First-Of-Its-Kind Latino Heritage Month Celebration Coming to the Boardwalk

 First-Of-Its-Kind Latino Heritage Month Celebration Coming to the Boardwalk

By Kami-Leigh Agard

In commemoration of Latino Heritage Month, next Saturday, October 14, The B.R.I.D.G.E. Family Enrichment Center (FEC) of The Rockaways and Broad Channel invites locals and visitors alike to Sabor + Ritmo Pa’ La Playa (Flavor and Rhythms For the Beach) at the Beach 95th Street Amphitheater and the boardwalk. From Latin rhythms: salsa, merengue, bachata, cumbia, reggaetón and more; dancing; and a variety of cuisines from all over Latin America, with “passport” in hand—attendees will take a deep dive into Latin American culture in all its diversity—right here in Rockaway.

From September 15 to October 15, Latino Heritage Month is a month-long celebration dedicated to honoring and recognizing Hispanic Americans and their contributions to the U.S. According to the U.S. Census, 63.7 million Hispanics reside in America, making this community the largest minority in the U.S., and in New York state, Latinos are the second largest racial and ethnic group, making up 19% of the population.

What started as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 under former President Lyndon B. Johnson was expanded to a month-long observance 20 years later by President Ronald Reagan. The start of Latino Heritage Month coincides with the commemoration of the independence of five Central American nations from Spain: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico celebrates its independence the following day on September 16, and Chile celebrates its independence day on September 18. Also, the month-long celebration coincides with the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas.

FEC director Curtis Turney-Rentas, himself a first-generation descendant of Puerto Rican and Panamanian parentage, said, “Latinos today continue to advance communities across the country as business owners, police officers, firefighters, veterans, teachers, community leaders, among many other professions. I am immensely proud that The B.R.I.D.G.E. FEC is bringing this first-ever community-wide celebration of our collective heritage to Rockaway’s center stage, the boardwalk.”

He added, “Our FEC’s official name—The B.R.I.D.G.E.—encapsulates what nationwide cultural observances such as Latino Heritage Month strive for—Building Relationships Inspiring Development Growth and Excellence.”

In March of 2022, Rockaway-based, Ocean Bay Community Development Corporation (OBCDC), was amongst nine city-wide awardees selected to run NYC Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) Family Enrichment Center expansion sites. Launched in 2017, FECs are warm, home-like walk-in centers, proactively co-designed by the local community. What’s particularly innovative about the FECs is that they are community led, from where they are located, how they are physically designed, what they offer to their unique name, which in Rockaway is The B.R.I.D.G.E. Community members are welcome to teach classes, plan events or even just hang out in the space. The B.R.I.D.G.E. is currently in renovation mode for their center located on Beach 92nd Street, and expects to be fully open within the coming months.

With the planning of the first-of-its-kind Latino Heritage Month Festival, Turney-Rentas says the community will see that there’s nothing monolithic about Latin American people, food, music and culture as a whole. He said, “Latin Americans encompass different races, skin tones and countries of origin; some speak Spanish, and some don’t. Though called the same name, a traditional dish in one country may be different from another’s.”

At next Saturday’s festival, attendees will get the opportunity to test that theory. For example, there will be empanadas from both the Dominican Republic and Colombia. Attendees will not just see, but taste that though the popular crescent-shaped pastry filled with savory or sweet fillings from each respective country shares the same name, they are worlds apart with the ingredients and how they are prepared.

In addition, at the event, attendees will be each given a passport and Latin American flag of their choosing. And as they visit each country’s food station, their passport will be stamped, signifying the country they “visited.” Also, participants will get to work those yummy calories off with a free salsa dance session taught by two of NYC’s premiere salseros.

For local Ivonne Colón, who was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, but has lived in NYC since she was seven years old, getting the opportunity to celebrate her Latin culture with her son here in Rockaway is an experience she is looking forward to. “For me, being able to experience the food, music and dancing from Puerto Rico takes me back to the island and my family. And to experience that here in Rockaway, by the ocean, will feel like my son and I took a trip not just to Puerto Rico, but other Latin American countries just for the day. I look forward to learning about other Latino cultures, especially their food,” Colon said.

Turney-Rentas shared that sharing Latino culture with the peninsula at large is something he believes could help unite the community. “Food and music are great avenues to introduce a new cultural experience, and at The B.R.I.D.G.E, we look forward to sparking the conversation about what unites us—our love of our respective cultures and sharing it with others,” he said.

The B.R.I.D.G.E. Latino Heritage Month Celebration is next Saturday, October 14, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Beach 95th Street Amphitheater and the boardwalk. RSVP at For more info about The B.R.I.D.G.E. FEC, visit: fecthebridge on Instagram.

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