Southwest Key Carries On Tradition of Posada in East Austin
On December 18, 2014, over 200 residents gathered at Southwest Key’s el Centro de Familia to celebrate the traditional Latin American Christmas party —the Posada. Southwest Key Programs, Latino Arts Preservation Program (L.A.P.P.) and East Austin College Prep teamed up to create a memorable experience for members in the Govalle/Johnston Terrace neighborhood. This was Southwest Key’s sixth annual Posada and the event included a rap performance from EAPrep students, Christmas carols, a ballet folklórico performance, a play from Proyecto Teatro, mariachis led procession, piñatas, Santa Claus and much more.
“Posada is one of my favorite events that we celebrate at Southwest Key,” says Melissa Villarreal, Cultural Arts Coordinator of L.A.P.P. “It goes back to the traditional musical dramatization of the biblical story of Mary and Joseph searching for lodging for baby Jesus.
L.A.P.P was created in 2008 to provide community-based culture and arts programs, such as mariachi, ballet folklórico and a bilingual theater, free of charge to the public. “It’s a really beautiful event because after the performances, we go across the street to our three neighbors and ask for lodging,” says Villarreal referring to the tradition of posada attendees caroling door-to-door to re-enact the Holy Family's search for lodging. “It’s wonderful that Southwest Key can provide a space for the community to come together and be safe while creating new memories with each other.”
“I joined LAPP’s ballet folklórico program because I wanted to try something new and learn about different cultural dances,” says Natalia Abascal, 6th grader at EAPrep. Abascal is in her fourth year of dance with ballet folklórico. “I plan on continuing in the program because I look forward to Posada every year. I like giving back to the community and singing at the neighbor’s house at the end of the evening.”
This year, members from Southwest Key’s Good Neighbor Program served traditional drinks and food from Mexico such as hot chocolate, ponche (fruits and sugar cane), tamales and churros to the attendees. They also facilitated the crafts booth and piñatas. “It’s important for the Good Neighbor Program to participate in Posada because it’s an opportunity to engage with members from the neighborhood and let them know about the work we do at Southwest Key,” says Yubelly Perez, Community Organizer at Southwest Key. The Good Neighbor Program formed in 2014 to engage and teach nearby residents to be active in creating change within their neighborhoods.
“It is crucial for the children to be exposed to the arts,” says Luis Ordaz, Executive Director of Proyecto Teatro. “It helps with the growth of social, mental, physical and health components. It helps them understand their community and culture.” Ordaz has been directing the theater performance at Southwest Key’s posada for the past six years. “This year we have a group of brand new students and they joined because they are interested in learning about the Latino culture.”
Not only do neighbors enjoy Posada every year, but also a large number of Southwest Key staff attend the event with their families. “I want my daughter, Mariana, to experience the diversity of cultures in Austin and learn how to appreciate how different people celebrate the holidays,” says Perez. “It’s an opportunity to experience a holiday celebration with my two familias, personal and work.”
Villarreal’s vision for LAPP is for it to continue to thrive within the east Austin area and create a haven for people to have a positive experience each year at Posada. “I am happy to see the community taking posada by its own and I am just a little driving force pushing papers,” says Villarreal.
Villarreal gives credit to Southwest Key CEO and Founder, Dr. Juan Sánchez, for making the annual posada a priority. “I would like to thank Dr. Sánchez for believing in the arts and understanding how important it is for the kids and adults to be exposed to it.”