The Viva Loisaida Awards
In 2014 The Loisaida Festival re-instated the Loisaida Awards to recognize those who’ve left their mark on the Loisaida community.
The 2019 Viva Loisaida! awards are given in recognition of the life-long dedication, passion, activism, and service to the people of the Lower East Side and all Puerto Rican and Latinx communities all over this City, and well beyond. Presenting the 2019 Awardees:
Iris Morales (Attorney, filmmaker & former Young Lord)
Hon. Harvey Epstein (District 74 Assemblyman)
John Blasco (LGBTQ organizer and District Leader-Elect)
Tom Brasuell (League Baseball, President of MLB Charities)
Dora Collazo Levy (Founder/Executive Director Loisaida, Inc., Educator and Activist, Democratic District Leader, New Jíbaro Democrats. (posthumous)
The 2018 Viva Loisaida awards were given in the spirit of the Loisaida neighborhood and its pioneering ethos; celebrating the makers, gatherers, organizers and gleaners of the Lower East Side. Presenting the 2018 Awardees:
Aixa Torres (President Smith Houses)
Damaris Reyes (Good Old Lower East Side)
Manuel Moran (Society of Educational Arts)
Familia Fargas-Rivera (Casa Adela Restaurant)
The 2017 Viva Loisaida! awards were given in the spirit of the Loisaida neighborhood and its Im-migrant ethos; celebrating the Lower East Side as the “Gateway to America”. Presenting the 2017 Awardees:
Robert Lee Activist & former Executive Director of the Asian American Arts Center in the LES.
Eva Cockroft Activist, muralist and founder of Artmakers Inc. (post mortem accepted by Jane Weisman.)
Maria Dominguez Artist, muralist, educator.
Brian Kavanagh New York State Senator, representing the 26th District.
Vanessa Diaz Advocate of equal rights for the LGBTQIA community of the LES.
The 2016 awards were given for their outstanding support and commitment to the preservation of our heritage and culture in Manhattan’s “most gentrified” neighborhood; The Lower East Side.
Carlina Rivera Born and raised in the L.E.S., Carlina Rivera is a highly respected and life-long committed and dedicated resident and activist with a an impressive and contagious passion for social justice, Carlina has earned a position of trust and admiration in the neighborhood of Loisaida. She is an unquestionable pillar of the community for years to come.
Det. Jaime Hernandez Jaime Hernandez is a Detective and Community Affairs Officer of the 9th Precinct of the NYPD, has been patrolling in the neighborhood for over 27 years and is a friendly face known and mostly addressed on a first-name basis within the community. There’s even a mural dedicated to him in the neighborhood. Hernandez has lived all his life in New York City (Brooklyn), is the proud father of one daughter 23 and son 27 who works for Homeland Security as a Special Agent in charge of Washington DC, Baltimore and Virginia. He has received over 60 community awards and member of congress special congressional recognition in 1994.
As an unquestionable pillar of the community of New York City’s Lower East Side and a highly respected, committed and dedicated Detective and Community Affairs Officer of the 9th Precinct of the NYPD for over 27 years, he has earned a position of trust and admiration in the neighborhood of Loisaida. He has consistently provided valuable assistance with the Loisaida Center and The Loisaida Festival and for these reasons, the Loisaida Inc. Board of Directors and Executive Leadership is honored to recognize his lifelong dedication, commitment and invaluable leadership in the community of Loisaida.
Raul Vélez, Sr.Raul’s Barber Shop Puerto Rican-originated business has withstood over four decades of neighborhood ebb and flow with resilience. The Vélez family is deeply rooted in Loisaida life. The shop opened for business in 1960, when Wilfredo “Willy” Velez came to New York from Lares, Puerto Rico. Later, his brother, Raul Velez, Sr., kept the shop for quite a while before recently handing it over to Willy’s son, his nephew, Edgar Velez. An-ex boxer, Edgar has worked at the shop since 1986 and now continues to keep the place operating even in the face of gentrification. As he describes it, “this is the only Hispanic, Boricua barbershop left on the Lower East Side.”
As an unquestionable pillar of the community; the founder of a Puerto Rican-originated business, which has withstood over five decades and a highly respected committed and dedicated barber, mentor and resident of the Lower East Side, who has earned a position of trust and admiration in the neighborhood of Loisaida.
José “Pepe” Flores Musicologist, Dancer, Teacher& Community Activist Pepe Flores was born in 1951 in Puerta de Tierra, near Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. When he was 4 years old, his family moved to the countryside. Pepe learned to read at an early age and became an avid and voracious reader, opening his mind to worlds beyond his humble roots.
Jíbaro music was the first type of music Pepe heard as an immediate part of his everyday life. Later, through the radio, he heard the music of cuartetos like Mayarí and Marcano, the music of Cortijo and his Combo with Ismael Rivera, etc. These forms of music became the foundation of Pepe’s musical journey, which led him to collect records and books since the early age of 12 years old. Besides listening various and diverse forms of Puerto Rican and Caribbean music, he read everything related to music and history he could get his hands on, from liner notes to magazine and newspaper articles, books and academic papers, etc, etc. As a teenager, Pepe began attending live performances and dances where groups like El Gran Combo, Tommy Olivencia y su Orquesta, La Sonora Ponceña and others played salsa music and dancing became an integral part of his life, character and persona.
At age 19, Pepe migrated from Puerto Rico and arrived in the Lower East Side of New York City, where he quickly became a community activist focused primarily, but no exclusively, in the areas of early childhood education, affordable housing, community gardens and public spaces. In NY, Pepe expanded his interest in music to Cuban, Jazz, Brazilian, African, etc…, significantly expanding his collection and knowledge. In the spirit of his mentors, René López, Andy González, Harry Sepúlveda and many others, as his music personal knowledge, music collection and library grew, Pepe consistently made these invaluable resources available to selected musicians and researchers sharing his love for music and respect for musicians.
The 2015 awards were given to four pillars of the community: Nydia Velazquez for her bold leadership, and long-standing support to the Latino community causes. Marlis Momber whose legendary photographic and documentary work has illustrated the struggle and character of the mostly Latinos people living in the Lower East Side since the 70s; Dr. Joseph Kramer, known as “El Doctor del Pueblo,” who served as a doctor to thousands over the years from his storefront on Ave D, regardless of their ability to pay; Lizabeth Bruno whose admirable passion for environmental and social justice issues led her to establish the LES Girls Club CSA; Sammy Tanco, an unquestionable pillar of NY’s Puerto Rican community, respected master of plena music who helped co-organize the first Loisaida Festival along Tato Laviera and has been a figure of social and cultural re-affirmation of Loisaida for over 40 years.
In 2014 The Loisaida Festival re-instated the Loisaida Awards to recognize those who’ve left their mark on the Lower East Side community. The recipients were City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito; Council Member Rosie Mendez; Street Artist, Antonio “Chico” Garcia; Owner and Chef of Loisaida’s iconic Casa Adela, Adela, and a posthumous recognition to foundation Nuyorican poet and community organizer Tato Laviera.