Essex St (J, M, Z)Delancey St (F)2 Av (F)
Teatro LATEA’s Mission is foster, preserve and promote the contributions made by Latinos primarily in the performing arts with the aim to inspire, nurture, challenge, amaze, educate and empower artists and audiences,
Teatro LATEA origins began in 1982 when the late Nelson Tamayo (Equador), Mateo Gomez (Dominican Republic) and two years later Nelson Landrieu (Uruguay) joined forces in what was to become a long journey for the award-winning veteran film, television and print actors, who wanted to give back to their community. The threesome later connected with Puerto Rican activist Marta Garcia in a business venture…Rincon Taino, a privately owned Café in Manhattan where the intelligencia of New York Latinos would gather in masse.
Rincon Taino became an important cultural hub for disseminating new literary works by USA based artists, a place for new voices, folklore music, and gallery for visual artist. The popular Café quickly became a haven for performing visiting artists from Latin American/Caribbean …whose partnerships with LATEA subsequently lead to invitations for LATEA productions to participate in multiple international festivals.
Unfortunately, the Café’s lease was lost and LATEA began a new life as an incorporated non profit in the Lower East Side.
“Around this time, NYC was reaching its nadir and teetered on the brink of insolvency. Loisaida, as the Latinos of the Lower East Side baptized the neighborhood, was flooded by hard drugs and abandoned properties, including the recently closed PS 160, which the City tried to auction off in 1971 for a price of $7,000 and nobody bought it. The 90,000 sq. ft. building languished, a hulking, dark eyesore in the community that became a magnet for heroin addicts.
Thankfully in the mid 70s, the City leased the former school to the non-profit organization Solidaridad Humana, which brought in multiple educational and cultural tenants, including SUNY’s Empire State College and Teatro LATEA. Together, these organizations managed to keep the aging heating system and pipes functioning long enough to get through the winters. Through a series of unforeseen calamities, the fortunes of Solidaridad Humana, the leaseholder, began to collapse in 1992 and a year later, the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center was founded by Puerto Rican writer, Edgardo Vega Yunque, Marta Garcia, and actors Nelson Landrieu and Mateo Gómez from Uruguay and the Dominican Republic, respectively. Vega and Garcia were instrumental in urging that the cultural center be named in honor of the poet who had passed away a few months earlier. “ NilP guest commentary by Luis Cancel former New York City Commissioner, Department of Cultural Affairs.
The founding of the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural & Educational Center, one of New York City’s largest arts incubators is perhap’s LATEA’s greatest accomplishments and legacy. With the support of a group of people LATEA’s leadership safeguarded the former Public School building, where the theater is housed, for the continued use of the community. The 1897 gothic building is a treasured landmark and a draw for tourists.