November 23, 30, and December 7, 2020

Where Art Meets Green in the South Bronx!

Special HOLIDAY ENCORE REELS episode airs December 21st!

We’re bringing SUMMER back and kicking off the holidays—Boogie Down style! 

Stage Garden Rumba —Where Art meets Green in the South Bronx— goes digital for three sizzling Monday nights in November-December!

Presented in partnership with We Stay/Nos Quedamos since 2018, Stage Garden Rumba is an open invitation for all New Yorkers to experience the cultural riches, green spaces, and vibrant Casitas of the South Bronx! Our 2020 digital series documents four pop-up performances with some of our favorite ARTISTS, ACTIVISTS, and COMMUNITY LEADERS. Hyperlocal and universal, their shared message is one of rootedness, celebration, and collective uplift.

Stage Garden Rumba 2020 is a South Bronx tribute to all of New York City, in grateful acknowledgment of the ancestral Munsee Lenape and Wappinger lands where we are privileged to live and create,” says Jorge B. Merced, Associate Artistic Director. “We assembled an epic crew, donned our face masks on, and showed up in full creative force! Our gardens are as glorious as ever. Even during pandemic, the care has poured out from the hands and hearts of community members, ensuring plentiful harvests. That’s a formidable accomplishment, and enough to get us dancing and singing again this year.”

The four locations for 2020’s physically distanced flash festivals were: Rainbow Garden of Life and Health on Melrose Avenue at E 157 Street; Brook Park on Brook Avenue and E 141 Street; Sunshine Garden on Bryant Avenue at E 174 Street; and Rincón Criollo / Casita de Chema on Brook Avenue at E 157 Street. While events were unannouced and unamplified to avoid crowding, neighbors clustered safely on sidewalks and leaned out of windows with shouts of gratitude and applause.

Live interventions by more than 30 theater, music, dance, literary, and social change champs were captured on film and edited into 3 must-see 30-minute programs to be broadcast on Pregones/PRTT’s social platforms and public access cable network of BronxNet Community Television.

Episode 1 – NOV 23 – Click To Open

Site: Rainbow Garden
Air Date: 11/23/20 @ 7:30pm
Host: Christin Eve Cato


JOSELIA HUGHES – Joselia Rebekah Hughes is a disabled writer and abstract artist from the Bronx. She is performing a poem from her forthcoming debut full length book, BLACKABLE

ESPERANZA MARTELL – Esperanza Martell is a puertorriqueña, AfroTaína Boricua, human rights activist, educator, community organizer, trainer, life-skills transformative counselor, mother, and poet/artist. She is a consultant and has a self-healing practice, teaches Community Organizing and advices at the Hunter College School of Social Work.

MAXI RIVERA – Born in PR, Maxi has been a community activist for the South Bronx for over 45 years as a passionate and dedicated advocate for justice. After serving in Vietnam, he credits the experience of war as giving him the courage to fight for his country and for his convictions. He became an advocate for tenant’s rights, organizing buildings against slumlords, stopping illegal evictions, representing our community. He is the coordinator of the Rainbow Garden of Health and Life in the Melrose section of the South Bronx.

PREGONES/PRTT ENSEMBLE – Anthony Carrillo, Jesús E. Martínez, and Omar Pérez, performing “Madre de Bomba” from PregonesPRTT’s production Dancing In My Cockroach Killers with texts by Magdalena Gómez and directed by Rosalba Rolón.

CHRISTIN EVE CATO – A native New Yorker with a background in performing arts and production. Currently pursuing an MFA in Playwriting at Indiana University, she is a graduate of Fordham University, and Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for Music and Art and the Performing Arts. She is affiliated with the New York theater companies, Pregones/PRTT (ensemble member); INTAR Theatre (UNIT 52 ensemble member); Hip-Hop Theatre Company, Rhymes Over Beats (producing member). Previous Pregones/PRTT productions include Dancing In My Cockroach Killers, A Tale of Two Tricksters (co-produced with The Alaska Native Heritage Center and ArtSpace), and three years as a principal actor in 48 Hours in El Bronx (co-produced with Harlem 9).

