June 13th, 2012
First annual Hispanic Cultural Showcase
Frank Skartados, 100th District Assemblyman, laughs with Peter Gonzalez, President of Latinos Unidos of the Hudson Valley, during Saturday’s Hispanic Cultural Showcase in the City of Newburgh, NY.
Newburgh - New York State 100th District Assemblyman Frank Skartados remains confused about something: How can a population that represents so many be so misunderstood?
Skartados is referring to the Latin American culture that inhabits the City of Newburgh, along with a large portion of the Hudson Valley niche he represents. Attending Saturday’s Hispanic Cultural Showcase, Skartados was pleased to witness some attempt at that multicultural recognition was being made.
“This is a nation of immigrants here; we not only have to understand those different cultures, such as Latin America that spans 28 countries, and learn about its food, music, and dance, because of all they offer, but that understanding is important so that we best represent them,” said Skartados as he observed participants swaying around the gym while practicing a Bachata dance routine. “Their issues are not any different than anyone else’s; they face the same economic growth, education and health care challenges as everyone, in addition to immigration concerns, and they need to be treated with fairness and dignity.”
Latinos Unidos of the Hudson Valley, a non-profit, all-volunteer organization, recognizes that need as well. In response, the bilingual group has stepped up by helping to improve the life of all area residents, especially Spanish speakers, providing referral services and workshops. Last summer, the contingent applied to Arts of Orange for a grant to support a music and art cultural showcase. In February, 2012 those monies became a reality thanks to the New York State Council on the Arts’ Decentralization Program, allowing Latinos Unidos to join forces with Mas Salsa K2, a Middletown-based dance instruction center. The result: Saturday’s first annual Hispanic Cultural Showcase at the Armory in the City of Newburgh was staged.
On hand for the event was Gabriela Pragman, one of the New York Life representatives providing Spanish (and English) literature, along with some candies, at her booth.
“We came here today to explain in our own language how to protect your family, telling people exactly how our insurance works for them as individuals,” said Pragman. “If people call us we will go right to their house; I want to make sure they are well informed, especially with the language barrier they face.”
That communication barrier didn’t appear to be an issue when it came to the languages of music and dance. Kicking off the afternoon, attendees were provided with free dance classes in such genres as Bachata, Salsa and Merengue. An ensuing dance contest added further excitement to the afternoon. Like Latinos Unidos, Mas Salsa K2 is committed to building people bridges.
“We do a lot of community service work, as we try to enlighten people about the Latino community using our medium of dance,” explained Sher Singh, an instructor for Mas Salsa K2. “We hope to bring the community together and keep the issues of the Latin community in the public eye.”
Latino Unidos is keeping busy this summer with an Atlantic City Bus Trip scheduled for August 18, 2012. For more information, or to get involved with Latinos Unidos of the Hudson Valley, call (845) 565-4812 or visit latinounidosofthehudsonvalley.com.