By Lourdes Espinoza
Hidden in the community of Boyle Heights lays the rewarding Corazon Del Pueblo community center.
For the past two and a half years, Corazon has served as a donation-only organization accommodating the Boyle Heights community and its surrounding area.
Corazon hosts a number of events that include: English classes, grade-school tutoring, evening Yoga and dance classes, and many creative art events involving music and poetry, such as open mic nights. Corazon Del Pueblo was an art gallery formely known as Brooklyn & Boyle which was forced to shut down.
When the community learned of the news, they decided to convert the space into a community center and Corazon Del Pueblo was born.
The first event ever at Corazon Del Pueblo was “Bohemian Nights in Boyle Heights,” a spoken word and live music event which turned out to be more successful than anticipated. This helped break news that such a space would exist among the streets of Boyle Heights and invited all interested residents of the community and its surrounding area to join.
Skira Martinez, one of the founding members said, “I always say beautiful people attract beautiful people.” It has been two and a half years since this space has been occupied and it continues to thrive.
Corazon hosts many events and operates strictly on donations, although the board members make sure to contribute as well to help keep the center’s doors open to the public and free of charge. All the programs and events held at Corazon are free but donations are greatly appreciated.
One of the center’s main focuses is to curb the 60 percent dropout rate that exists in Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles. Many of the events staged there involve much of the local youth, including Roosevelt High School students. In this way, the local youth can learn how to network, plan and organize an event, call and book bands, and learn to handle finances.
Other programs include a Women’s Circle every Monday at 6 p.m. where women are invited to come share, connect and heal with each other. On Tuesdays, an ‘Open Art’ for all ages night us held from 5-7 p.m.
“Flowers of Fire,” an open mic night event, is held every second and fourth Wednesday of the month, which developed out of “Bohemian Nights in Boyle Heights,” beginning at 8 p.m. A $2 to $3 donation for this event is asked for at the door.
“Mayan and Egyptian Yoga” are hosted on Thursday nights from 7:30-8:30 p.m. They also hold movie nights on Sundays.
Martinez said, “Art really speaks to me. I see it as an important vehicle for social change.”
Corazon has collaborated with other surrounding community centers such as Self-Help Graphics and East Side Café to help widen the doors for this community-driven project. These collaborations allow for more revenue and networking opportunities.
Ovarian-Psycho Cycles, a mostly-female, community-involved, bicycle group based in Los Angeles, is one of the several organizations that work out of the Corazon Del Pueblo’s space. In this fashion, they network and become readily available when financial help is needed or for other support.
Once a month, the program at Corazon Del Pueblo hosts themed art exhibits displaying works from many of the local artists which are available to purchase. In these exhibitions, both the artist and Corazon receive a percentage of the purchase further aiding the artist and Corazon’s cause. Some of these art exhibits’ themes have been, “Love and Unity within Resistance” and “Black and Brown Unity”.
Martinez said, “We open the doors for artists and we open it in many different ways. There are a lot of artisans that work in the neighborhood, but don’t have a place to display their work.”
Martinez made sure to note that it is extremely important to keep this place open as donations-only based. Corazon Del Pueblo accepts donations of every form. People can donate financially in person or by writing a check, donating art, supplies and by spreading the word among friends.
Corazon been in danger of shutting down twice to date but was salvaged by the community through emergency fundraisers. This establishment was created for people within the community to enter and to take advantage of its resources whether it be for socially active, art-related, or educational reasons.
The center is located at 2003 E. First St. Los Angeles, CA. 90033 and are open daily. Visit the center at facebook.com/corazondelpueblo for information on upcoming events.