OLA celebrates Hispanic culture through arts on East End

For Executive Director Minerva Perez, the growth of the annual Latino Film Festival shows a desire to learn about different experiences.

Jon Dowding

Sep 25, 2023, 11:48 AM

Updated 211 days ago


For over 20 years, OLA has made it their mission to share and celebrate Hispanic culture through the arts.
The organization recently held their 20th annual Latino Film Festival, where films in Spanish are shown with English subtitles. What started out as a one night premiere two decades ago has now grown into a four-day festival.
For Executive Director Minerva Perez, the growth of the festival shows a desire to learn about different experiences.
"It's a testament to the importance of the human story and it's a testament to stories in Spanish,” Perez said. "The stories that are coming out of Chile, the stories that are coming out of Cuba, or out of El Salvador, they're just interesting and it's important that we're sharing these different perspectives."
OLA fills the need for essential services at no cost to the East End community whether it be a bilingual mental health helpline for teens, advocacy work or legal advice.  However, the arts are central to their mission because they create dialogue.
"That's sometimes the only way you can have a conversation about what someone is really living through or feeling. It is the way that you bring empathy.,” she said. “It is the way that you bring dialogue. The way that you allow yourself to feel vulnerable and uncomfortable."
Yubal Marquez Fleites owns Arte Collective, one of the few Hispanic galleries on the East End. He formed a partnership with OLA so the arts can continue to tell a story.
"If it be culinary art, visual art, performing arts, or poetry, it tells our story. It tells our way of life. It talks about our values. It talks about our heritage,” he said.
Marquez Fleites knows the importance of telling your own story. 
A glimpse into his family's life in Cuba is on display in SOMOS/WE ARE: Latinx Artists of Long Island, an exhibit featuring the cultural heritage and artistic contributions of the Latinx community of Long Island. It runs from now until December 17 at the Long Island Museum.
"It gives us that opportunity to keep expanding the voice, to share that,” said  Marquez Fleites.
OLA's work, however, doesn't just stop with the Latino community.
"Inclusivity and the hard work that you need to put into that has to be at the center of what you do otherwise it's not for the entire community,” said Perez.
If you need help, learn about the ways you can contact OLA via their website here.
Learn more about SOMOS/WE ARE: Latinx Artists of Long Island, now on display at the Long Island Museum, here.
Para los hispanohablantes, aprenda más sobre la organización en esta entrevista

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