On the third Wednesday of each month, salsa dancers from all over Chicago flock to the Promontory in Hyde Park. Deep purple lights flood the dance floor, creating a sultry ambience. Drums pound and trumpets roar, setting a rhythm for the bodies spinning and swaying on the dance floor.
When I was twelve years old, my oldest brother brought me to visit the National Museum of Mexican Art. I took in everything around me, excited to know that someone who shared my culture and experiences had created the pieces that I was seeing. When I think back to this first visit I remember knowing with a fierce confidence that my history and culture were important. On September 19, the NMMA held an opening for “Rito y Recuerdo,” its annual Day of the Dead exhibit. The event drew so many people that the museum staff was forced to turn away visitors, and even as they did more people continued to make their way to one of Pilsen’s most vital cultural centers. The NMMA boasts a great history coupled with an impressive permanent collection of 7,500 pieces. Founded in 1987 by Carlos Tortolero and a team of educators, the museum has since grown, not just in the scope of its collection and programming, but also in its impact on the community. Vanessa Sanchez directs Yollocalli Arts Reach, a youth education initiative of the museum. I recently had the chance to speak to her about education, Yollocalli’s beginnings, and the museum’s 60,000 students. Continue reading