This is Jemma, now, writing about our last day! Today was maybe my favorite, so I’m glad it’s my turn to write.
We woke up, ate our last cereal breakfast, and headed to Center City. The temperature had dropped about 30 degrees overnight, and we found ourselves in a massive wind tunnel and absolutely freezing. We stumbled into our first stop: Al Día news, Philadelphia’s Spanish language newspaper. We were greeted by a team of Al Día reporters, including Arturo Varela who had arranged the meeting, as well as the managing editor of Al Día, Sabrina Vourvoulias. They guided us into a beautiful conference room where we sat around to discuss their important work of providing a Spanish-language media source in Philly. We were especially interested to hear their perspective on the City Council hearings yesterday, as they are, of course, far more knowledgable than we are. They commented that there were many new faces in the hearings from a diverse array of immigrant communities. We also discussed the role of Al Día in the community, and their mission of “expanding the notion of what ‘Latino news’ means,” emphasizing that it isn’t solely to cater to issues specific to the Latino community, but rather also topics such as art and culture in the city. They also shared that soon their website will be entirely bilingual, in English and Spanish. The editorial in the newspaper is always in English to make their message available to a broad audience. We all found their perspective fascinating!
Next, we hopped back on the Broad Street Line and headed to South Philly where we met with Mark Phillips, who currently works at the Department of Commerce of Philadelphia, working on outreach to local businesses in the Latino community. He gave us an overview of what it looks like to start a business in Philadelphia, and especially the challenges that immigrants in the community face. For example, many don’t have a high school education or speak English. Compound that with being undocumented for many, and you can imagine how difficult and confusing the process is. Mark then took us to a local business he works with, “Los Taquitos de Puebla” where we had a chance to chat with the charismatic owner, Juan Carlos, who had seen us yesterday at City Hall! We chatted with him in Spanish about how the community has changed in the past ten years, and the exciting revitalization of 9th Street.
We had a little time before we headed to tutoring, so we stopped at a favorite panadería (bread and pastry shop) near Southwark School, “Cafeteria and Panadería Las Rosas.” After buying tea and churros, we began chatting with the owner, David, and when we explained to him what we were doing, he quickly gave us three pastries on the house. The next thing we knew, we were meeting the bakers. who came out from the kitchen to take a few photos with us. The shop was originally a bakery owned by Italian immigrants, but had since closed when David bought it two years ago, an example of the waves of immigration that have come through South Philly. After being given two more slices of cake and a warm fig pastry for free, we headed to Southwark School!
The crew got to experience my daily grind as they came to tutoring! It was so fun to have them! We ducked out a little early to head to Tequila’s Restaurant, a beautiful Mexican restaurant in Center City. Owner David Suro-Piñera spoke to us for an hour about the history of the Mexican community in Philadelphia, and his passion for supporting the community. A highlight came when Ramelcy asked David if he considered himself an activist, to which he replied, “No, I would say I’m a Mexican with a conscience.” We were all in awe of his combination of intellectual perspective, sense of humor, and generosity. If this weren’t enough, we then enjoyed an incredible dinner. Personally, I ate shrimp, lobster, and crab enchiladas. No complaints.
This week has been absolutely incredible, and I feel so lucky to have spent it with six incredible Haverford and Bryn Mawr students. I can’t wait to see where they go next! I can personally say that I have such a more complex and rich perspective on the community I have been working with, and feel a renewed sense of passion for my work at Puentes. Thanks, CPGC!