La Salita Café, hablando en arroz y habichuelas

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By: Jessica Muñoz-Vuillet

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Being an artist is not easy, in this case especially in the economy of Puerto Rico. With the current boom in mainstream music on the Island, arguably the direct result of gentrification, growth and appreciation for local artists has experienced several negative effects. Grassroots venues are now few and far between. And, although there are museums and Galleries that currently document our rich cultural legacy, there are even fewer that feature the works of local artisans. This leaves very few options for the islands local talent, which has slowly been retreating to the isolated rural areas from which they originally came.  Artists who want to be validated and gain better exposure have resolved that leaving the island is the only option.

The case can be made that we are losing our identity and culture, what with American fast food restaurants and malls saturating the island and movie theaters being shown primarily in English rather than Spanish.  Indeed, it’s now become rare to even get a simple mojito for your Tostones because the sauce given everywhere is Mayo-Ketchup. To make matters worse, our children are losing their sense of cultural identity with the loss of our cultural arts, until now.

La Salita Café is a spoken word, poetry and live music eco-friendly café. A socially and environmentally conscious café (and artistic den) dedicated to empowering local Puerto Rican artists, poets, musicians & filmmakers. This artist’s haven will serve to promote independent creativity, preserve our culture, local agriculture and give back to the community. Our model in creating this platform is to inspire, support, promote and equip artists to achieve their growth goals, which in turn creates employment and addresses some social issues. By advocating for the adoption of these social values we help cultivate social responsibility and growth for the community.

It’s an ambitious and challenging goal to go against the institutionalized offerings of “real” Puerto Rican culture that is currently in areas like El Condado and Viejo San Juan. Both neighborhoods impose unique challenges for La Salita Café and amidst setbacks the location will remain in one of these two areas; specifically chosen so we can re-inject our culture back to these gentrified communities.

Currently we are in the fundraising stage as getting funding for our initiative through more traditional avenues are of course nearly impossible since “Poetry is a dying art and Folk music does not sell”. This coming from the same institutions that feed us with the promise of cultural preservation while they support and promote upscale-white washed projects that are “better suited” as cultural spaces for the tourism they are trying to attract. But, as we say “¡pa’lante Boricua!”

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Jessica Muñoz-Vuillet is a proud Boricua, raised in the South Bronx and like many of us there, struggled with poverty. Her aspirations and strong character is what helped her grow; a recent transplant back to her tierra -Puerto Rico – from Switzerland where she lived for several years. She is a mom, blogger, activist and founder of La Salita Café, a grassroots initiative that fights to reclaim our cultural identity by creating a space for artists, writers, activists, thinkers and dreamers. She has a deep-seated pride in her culture, love for her community, an obsession with anything creative-artsy, and is passionate about green living; a gift for great styling, a dabbling foodie and sucker for travel and outdoor activities.

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The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by La Respuesta magazine. We encourage dialogue, debate, and learning in order to forge stronger, healthier Boricua communities and to strengthen alliances across social difference. 

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