CCRI, RI Latino Artists come together to celebrate Latinx culture
Providence, RI – In celebration of Hispanic heritage and its Latinx students, the Community College of Rhode Island is hosting “A Celebration of Latinx Culture” Wednesday, November 29 from 4–5:45 pm at CCRI’s Liston Campus in Providence featuring artwork and special presentations from members of Rhode Island Latino Arts, the state’s leading nonprofit organization exclusively dedicated to the promotion, advancement, development, and cultivation of Latino arts.
This free event, which extends CCRI’s recent celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, is open to the public and showcases artwork from local artists and Rhode Island residents Rene Gomez and Carmen Vazquez. RILA Executive Director Marta Martinez will present her lecture, Hidden Stories: Broad Street’s Latino History, and RILA Dance Instructor Brandon Contreras will host a special workshop entitled The Evolution of Bachata Music, honoring the popular music genre that represents the cultural diversity of the Dominican population.
In April, CCRI earned designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, which acknowledges colleges and universities with a student population that is at least 25% Hispanic. That designation, said CCRI Interim President Rosemary Costigan, also “acknowledges the rich contributions and experience that our Hispanic and Latinx faculty, staff, and students bring to our college community and it symbolizes our commitment to embracing their varied backgrounds to provide the teaching and learning and supports for them to be successful at our college and beyond.”
With its myriad flags from Latin and South American countries displayed in the Atrium, CCRI’s Providence Campus is the perfect host for Wednesday’s event and “a visual expression of how we value and embrace the diverse backgrounds and experiences of all our students to create vibrant teaching and learning community,” said Costigan, who will deliver keynote remarks at the event.
While National Hispanic Heritage Month runs annually from September 15–October 15, CCRI has continued the celebration by displaying artwork from Gomez and Vazquez throughout November with Wednesday’s event culminating what has been a more than eight-week commemoration of the college and state’s vast Latinx culture.
Gomez is a Dominican-born, multi-disciplinary “self-taught” pop artist who moved to Rhode Island with his family at the age of 4. Among his many contributions to the local art scene, Gomez has been commissioned to paint murals by The Avenue Concept, RILA, and the city of Providence, including two murals for El Ninja Restaurant on Broad Street and another at the intersection of Daboll and Public Street commissioned by the Department of Art, Culture, and Tourism.
A 2020 Rhode Island College graduate; Pawtucket, RI, native; and recent addition to the CCRI community as a Student Success Coach in Providence, Vazquez began watercolor painting at the age of 12 and in high school was part of the Rhode Island School of Design's Project Open Door Program (POD), in which she experimented with different mediums of art such as printmaking, etching, oil pastels, charcoal, and mixed media collages. In 2016, she painted a mural in Zacapa, Guatemala of the national bird, the Quetzal, and also worked on several murals in Providence through RILA.
Martinez’s lecture focuses on the history of Broad Street dating back to the 1700s and its transformation in the 1960s when Latinos began to settle, rebuild, and make “La Broa’” what it is today – “bodegas, joyerias, peluquerías, Chimis, and familia,” says Martinez. A graduate of Providence College and The George Washington University and a current Warwick, RI, resident Martinez is a Community Oral Historian and Director of Nuestras Raíces: Latino Oral History Project of Rhode Island and also published a book in 2014 based on her work with the Latino Oral History Project.
Contreras’ performance and workshop closes the event with a look at bachata music, a genre that contains European, indigenous Taino and African musical elements. In addition to his work with RILA, Contreras host a community bi-weekly event, “Bachata Jam Sessions,” at Roger Williams Park’s Temple to Music. Contreras typically teaches traditional style bachata music, which is one of the more popular styles of bachata that has spread across the globe, but also showcases more current versions of the genre to bridge generational gaps.