Episode 2 – NOV 30 – Click To Open

Sites: Brook Park and Sunshine Garden
Air Date: 11/30/20 @ 7:30pm
Host: Rob Vassilarakis


KARLA MEJÍA – A community organizer born in Mexico and raised in the Bronx. She focuses her time in supporting immigrant rights, especially for undocumented women.

DANNY CHERVONI – Head/OG Gardener and beekeeper at Brook Garden. Danny has lived in the South Bronx community since he was 14 and is the unofficial Mayor of 140th Street. He went to De Witt Clinton High School where he swam, and before graduating he joined the Marines. Danny is a skilled DJ and donates his time for local events at the garden and the neighborhood.

THAHITUN MARIAM – A Bangladeshi American feminist poet, activist and community organizer. She writes about displacement, migration, diaspora identity and social justice inspired poetry. She is a 2918 recipient of the Bronx Recognizes It’s Own (BRIO) Award from the Bronx Council on the Arts, a founding member of the South Asian Diaspora Artists Collective. She has performed her poetry at Bowery Poetry Club, NYPL for Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, and other venues across NYC.

PEGGY ROBLES-ALVARADO – She hails from Washington Heights and is a proud resident of The Bronx, which she credits for making her an artist. For this episode of Stage Garden Rumba, this Pushcart Prize nominee, 2020 Atticus Review Poetry Contest winner, and a BRIO award winner, shares a poem titled “Hybrid” that details where she comes from.

YAJAIRA SAAVEDRA – A Dreamer activist and organizer fighting for the rights of undocumented immigrants in the United States. Originally from San Miguel Ahuehuetitlán, Oaxaca, Mexico, Saavedra has been living in the United States with her family for more than 20 years. As a DACA recipient, she has been involved in the Dreamer movement along with her brother, Marcos Saavedra. The Saavedras run acclaimed restaurant La Morada, a family-run Oaxacan-style eatery, community hub, and modern-day sanctuary for all people seeking rest and refuge in the Mott Haven section of the South Bronx.

HOMMY RAMOS – A Puerto Rican composer, arranger and educator. He is a graduate from La Escuela Libre de Música in San Juan, and the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. He has performed with some of the most recognized Latin music greats of today, including Roberto Roena, Tego Calderón, Andy Montañez, Giovanny Hidalgo, Paquito d’Rivera, and The Ray Charles Tribute Band.  His first album, Trombeatz – A Caribbean Thing, was released in spring 2019 to great acclaim. With Pregones, he was recently seen as one of the original members of The Razor Blades, in the company’s production of Flaco Navaja’s Evolution of A Sonero.

VIOLET MONTES – Retired from the healthcare industry, Violet is an active member of the Sunshine Community Garden, helping to coordinate it’s events and public programming. She also volunteers for the garden’s food distribution pantry program, which serves hundreds of meals and fresh produce to the surrounding community. As such, she is a prime example of the long history of people-led “community action” environmental struggle in the region, and testament to the enduring “Bronx Strong” spirit.

ROB VASSILARAKIS – This Bronx-based poet and LGBTQ+ activist is one of the original members of El Grito De Poetas, an all-Latinx poetry collective. Among many other accolades, Rob is the subject of the 2011 film Simply Rob by Tom Shrapnel. Estranged from his family when he was just a teenager because of his sexuality, Rob fell into a world of self-hatred and drug abuse. In 1993 he was diagnosed with H.I.V., he was 22 years old. After years of rehabilitation Rob now uses his eloquence and honesty to inspire and educate others.

Episode 3 – DEC 7 – Click To Open

Site: Rincón Criollo / Casita de Chema
Air Date: 12/7/20 @ 7:30pm
Host: Caridad De La Luz


AFUA ANSONG – An artist and scholar who interrogates the Adinkra symbols from West Africa as poetics and methodology of survival for enslaved Africans who settled in the Gullah Geeche regions. For this episode of Stage Garden Rumba, she reads from her recently published book Try Kissing God, which engages with a few of these Adinkra symbols.

