Con Edison Immigrant Artist Program Newsletter, Issue No. 7
Featured Organization: Mano a Mano, Mexican Culture without Borders/Cultura Mexicana sin Fronteras
In our inaugural Featured Organization section we highlighted the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, whose Cultural Community Initiatives (CCI’s) are multi-year collaborations with specific immigrant communities in New York aimed at building up a community infrastructure to support traditional artists. The Center’s Mexican CCI gave rise to this issue’s Featured Organization Mano a Mano, which is now a thriving independent organization dedicated to celebrating Mexican culture in the United States and promoting the understanding of Mexican traditions among immigrants, artists, educators and the general public.
What do they do?
Founded in 2000, Mano a Mano is based in downtown Manhattan and collaborates with individuals and organizations in all five boroughs. They focus on five creative disciplines – visual arts, verbal arts and ritual, music, dance, and culinary arts – through three major programs: Annual Events (like the Day of the Dead celebration pictured above), School & Public Programs (through collaborations with Brooklyn Arts Council and the public libraries), and Artist Development in the form of workshops and networking opportunities.
Who do they serve?
Working with Mexican traditions and Mexican artists is integral to Mano a Mano’s mission, but Executive Director Emily Socolov explains that they are open to working with all artists and audiences that have a connection to Mexico and Mexican culture, and they have an inclusive vision of what is considered traditional – for example, a past event focused on Mexican Hip Hop, which Socolov explains fits well within the definition of traditional art as a cultural practice transmitted in person through informal community teaching.
How have recent developments in immigration patterns, as well the social and economic climate in the US, affected the population Mano a Mano serves?
According to Socolov, “There is certainly more activity in [Mano a Mano’s] field, more players, and many of the smaller artists’ ensembles have become more professional in how they operate. But if you add in the factors of the economic crisis and the stalemate on immigration reform, they kind of counterbalance some of the growth in the community. While the numbers [of Mexican immigrants in New York] have increased – and there are more children in schools (with parents taking a more active role) there is still a lack of political power and integration. Too many people are undocumented and too many people have suffered in the economic downturn. These factors have hampered community empowerment.”
Mano a Mano is going through some exciting changes right now, with plans to launch a new website in May. The new, fully bilingual website will include a virtual portal where artists, organizations, and businesses can post their profiles, serving to connect artists with opportunities for training, employment, and general support. The portal will employ text message updates and other innovative technologies to reach artists who do not have regular access to a computer.
How can you get involved?
- Mano a Mano is one of the many organizations (including NYFA Immigrant Artist Program) that is presenting an event as part of this year’s Immigrant Heritage Week: a panel discussion titled "Language and Identity: Mixtecos in New York.“ Mixtecos are an indigenous group from southern Mexico with their own language and traditions, a "minority within a minority” who experience additional obstacles and prejudice as immigrants in New York. Presented on Saturday April 17, 2-3:30 pm at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York, One Bowling Green, Manhattan. More info.
- For the literary-inclined, Mano a Mano hosts a weekly bilingual creative writing workshopon Monday nights at 6:30 pm in collaboration with the New York Writers Coalition, free and open to all. See contact info below for more info.
- Mano a Mano is always looking for volunteers to help out at their cultural events, and with the launch of the new portal mentioned above, volunteers will also be needed to complete fieldwork to get more artists registered and listed. See contact info below for more info.