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Building cultural bridges in the Syracuse community

Through cultural education, the La Casita Cultural Center connects Syracuse University and the community.

Inmaculada Lara-Bonilla, assistant professor at the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University and founding director of La Casita, worked with Professor Silvio Torres-Saillant to create the center. It’s the first Latino cultural center in Syracuse. La Casita is a cultural group that was started in 2008. The cultural center opened on 109 Otisco St. in September 2011.

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“La Casita is a cultural center designed to bridge the university with the community and vice versa around projects involving art, culture and education,” David Pittman, La Casita outreach coordinator, said.

La Casita provides an opportunity for all backgrounds to learn more about the Spanish culture, Pittman said. This group provides after-school mentoring for at-risk Latino students, as well as art exhibits and roundtable discussions about cultural belonging. Recently, a roundtable discussion was held on the concept of community in Latin America. The discussion featured Yale professor Paulina Ochoa and photographer Efren Lopez, whose photos of Guatemala are on display at the cultural center’s gallery until May 10.

“In my photos I wanted to capture my childhood and things I remembered,” Lopez said. “La Casita has had quite a few exhibits and does a good job of bringing together a lot of different cultures and showing a common interest.”

La Casita is still in the early stages of development, Pittman said.  There is hope for a step up in programming and community involvement in the future.

The La Casita Cultural Center gallery hours are Monday to Friday from noon to 6 p.m.

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