Schomburg Symposiums" that provides open discussions about African Diaspora in Latin American is truly great opportunity for many people to discuss issues that concern us all. I always feel reconnected with my heritage when I visit Taller. My personal level of awareness and responsiblity to the community was raised because of my experiences at Taller. To me Taller is a place to learn, advocate for the rights of others, and experience the arts of Latin America in a very personal and community way.
My personal experience with Taller has been a very long and positive one. I was one of the individuals that was originally around when a group of youth were meeting at ASPIRA,Inc. of PA and talked about racism, discrimination and what every other ills existed in the mid-70s. At that particular time, Puerto Ricans were searching for a place to identify with. You had the dominant class, and you had African-Americans, and Puerto Ricans in Philadelphia did not seem to belong any where. Based on the need for Self-Identity, Cultural Awareness, and the need to enhance our self-esteem as a people, the idea of Taller, which means "workshop" and of course Puertorriqueno, identified us. The idea was to have a workshop where young Puerto Ricans in Philadelphia could work together to learn about our rich history, cultural, ancestory, our language, authors, artists, artisans, etc. We wanted to find out who we were. We wanted to be proud of our heritage, and with this pride, we could ignore the folks that constantly called us "spics". Taller has been key in the development and appreciation of culture, language, arts and Latinos as a people. I personally, thank Taller for making me feel so proud and passionate about who I am, and where I came from. If Taller did not teach us that, who would? Not the traditional sources of education, at least not back then. Taller has transcended generations, has struggled to continue to exist and continue its mission. Taller is genuinely the cultural heart of "El Barrio" in Philadelphia, and as an individual who has lived in Philadelphia since the age of three, I give thanks to Taller for instilling in me my cultural pride and identity, which I inturn have passed down to my children and their children. Taller is needed in our community today, as much as, it was needed in the 70s, because although it is a new day, there is a need for positive reinforcements for our youth, a place our youth can feel comfortable about expresssing their creative talents and being encouraged rather than shot down. Taller is a place that our community can say yes to. Taller has been and continues to be one of the organizations, I am most passionate about. Taller has impacted and help raise many community leaders. I know that Taller definitely assisted in my personal growth and development.
Remarks delivered in December 2009 at Taller's 35th Anniversary Celebration: It’s an honor to be the keynote speaker for an institution that I love, admire and which has influenced and shaped me over the years. Some of you have heard my own story about Taller: Through Taller I met my very first friend in Philadelphia: Luis Hernandez, on a sunny September day in 1985. I had just arrived in the city to start a job as a Legal Services Lawyer, and did not know a soul. I had chosen Philly in part because I had read it had a Puerto Rican community, but when I asked around in Center City, people told me there were no Latinos in Philadelphia. Now, I knew that was not true, but it certainly made clear to me that the Latino community was not very visible or known. Using the advanced research skills I learned at Georgetown, I searched the phone book and was thrilled to find Taller’s name. I called, got directions from a really upbeat guy (who told me it was really close!), walked from 21st and Locust to 5th and Market (had no idea how to get there otherwise), got on the 47 bus, rode through the Latino community for the first time (and fell in shock and in love simultaneously) and got off at 5th and Lehigh where the smells and the sounds were amazing, and brought me instant happiness. That moment, that day, erased all my anxiety and doubt about the big move I had just made. I knew I was meant to be right there - - and right here, in Philly. I was home. I also felt strongly from that day onward that it was not OK for such a thriving and beautiful Latino community to be invisible to the city, and I would do my part to try to change it. When I walked into Taller that day, it felt magical to me - - I was frankly amazed at the level of PR/Latino cultural and literary resources available in Philadelphia --- these were treasures that most Latino communities did not enjoy back then, and sadly, I believe many do not enjoy today. Luis, who worked for Taller back then, was a great salesman - - I was a broke, soon to be but not yet employed 22 year old, and I walked away with my hands full of books, music and decorations for my new small apartment. Luis also operated with efficiency. He found out I was a musician, and I walked out that day as a member of a musical group, Siembracanto. That was the beginning of my long and wonderful relationship with Taller. In the years that followed, I participated in endless cultural, musical and literary events with Taller, made a film about AIDS n the Latino community with Taller’s support, partnered with Taller to bring some of their permanent art collection to the new Congreso headquarters, and partnered with them when I was at DHS to expand after-school art programs in the Latino community. Taller has been relevant and impactful in every stage of my life in Philadelphia. Taller was also my main gateway to meeting the most amazing, passionate and interesting people in the Latino community: artists, activists, educators, community agency leaders, politicians, poets, business people. These are people I learned from, socialized with, played music with, and did political and community work with. Through Taller, I built the kind of friendships that - no matter where life leads you - stay with you for life. Among my all-time favorites in that category of people, of course, was Joaquin Rivera. He has been recognized already, but I believe he is deserving of all the recognition he is getting and more for his life’s work and his contributions. There are so many ways to describe Joaquin’s impact: I would say that Joaquin’s presence, each and every single time, would turn any event - -no matter how small, or dull - into a five star event. He would become the event. He was our favorite celebrity. In the early 90’s, I asked Joaquin if I could join the Pleneros del Batey and he allowed me to do so. I was pretty good, but the others were really great, so I would tire faster than the rest of the group, and would fall a little out of rhythm. While others in the group would frown at me and make signals with their heads for me to catch up, Joaquin would smile at me encouragingly. That was Joaquin - -always making you feel good. I eventually quit for their sake - - knowing they were better off without me, but every single time I saw Joaquin performing from then on, if there was an extra instrument available, he would let me play with his group. I can say without a doubt that through the years, those moments playing music with Joaquin and the Pleneros were filled with pure joy. I will really miss him. Although I would like to think my story and experience with Taller is pretty special, it really isn’t. I am one of thousands of people – adults and children, Latino and non Latino, professional and blue collar, employed and unemployed, whose lives Taller has touched and shaped for the better over the last 35 years. Each of you has a similar story. Taller has been a key driver of Latino power, cultural identity, unity and strength. It has also been an oasis in the North Philadelphia community for children and families who otherwise would not get to experience and enjoy their heritage. Taller has represented and promoted Puerto Rican and Latino culture and history in our city when no one else was doing it or could do it. It has served as a bridge in and out of our community for people and institutions across the city and the country. It is incredibly moving and powerful to celebrate Taller’s 35th anniversary, but even more important, this is the moment where we must commit to a Philadelphia with Taller in it, for another 35 years. The Latino community in Philadelphia is no longer invisible. It has grown dramatically. It has an increasing number of influencial and professionally successful members. We are key contributors to the social, political, educational, economic and cultural fabric of the city and region. We are outspoken, we are talented, we have aspirations and a vision for the future, and we are here to stay. And our future, I believe, must include Taller. Just because Taller has been around for a long time we cannot assume, or take for granted, that it will be around in the future. Many non profits are struggling at the moment, and cultural, community based organizations have always struggled - -even in good times. Taller’s continued success is up to us. Regardless of the time or money we have, we can support Taller in so many ways - - Making it one of our charities of choice (remember to contribute by year end and get a tax deduction), attending events and taking our friends, connecting Taller with opportunities for funding, volunteering, and responding when they call for help at critical times like right now. I am a regular donor to Taller, but in honor of Joaquin Rivera, I am going to make an additional contribution today. We should recognize this 35th celebration for what it is - - an extraordinary milestone. But let’s embrace it also for what it must also become: a call to action, to ensure Taller remains strong and vibrant, so it can touch the lives of thousands of others more over many years to come, just like it has touched ours. Congratulations Taller!