I had a great opportunity to interview Jessica Muñoz-Vuillet. Jessica is a proud mother and Boricua, raised in the South Bronx and recent transplant back to Puerto Rico from Switzerland where she lived for several years. Jessica is the CEO and Founder of La Salita Café, a movement to empower Puerto Rico’s local talent and support local agriculture while holding true to our strong values of social responsibility!
She hopes that her Kickstarter program will help bring her dream of building La Salita Café into reality. In her own words, La Salita Café is socially & environmentally conscious café (and hub) dedicated to empowering local Puerto Rican artists, poets, musicians & filmmakers with the purpose of protecting our culture, giving back to the community and preserving the environment. She will also work to encourage local organic agriculture by serving an array of traditional Puerto Rican dishes made only from healthy, organic food that is grown locally. La Salita Café not only supports local creative talent, but also celebrates the unique blends of what healthy Puerto Rican cuisine can be.
To find out more about Jessica and her La Salita Café initiative, please visit her official blog, which discusses Puerto Rican culture, history, and tradition. There is also the Poets Corner, where local poets can share or discover fantastic local poetry. If you like to contribute please visit her Kickstarter site and help her achieve her goal.
Below is the interview I had with her regarding her dedication to bring together art and culture within the Puerto Rican community.
I have vacationed in Puerto Rico every year for as long as I remember. When I was living in NY I would come 3 – 4 times a year. When I was living in Europe, I would only come once a year but would stay longer. In my heart, Puerto Rico has always been home and it was only a matter of time before I moved back.
Over the years, I saw the gradual loss of our culture in Puerto Rico. The boom in mainstream music, I believe the direct result of gentrification, have eliminated many grassroots venues on the Island. Artists are now retreating to the isolated rural areas from which they originally came. I decided to take a leaf of faith. Fueled by my love of my country, the people and arts, I decided to help in the fight to reclaim our cultural identity by creating a space for artists, writers, activists, thinkers and dreamers. A space IN these same gentrified communities that have pushed us away and replaced our culture with more white-washed offerings that the new residents can relate to!
A voice, conversation, hope, inspiration and faith in our own ability to make things better! Providing an artistic den like La Salita Café I hope will provide the much needed platform to inspire social change and begin to transform our community.
Yes, it’s dimensional and related really. Educating the community on the importance of doing our part to preserve the environment and the joys of eating healthier. To disassociate the relation between being green=a costly lifestyle. How it’s as simple as just investing some effort like avoid running water during food preparation or while brushing your teeth and switching to whole grain rice.
Absolutely, the government doesn’t create jobs, businesses do. The government has provided initiatives and tax benefits or “loop holes” to lure wealthy investors to relocate to Puerto Rico but they have not created the support for the individuals and small businesses of Puerto Rico. We need to empower our communities, equip them to achieve their growth goals, which in turn creates employment and addresses social issues. It starts with us, the startups, the small businesses to keep the bright young Puerto Ricans on the island. This is where their future lies!
We have just created a group on Meetup.com. Until we open, this will be our community face-to-face group to feed our minds, body and soul. What’s special here is that it immediately generates our core value which is a “positive conversation” in a creative circle. We are initiating memberships so that we can start to have actual meet ups where anything is up for discussion, all while we have a coffee, enjoy the sun and make new friends.
The end goal is to enable our local talent to sell and present their work to a larger audience, to get validation; being able to make the link between the artists and key leaders within the industry. We then hope to be make a presence in the multiple gentrified communities spread out on the Island to re-inject our cultural identity and reclaim these spaces. By advocating for the adoption of our social values we aim to cultivate social responsibility and long-term growth for the communities.
Yesterday! Finding a space and getting funding has proven to be a challenge for our initiative since “Poetry is a dying art and Bomba and Plena doesn’t sell”. But, going up against the institutionalized offerings of Puerto Rican culture tailored to the tourism they are trying to attract is a setback I was expecting. The process has just taken a bit longer than expected, but as we say, “¡pa’lante Boricua!”
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