FERNANDO “PONCE” LASPINA – Nicknamed after the town of Ponce, Puerto Rico, where he was born, he migrated to the South Bronx in 1970 at the age of 15. During that tumultuous time he became involved with the street gang Savage Skulls, was subsequently arrested for extortion, and served time at Elmira Correctional Facility. Upon his release he turned his life around, attained several college degrees, and became an advocate and mentor to youth in the region. In 2003 he founded the non-profit boxing and cultural center, El Maestro, named after iconic Puerto Rican nationalist Pedro Albizu Campos, where he combines physical and cultural activities as a means of engaging and challenging youth and surrounding communities toward health and scholastic excellence.

MAZARTE DANCE COMPANY – Inspired by traditional Mexican dances and led by folklorist and choreographer Martha Nora Zarate, Mazarte Dance Company brings folklore back to life by combining dance, research, and indigenous art. Their choreographies embody the fusion of Mexico’s old and new as part of Mazarte’s mission to preserve these dances for the community and generations to come. For this episode, Mazarte presents “La Bruja” (The Witch), a song from the state province of Veracruz, interpreted by Marilyn Castillo.

MARIACHI REAL DE MÉXICO – Founded in 1991 by Ramón Ponce and his son Ramón Ponce Jr, Real de México is one of the most sought-after mariachi ensembles in New York City and the North East of the United States. The group founded The Mariachi Academy of New York in 2002, devoted to teaching the beautiful music and tradition of mariachi to new generations of enthusiasts and aspiring professionals. A perennial audience favorite, Real never fails to dazzle and lift a South Bronx audience.

DESIREE SOTO – Daughter of the late great José “Chema” Soto and current Garden Director at Centro Cultural Rincón Criollo, a.k.a. La Casita de Chema, a thriving community garden and legendary hotspot of the local Afro Puerto Rican/Latin music scene.

CARIDAD DE LA LUZ – Multi-faceted performer also known as “La Bruja” and current recipient of the Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship. With Pregones/PRTT, she starred in hit musicals Dancing In My Cockroach Killers and I Like It Like That. Distinctions include the Puerto Rican Women Legacy Award, The Edgar Allan Poe Award for Excellence in Writing from The Bronx Historical Society, and the title of Bronx Living Legend along with Citation of Merit from the Bronx Borough President. Her poetry is featured on Prince Royce’s album Phase II and she is also known for her piercing performance on Russell Simmons’ HBO Def Poetry Jam.

Where To Watch:

SGR 2020 streams on Mondays at 7:30 PM Eastern Time.

—Facebook Live:


—Cable: 69 Optimum
—Cable: 2135 FIOS

Special thanks to our filming partners at DominiRican Productions. All pop-up performances filmed on-site in October 2020.

Series Producers: Jorge B. Merced and Jessica Moya
Guest Curators: Urayoán Noel and Edwin Pagán
Graphic Designer: Jeison Rivera

STAGE GARDEN RUMBA is two-time winner of The Lincoln Center Cultural Innovation Fund. Key support provided by Con Edison. Special Holiday Encore Reels sponsor: BronxCare Health System. All photos property or courtesy of the artists. This FREE arts program is made possible, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council. For full list of our funders, visit

Event Details

  • Location

    Online and Cable TV:
    Facebook Live
    BronxNet Ch4
    69 Optimum
    2135 FIOS

  • Date & Time

    Mondays @ 7:30pm Eastern
    NOVEMBER 23, 2020
    NOVEMBER 30, 2020
    DECEMBER 7, 2020

    DECEMBER 21, 2020
    Holiday Encore Reels

  • Featuring

    A Media Series by

    Series Producer
    Jorge B Merced

    Production Manager
    Jessica Moya

    Guest Curators
    Urayoán Noel
    Edwin Pagán

    Filming Partners
    Dominirican Productions



    Afua Ansong
    Caridad de La Luz
    Christin Eve Cato
    Danny Chervoni
    Desiree Soto
    Esperanza Martell
    Fernando “Ponce” Laspina
    Hommy Ramos
    Joselia Hughes
    Karla Mejía
    Mariachi Real de México
    Maxi Rivera
    Mazarte Dance Company
    Peggy Robles-Alvarado
    Pregones/PRTT Ensemble
    Rob Vassilarakis
    Thahitun Mariam
    Violet Montes
    Yajaira Saavedra