Viva La Comida brings Latin soul to Jackson Heights

Viva La Comida brings Latin soul to Jackson Heights
Photo by Bruce Adler
By Mark Hallum

Viva La Comida returned to the streets of Jackson Heights last Saturday to showcase some of the best Queens has to offer in terms food, music and, more food.

But more than that was the community building aspect of the street fair featuring local businesses and bands.

Katha Cato, Executive Director of the Queens World Film Festival, rolled out a miniature red carpet for attendees to learn the best methods for creating eye-catching imagery using only their smartphones.

“The world is hungry for media, look at all these stories,” Cato said, indicating the vibrancy of the street around her. “Everybody’s got a story and the more we can be a part of influencing these people to forward and share, I feel the better off all of us are.”

Last year, QWFF screened 189 films from 31 nations, all Queens residents. About 65 of the films were made by women and 14 children under 14 years old, according to Cato. QWFF has been in the borough for nine years now and still operates out of Cato’s home something she says she is proud and embarrassed of as she has sacrificed her home for the organization.

“Everybody is learning how to be part of the community while pushing your own art and your own story and finding out how much connectivity there is,” Cato continued. “The thing about Queens; I have an audience for any film in the world in any language… That is what is what is important to us. Storytellers right now need to be supported, and it’s very hard. They’re holding the mirror up and saying look who we are.”

Some of the tastings to be had at the Sept. 15 event were from the Arepa Lady, a Colombian eatery that is quickly becoming a Jackson Heights staple at 77-17 37th Ave., and Casa Rivera, an old-style butcher shop that also sells groceries and has a restaurant with many traditional South American plates on the menu. The establishment is located at 40-15 82nd St.

Delicias Colombianas — located at 37-03 82nd St. — served up their famous morcillas — also known as blood sausages — and bandeja paisa, which is a plate that typical consists of beans, rice, chicharrón, plantain and pork.

The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus also made a stop at Viva La Comida to offering tours while raffling off a guitar.

Founded by Executive Director Brian Rothschild and Yoko Ono Lennon, the bus introduces many students to the work of John Lennon and Yoko Ono as musicians and peace activists and how they used their art and celebrity to focus on peace. Activism is also a talking point for each visit, but is far from the main objective.

Rothschild was an artist with Atlantic Records in the 1980s, but later switched to music management and worked with music groups such as the Fugees. Eventually, he crossed paths with Ono, who expressed interest in his concept of a mobile studio.

Three technicians work and live on the bus about 10 months out of the year and are the main instructors for the program, which spends one day with a group of students of varying experience.

The 82nd Street Partnership, a neighborhood development group founded in 1990, was behind organizing Viva La Comida and works to promote commerce in the area.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.