El Centro de Oro, the golden center, fosters Latino dance, music and culture in Fairhill, while also bringing light to an abundance of resources available in the community. This has been showcased since 1979 at the Feria Del Barrio celebration. The annual celebration is put on by Taller Puertorriqueño, Congreso de Latinos Unidos, HACE and Raices Culturales Latinoamericans.
At this year’s celebration, Latino artists displayed their work, health providers gave free blood pressure tests and food vendors gave out free treats to passersby. The four organizations that put on the festival drew people in to talk about the services they offer to the community.
Esperanza Health Center serves the El Centro de Oro district as well as Kensington and Hunting Park. Tony Gonzalez, the community programs coordinator at Esperanza Health Center, said they offer primary health care to all ages, including children, pre-natal care and dental work.
“The way that things are handled here is more on a face-to-face basis,” said Gonzalez. “At our other locations, people tend to call, while here, people tend to walk into our office.”
GALAEI,the only HIV/AIDS education program in Pennsylvania focused primarily on queer Latinos, was present at the celebration. Naiema Sanchez, a representative of GALAEI, said they offer STD testing, health counseling, while bringing social justice to the queer Latino population.
“We’re here to let everyone know that our organization is out here for Latino gay individuals,” said Sanchez.
“We want to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS prevention,” added her colleague, Juan Franco.
Congreso, one of the partners of the event, works to strengthen Latino communities like El Centro de Oro through education, help in the workforce, medical and safety services. Leslie Jimenez, a case manager in behavioral health services for Congreso, explained that the festival is very beneficial because most people working in social services know each other and this allows them to get together in person.
“One of the great things is having everyone in one spot,” said Jimenez. “We can all exchange information. Some of our staff have gone around to the tables collecting information that will be helpful for our clients.”
Organizations serving El Centro de Oro and the Fairhill area work together to keep the sense of community alive. In the age of technology, this neighborhood still enjoys face-to-face meetings and seeing a presence in their community from the many organizations that serve them.
– Text and images by Grace Nonnemaker.