Preserving cultures, one event at a time

Bradley Hack of Taino Productions gives salsa dancing lessons on Thursday August 4, 2022 on the promenade at Ocean Beach Park in New London. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day) Buy reprints
Bradley Hack of Taino Productions gives salsa dancing lessons on Thursday August 4, 2022 on the promenade at Ocean Beach Park in New London. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day) Buy reprints

Richie Rich ‘The Bad Boy’ speaks to the crowd as the DJ performs at the Old School Freestyle music event at Ocean Beach Park in New London on Sunday, September 4, 2022. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

Crowd members cheer as they recognize a song during the Old School Freestyle music event at Ocean Beach Park in New London on Sunday, September 4, 2022. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

New London ― Towards the end of a recent interview, Liz Quinones, who with her husband Willie founded Taino Productions in 2018, found an apt description of exactly what their event planning business does.

“We connect the dots,” she said.

Indeed, Taino, a for-profit limited liability company, has succeeded in promoting Hispanic and Latin American cultures in the region by connecting artists, musicians and performers with audiences eager to entertain and enjoy. to be inspired. And they do all of this without employees or offices, with the two coordinating events from their home on Rogers Street in the city.

Earlier this month, Taino helped organize back-to-back events on September 4, the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. The first event of the day, held from noon to 6 p.m., was a second annual back-to-school haircut benefit, which provided hundreds of children with free haircuts courtesy of barbers locals who have set up chairs in a pavilion in Bates Woods Park in New London. .

Taino’s partners in the project included Southeastern Connecticut Barbers United, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and the Salvation Army.

Later, Taino brought DJ Richie Rich to Ocean Beach Park for an evening of “old school freestyle music”.

Willie Quinones said the haircut event originated with Carlos Montes of Carlos Barbershop & Salon on Jefferson Avenue in New London, who approached Taino with an idea of ​​”wanting to give back to the kids”. The Quinones took it from there.

“We were only doing a very small part of it,” Willie said.

Another Taino doubleheader arrives Oct. 1, headlined by its “fall classic,” Salsa con Guayabara, at Ocean Beach Park, a nighttime celebration featuring live salsa music, dance lessons, and a DJ. A car show will be held at the park earlier today.

The Quinones, both 43, said Taino’s mission is to help preserve the culture of Puerto Rico, an American Commonwealth, as well as the cultures of other Spanish-speaking localities, about 17 of which are represented among the residents of southeast Connecticut, according to Willie Quinones. Hispanics, he said, make up about 32% of New London’s population.

Among Latinos, Puerto Ricans may be most at risk of losing touch with their heritage because they’ve become so “Americanized,” said Liz Quinones, who came to the United States from Puerto Rico in her third grade. .

“They say Puerto Ricans have the ‘mancha’ – the Puerto Rican stain – about them,” she said. “It’s like a birthmark. We pride ourselves on being authentic, on staying true to our roots.

She said most Puerto Rican Americans, including those born in the United States, would identify as Puerto Rican rather than American if faced with a choice.

Willie Quinones was born in the United States.

He and Liz met as teenagers in New Haven, where he was playing football at Wilbur Cross High School. Liz enrolled at Connecticut College in 1996 and Willie joined her in New London when she graduated four years later. Since then, she has taught at the Regional Multicultural Magnet School in New London. One of the Quinones’ two adult daughters also teaches there.

After 15 years at the city’s Interdistrict School of Arts and Communication, Facilities Manager Willie works for North Stonington Public Schools.

When the Quinones arrived in New London, the nonprofit Centro de la Comunidad was the center of activity for the Latino community. While Puerto Ricans had a strong presence in the city in the 1980s and 1990s, that was no longer the case in the 2000s, Willie Quinones said, leaving a void to fill.

The Quinones held their first event, a Latin music festival, at Ocean Beach Park in 2016 and achieved major success with a similar event in 2017, leading them to form Taino Productions LLC the following year. They said the encouragement and help of Dave Sugrue, now manager of Ocean Beach Park, was key to their early success.

“We thought we should make it a bit more official,” Willie Quinones said of Taino’s training. “It’s a for-profit organization that operates like a non-profit organization. The idea was never to make money.

They connected with locals like Jeffrey Zapata of Jeffrey’s Barbershop, who had the know-how to connect them with “sound guys” and bands.

“I remember when they started in Ocean Beach,” Zapata said. “I was the first person to meet Willie and understand how to organize the event. I shared my knowledge on how to bring sponsors to the event and what kind of music to play. I very good relationship with the musicians and I gave Willie the opportunity to connect with them.

“Now I see Willie doing very well,” he said.

Typically, Taino hosts seven or eight events a year and weighs in on plans for Puerto Rican festivals and events hosted by larger nonprofit groups in other cities across the state, including Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven and Norwich.

Will there be a time when what Taino does is no longer necessary?

“I don’t know,” Willie Quinones said. “People want to keep who they are. As long as we can help with that, that’s great.

[email protected]

Comments are closed.