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WOW! Loisaida Center and Nuyorican Poets Cafe forge new collaboration

BY RACHEL deARAGON | The three-year closure of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe for a major reconstruction project has not stopped this Lower East Side cultural powerhouse! Nuyorican has brought its wide variety of creative endeavors into collaboration with other local organizations. The result is true cultural dynamism.

WOW! (Women Orators Wednesdays) is a performance space where women speak freely. Moving the rhythm of the feminine from the sweet to the bitter, from the raging to the soft, the voices of women ring out powerfully. This event is held at the Loisaida Center, 710 E. Ninth St., the first Wednesday of each month. Poets are given two to four minutes in front of the microphone. The room is still; the orator is heard. Younger and older — in English, Spanish or whatever language you need to speak — the room is listening.

WOW! host Felicia Cada a.k.a. “Rise Felicia.” (Photo by Ron M. Trenkler-Thomson)

Men are welcome. This is not an atmosphere of exclusion. It is not a place to compete, but one in which to grow. Snap your fingers to say, “That was a thought well said.”

Felicia Cade hosts, stepping in for Caridad de la Cruz, who brought her Women’s Open Mic to the Loisaida Center, a space as welcoming to all as the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Solpreme also hosts an open mic at Loisaida.

Many of the women who step forward to deliver meaningful reflections on the many sides of women’s experience at WOW! are participants in the Saturday writing workshops offered from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Langston Hughes House, at 20 W. 127th St. The program is another Nuyorican Poets Cafe outreach, hosted by poet Felicia Cade.

Grace, one of the performers, reading from her notebook. (Photo by Ron M. Trenkler-Thomson)

The spirit of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe integrates seamlessly with an organization whose neighborhood roots and mission parallel the Nuyorican in time, place and vision. The Loisaida Center, founded in 1979, is an organization which cultivates the self-expression of the young as it teaches, archives and infuses the history of the Spanish-speaking community on the Lower East Side through the arts.

Nuyorican Executive Director Caridad “La Bruja” De La Luz giving an oration at WOW! this past December at the cafe’s E. Third Street location, which is currently under renovation. (Photo by Paul Abreu)

Like Nuyorican, The Loisaida Center was primarily built by artists from the Puerto Rican community who saw the importance of creating avenues of self-expression within a context where their voices were not being heard.

Loisaida is a perfect partner! Alejandro Epifanio Torres is the executive and artistic director, a practical visionary and the spirit that is energizing the Loisaida Center. Through the MUJER (Media Used for Justice Equity and Respect) program, Loisaida Center has responded to the talent and ambition of the young by giving them a unique opportunity to become part of an independent media production project, while learning technical recording studio skills at the Loisaida TV Studio. (Loisaida TV is a live-stream YouTube channel.) So often dreams can seem out of reach to young people whose horizons are obstructed by poverty and a lack of opportunity. The Loisaida Center builds bridges that make “dreams deferred” into “dreams possible.”

Performer “Cosmic Vagina” at WOW! in December. (Photo by Paul Abreu)

Nuyorican Cafe has not just closed for “Nuyoricanstruction”! It is repositioning itself within a community that embraces the power of art to change the world. On every first Monday of the month, you can dip your spoon into Rome Neal’s Banana Pudding Jazz Jam (another Nuyorican signature event) now at Theater for the New City, at 155 First Ave. Or catch a Nuyorican poetry slam at the Bowery Poetry Club, at 308 Bowery, hosted by JRose, every Monday night at 7 p.m. — or at the International Center For Photography on a Thursday, every other month (the next is on May 9).


  1. Alejandro Epifanio Torres Alejandro Epifanio Torres April 1, 2024

    Love it, thanks Rachel!

  2. Elizabeth H Upton Elizabeth H Upton March 17, 2024

    I’m so glad to hear that the Nuyorican is going strong in collaboration with other local organizations! This article by Rachel de Aragon captures the excitement.

  3. Rome Neal Rome Neal March 16, 2024

    Thank you Rachel for being in with us at the Nuyorican for so many years… Actully, Banana Puddin’ Jazz is the LAST Monday of each month and I have been having a ball at TNC!

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