I had the privilege of being one of R.Evolución Latina’s summer interns alongside my now friend Maria Lozada-Belisario. I am a proud Boricua and I love being able to say that I grew up in a diverse working class neighborhood. My father instilled in me that we are always learning from our peers. Most importantly, he told me that we should never be afraid to take risks. My father loved baseball and said that even if we are wrong in our attempt we are learning for our next time at bat. He once looked at my Mom and said, “Nicky is gonna be a waiter.” My mom looked at him in disbelief and responded, “why?” He then said, “Because he’s gotta work somewhere before he becomes an actor.” Unfortunately, my father passed away two weeks before my 11th birthday. While we did not have much time together, I know that he gave me the tools to be an exceptional performer as well as a kind human being.
However, growing up in a house with a fraternal twin brother and a younger brother who excelled in sports I was left with myself and the internet to find theater programs to participate in. On that journey, I had forgotten the essential part of theater; the community that it revolves around. Without my father, I felt like I had lost a part of my identity. I had no one in the house to speak to me in Spanish or tell me of traditions, expressions, and beliefs Puerto Ricans hold. Growing up, I felt as though no theater program was diverse enough to help aid in this missing part of my life. I felt like there was no Latiné representation in a city known for being the hub of cultural diversity. Ultimately, I was not fortunate enough to find my own Hispanic identity in teen theater programs. Despite this, R.Evolución Latina proved to me that there is a Hispanic community in the performing arts.
My time at R.Evolución Latina not only enlightened me, it inspired me. In particular, their 16th annual Dare 2 Go Beyond Performing Arts Camp offered children and young adults from across the tri-state the opportunity to show off their talent and express who they are as people. Most notably, they were able to create a vibrant community. This camp’s primary goal was not to build performers. This camp executed the belief of granting kids the opportunity to have tools to use in their daily lives. R.Evolución Latina did not just build a community, they built a family of artists who helped everyone feel seen. Kids felt safe in letting their guards down. Vulnerability was thrown out the window once they knew everyone was daring to go beyond. On top of that, they also facilitated a space to have those in the Latiné community embrace their culture. The most empowering part of this camp was seeing kids speak Spanish to one another. I admired seeing them translate for their friends if English was not their first language. I did not just teach these kids how to act, they taught me how to embrace being Latino.
We started each day with a call and response. “Welcome to R.Evolución Latina!” everyone would then excitedly exclaim “I dare to go beyond!” With over a hundred kids, I was daunted at the idea of having a class with more than 20 kids. I truly did not think I had the experience to handle the amount of kids as well as how to communicate with 13-17 years olds at only 20 years of age. At first, the room was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. However, as the week progressed the silence erupted into a variety of singing, acting, and laughter. Nevertheless, as the week progressed awkwardness subsided and courage quickly spread amongst these young adolescents I had the honor to collaborate with. Friendships and memories were made to last a lifetime. By the end of camp, not a single child wanted to leave.
R.Evolución Latina has cultivated an environment where children can feel free to be whoever they want to be. Their mantras, traditions, and teachers have helped to form a community of hispanic artists dedicated to serving those who seek to be ambitious. I owe one million thank yous to R.Evolución Latina for offering me the opportunity to be a part of their Dare 2 Go Beyond Camp this year. From the bottom of my heart, you gave me a second home in my own backyard.
By Nicky Quirindongo