Although they make up just 12 percent of Philadelphia, the city’s Latino population is not shy about making their mark on the community. These are five people within Philadelphia’s Latino community who are dedicated to making a difference.
These five people are a small sampling of the noteworthy Latinos who call Philadelphia their home.
Judith Suzarra-Campbell, head chef and co-owner of Sazon Restaurant & Cafe
Meet the owner and chef behind some of the most savory Venezuelan food you will find in Philadelphia. Judith (pictured above) and her husband, Robert, opened Sazon Restaurant & Cafe nearly 10 years ago at the corner of 10th and Spring Garden Street.
From jugos naturales (fresh fruit juices) to authentic arepas to their famous postres (deserts) and hot chocolate, Sazon has become a healthy hot spot for a very diverse neighborhood.
“We are like nutritionists,” Judith described her husband and herself. “We keep our ingredients clean and pure so people can get the energy and antioxidants that they need for their body. ”
Cristina Gonzalez (with family), owner of Centro Musical
Cristina is the third generation owner of Centro Musical, a music store that has been in business for more than 50 years. In that time, Centro Musical has flourished into a music store jam-packed with authentic music and instruments from all over South America.
With the help of her brother (Ray) and her father (Wilfredo), Cristina uses the store for much more than spreading Latin music. The Gonzalez’s are active members of the Latino community who organize clothing drives, health care registrations and a celebration of Three Kings, the Hispanic winter holiday that rewards every neighborhood child with a gift.
Jose Solis, bagel roller, Spread Bagelry
You always see the bagel going into the wood-fire brick oven, but do you know the hard work it takes to make the perfect bagel? Jose Solis is the man behind the scenes at Spread Bagelry. He prepares the dough and rolls the Montreal-style bagels by hand daily.
Thomas Morton, photographer, scholar and professor
Thomas Morton is a native of Philadelphia who has worked as a photographer, linguist and teacher. His early photography focuses on the relationship between African-Americans and Latinos from Philadelphia to South America.
He completed his master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania where he focused his thesis on Palenquero, a unique blend of Spanish, Portuguese and Creole that can be heard only in select parts of Colombia.
Since finishing his education, Morton has dedicated many hours to the Spanish-speakers of Philadelphia by volunteering at several nonprofit organizations in the Latino community and teaching at three different colleges.
Jose Aviles, director of education at Taller Puertorriqueño
Jose Aviles plays a key role in shaping the future of Philadelphia’s Latino community. Aviles is the director of education at Taller Puertorriqueño at 2557 N. 5th Street. Aviles oversees after school and out-of-school time programs for kids ages 5-18.
The program pushes cultural identity within the kids. This semester’s theme is exploring Latino historical changers in politics, history and all facets of art.
“The children are the most rewarding part of my job,” Aviles said. “Everything from their journeys to what they take away, their engagement in learning, the life skills they acquire and the relationships they build with each other.”
– Text and Images by Ross DiMattei and Oscar Castillo