The 34th annual Loisaida Festival makes a (virtual) return to the Lower East Side this month
Photo of a previous year’s Festival by Melvin Audaz
In 1987, Avenue C was renamed Loisaida Avenue, “a Spanglish name for the Lower East Side, connoting the Puerto Rican and Latinx community which have had a significant presence there since the mid-20th century,” explained Village Preservation executive director Andrew Berman. That same year on the Sunday before Memorial Day, the vibrant community hosted the first Loisaida Festival to celebrate their neighborhood’s culture. Thirty-four years later, and the Festival is still going strong. For the second year, the event will be virtual on two Sundays–May 23 and 30–featuring an exciting roster of musicians, performers, and family-friendly entertainment.
Photo of a previous year’s Festival by Ryan John Lee
The event is hosted by The Loisaida Center, a local nonprofit that works to empower the Latino community. At their multi-purpose space in the East Village, the group acts as an incubator for self-sustainable artisanal technology and culinary arts entrepreneurial initiatives.
“This past year, The Loisaida Center has forged unique alliances with diverse community groups who are committed to wellbeing and social change through art, activism, and education,” says Executive Director Alejandro Epifanio Torres. “Despite the obstacles posed by the global pandemic and economic crisis, we are proud to have retained 100% of our Teaching Artists staff and to have launched new initiatives that employ and showcase emerging, contemporary artists and cultural workers in a variety of disciplines. Same as every year, the Loisaida Festival will provide top-notch musical entertainment and an occasion to celebrate the resiliency of our community and all we have accomplished.”
For this year’s Festival, they’ve chosen the theme ¡Viva Loisaida! which “celebrates the Lower East Side’s roots, the elements that characterize the neighborhood, and its residents’ resiliency, creativity, growth, and unity.” It also pays homage to “Viva Loisaida,” a 1978 documentary film produced by LES photographer Marlis Momber.
The group has also assembled an incredible musical lineup that includes:
- World-renowned Mexican singer & actor Fernando Allende
- Afro-Caribbean/electronic music project ÌFÉ
- Puerto Rican folk singer Chabela Rodríguez
- Afro-Brazilian Samba Reggae All-Female Band Batalá
- Acclaimed local contemporary R&B Soul-Jazz artists Duendita
- Linda Díaz, winner of NPR’s 2020 Tiny Desk Contest
Other parts of the Festival are:
- A short film by the Puerto Rican theater troupe Y No Había Luz
- A Cuchifritos cooking demonstration by María Bido (part of La Cocina de Loisaida)
- A monologue by Loisaida Artistic Residency recipient Haus of Dust