More than 10 years ago, with a little Spanish under my belt, I set out to find as much of the Spanish-speaking population in the Pittsburgh area as I could. It was for a story and for myself: I wanted to practice Español.
Since then, the 8,700 Latinos living in Allegheny County have at least doubled.
I know a lot of people out there get apoplectic on his topic, knee-jerking into a scathing rant about “illegals.” My response to that is: A lot of non-Latinos are out there breaking all sorts of laws in all sorts of ways and their lawlessness doesn’t come back on their ethnic heritages.
So onward and upward:
For the first time ever, Pittsburgh will have a Latino mural, courtesy of a group of young adults who call themselves Jovenes Sin Nombres, or “youths without names.” (That's the group in the photo.)
Their plywood mural, titled “Pintando Para un Sueño,” or "painting for a dream," will be installed at the Latino Family Center on Murray and Phillips in Squirrel Hill with a 3 p.m. unveiling Nov. 18, but the public can see it early at a free event Saturday at the AVA Lounge, 126 S. Highland Ave., East Liberty (around the corner from the Shadow Lounge).
Since establishing last year, los Jovenes have been exhibiting art locally as a means of communicating their cultures and how their cultures inform their lives in Pittsburgh.
They are between the ages of 15 and 25, from throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, in high school and college and beyond.
Their adult organizers, Michal Friedman and Alfonso Barquera, with help from the Carnegie Museums and Carnegie Mellon University, have held workshops for the youth on the history of muralism and the role of art in social change.
“About two years ago, I was working at the Welcome Center for Immigrants and Internationals in Squirrel Hill,” said Michal. “I met Alfonso and we had common interests and invited a bunch of Latino youth to meet with us. The response was overwhelming."
The name of the mural reflects on the possibilities that pending legislation (The DREAM Act -- for Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors) would offer Latino youth to contribute to this country, which has a choice -- to be an America dreaming or an America awake.