On behalf of the entire Sofrito Media Group and the Capicu Culture Family, we want to congratulate Juan “PaPo” Santiago for being honored with the prestigious Lo Mejor De Nuestra Comunidad (Best Of Our Community) Award for community building and leadership in the Latino arts! Comite Noviembre -composed of ten of the oldest and most prestigious Puerto Rican organizations in the country- is issuing the awards and PaPo is one of 9 distinguished recipients, whose past winners include Young Lord Richie Perez, Dr. Antonia Pantoja- founder of ASPIRA, Professor Esperanza Martell, mainstream artists such as Rosie Perez, Jennifer Lopez, and of course our very own George ‘Urban Jibaro’ Torres. A rising star, this is PaPo’s third recognition since 2012, having also received a New York State Assembly Citation of Merit in 2012, and New York City Council Certificate of Recognition in 2013 also for leadership in the arts community.
After near a decade of successful and exciting years in the corporate music and nightlife industry, PaPo decided to focus his marketing and promotion skills towards empowering the community he came from. In his own words, “my gift has been to get the smart kids to sit at the cool kids table”. Tuned in to the pulse of current trends in youth culture, arts-for-change and social good projects in New York City, he stands at the forefront of some key movements taking place at the grassroots level of organizing in the South Bronx, Spanish Harlem, Lower East Side, Bushwick Brooklyn, and parts of New Jersey. Aside from 7 years collaborating with Sofrito For Yor Soul in developing Capicu Poetry and Cultural Showcase, as a community builder he is a founding member of Sangre Viva Arts Alliance, an umbrella organization of artists, educators and writers from across the Afro-Latino diaspora who work to connect on many relevant community issues through annual organized panels at Hunter College and Fordham University.
He is also strengthening the bond between the founding and original members of the decades old Nuyorican Poetry movement and the upcoming members of the current Latino literary community, who often have lived separate lives in terms of literary events. Finally, having grown up in a predominantly African-American neighborhood in Brooklyn and now at a level of high visibility within the Latino arts and nightlife community, PaPo is actively engaging a solidarity movement between African American and Latino creatives, for which he has partnered with some influential activists from both groups. Other partnerships he is spearheading involve arts workshops at Boricua College and El Puentes CADRE (Community Artists’ Development & Resource Exchange). In the meantime, he has influenced many other event producers, artists and poets and keeps a varied roster of of mentors close to heart.
The big question has become: Why would a man that works tirelessly for the entire Afro-Latino diaspora receive an award that was designed exclusively for Puerto Ricans working within the Puerto Rican community?
“It was actually a surprise for me, I have always tried to cast a wider net. However Puerto Ricans in New York City have a vibrant history of activism that I am proud to be a part of and pull from in order to help people. The way I’m looking at it, at every level of connection to other communities, I bring my family and friends along, typically Puerto Ricans with ties to many other communities, who in turn help me promote a grander idea of acceptance and inclusion for ALL the poor and oppressed people in this country no matter where they originate from. Collaboration is the key. I grew up orphaned and poor, and was faced with Selective Mutism social disorder as a child (which just meant to me that I only spoke to my mom) and Bipolar disorder as a young adult which developed after my parents passing, I remember there being alot of worry about how I would relate to people. But I used the arts as forms of therapeutic expression and later, education. The arts saved me so I have always had an affinity for the creative, always seen its potential for empowerment. Good art draws people in, and once you have their attention, you can have the conversations that lead to actions. With many different partners across different disciplines I’ve helped our artistic communities bring educational tools and supplies to children in Haiti, children in the Dominican Republic, poor and homeless children of every background all over New York City. Why? Because poor is poor, and children are children, no matter what flags we wave at our parades. Of course, I am a proud Puerto Rican! But I am a proud member of the Human race first.” says PaPo.
Along with the other distinguished recipients, PaPo received his award on Tuesday October 29th at El Museo Del Barrio, 6 PM alongside: • Al Quinones, President, 52 People for Progress Inc. • Bill Pacheco, Founder, WEPAVILLE (dedicated to preserve the culture and history of Puerto Rico) • Dr. Carlos Conde, Opera Artist, Cultural Developer/Professor of Voice, Brooklyn Conservatory, Brooklyn College, CUNY, • Elizabeth Figueroa, Director Community Relations, NY Botanical Gardens • Elena Martinez, Folklorist, Citylore • Juan ‘PaPo Swiggity’ Santiago, Co-Founder, Capicu Poetry & Cultural Showcase • Roberto “Mucaro” Borrero, President, United Confederation of Taíno People • Manny Vega, artist and activist • Sery Colon, producer, director, actor, poet, activist
As PaPo Swiggity himself would say… ELEVACION!!!!