Raíces Cultural Center
Backstory and Context
Raíces means roots. Raíces Cultural Center has put down its roots in the Hub City of New Brunswick, creating a home for the cultural arts and sustainable ecology in Central NJ.
Raíces Cultural Center is a non- profit organization in New Brunswick dedicated to the investigation, celebration, education, and preservation of Caribbean cultures in the northern New Jersey area.
Raíces has many activities. It has an ecology and sustainable practices portion of its programming. This includes gardening and seeding workshops, a seed library, and seed co-op. They also have a Folkloric Music and Dance Ensemble that performs traditional Bomba and Plena and other Caribbean and South American dance traditions. Through dance, folkloric music, history, performances, and sustainable ecology, Raíces seeks to create a harmonious balance with nature while preserving the cultural heritage of Caribbean communities. Raíces also seeks to empower local communities through accessible, affordable cultural programming as well as through dissemination of Caribbean culture through art, history, and ecology. Raíces' Folkloric Ensemble embodies its sense of community, a connection to history and heritage. They perform the folkloric traditions like Rhumba, báta, bomba, plena, són, comparsa, seis, and aguinaldo. They also educate their audiences on the traditions and historical context behind the music. Often these narratives relate to the spiritual indigenous inheritances, the heritage of colonialism, the trans -Atlantic slave trade, and connections to African and Caribbean people in the diaspora.
Raíces expresses love for its community through service, its performances, its sustainable ecology programming, passion for Puerto Rican, Cuban, and all Caribbean cultures.
Like Puerto Rican music, Puerto Rican spiritual traditions have a myriad of influences. In addition to Catholicism imported from Spain, the tradition of Santeria and a version of Afro -Christian Catholicism combine with Indigenous practices, and a variety of African belief systems. The Puerto Rican heritage, like many Caribbean peoples, is comprised of this array of multiple influences; from the indigenous Taíno people who occupied the island before the conquest by Europeans from Spain, to the Spanish population who devastated the indigenous Taíno, and also from enslaved persons who were brought from Africa. This cultural complexity is amplified when considering that Puerto Ricans are also American citizens, so when they emigrate, they experience cultural tensions from yet another perspective. Art and connection to traditional culture is a way to celebrate and preserve cultural heritage while creating new connections and community cohesion through shared values.
“Music is a story of survival and determination” says musician Joe Bataán. In many ways, the Folkloric traditions celebrate shared values with a sense of community and in another way, they explain and recount a painful history of colonization and its subsequent political, social and economic unrest. This history is something that can not be forgotten. The history is able to be disseminated through the music.
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5. Official Tourism Website of New Jersey, Things To Do, VisitNJ.org, https://www.visitnj.org/nj-performing-arts/raices-cultural-center, 2019.
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