Usually, Goya Foods creates products that bring families together at the dinner table. But the New Jersey-based company is bringing people together for the arts as well, spending $75,000 to help make Lehman College’s Latino concert series a reality.
That came to a musical conclusion last weekend with a visit from the popular Puerto Rican band La Sonora Ponceña to the school’s 2,300-seat auditorium.
Through their modern Cuban and jazz beats, La Sonora Ponceña moved the audience through a combination of many Latin rhythms.
“Every Latino knows who they are, and we try to represent the best in the world,” Lehman Center for the Performing Arts director Eva Bornstein said. That is, “if they are touring, and if we can afford it.”
In a statement, members of La Sonora Ponceña said they found it to be an “immense privilege to play in one of the most prestigious halls in New York. When we see the audience come out to dance, we get excited because this is the mission of our orchestra.”
The band has toured internationally for the past 40 years. Rafael Toro, Goya’s public relations director, has been familiar with the band since his youth.
“Back in my younger days, La Sonora Ponceña was the officiano of the music world,” Toro said. “I was there when they performed with La India.”
La India, also known as Linda Viera Caballero, was a famous Latin singer in the mid- 1990s.
The Latin series is Lehman Center’s way of celebrating the community in the Bronx at reasonable ticket prices, Bornstein said.
“So they don’t have to go to Manhattan to see these groups, our mission is to celebrate the Bronx and highlight diversity within our community through these cultural events,” she said.
Many different kinds of Latin music were featured in the series, including tango, salsa, bachata, merengue and several others.
Not only did Goya contribute to Lehman with a big check, but the company also donated more than 2,800 pounds of food to the college’s food pantry through its Goya Gives initiative.
The company’s efforts do not stop there, however. Hostos Community College in the south Bronx also received a pantry donation. The initiative’s goal is to help fight hunger in the communities that need it the most, Toro said.
The music in the concert series spans from Mexican folk music to Cuban symphony orchestra, which allows many parts of the Latin community to be included, Toro added. Although the partnership between Lehman and Goya is new, Bornstein is excited about the collaboration.
It could help bolster other Lehman series like its international and celebrity programs. In the international series, European countries like Russia and Poland are celebrated through music, while the celebrity series focuses more on headliners.
“Lehman does have a diverse population, but they also have a large Latino population, and we want to be part of that representation of Latin culture,” Toro said. “The biggest representation of culture is music and food. We just feel like it’s a natural tie in.”