BY TRONE DOWD
The Latin American Cultural Center of Queens is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and proliferating the Hispanic heritage through arts and culture. Established in 1993, the group’s mission is aimed at meeting the cultural needs of the Latin community in New York City’s largest borough, Queens.
LACCQ was the brainchild of a number of concerned Latino leaders in the Queens community who worried about their rich culture’s dying out in American society. Despite the very diverse populace of the borough, the lack of Latino arts and cultural organizations was staggering. While this absence continued in Queens neighborhoods, the number of Latino troubled youths growing up without a connection to their unique cultural past, grew. LACCQ hoped to change that.
“Our goal is to provide high-quality educational, cultural and arts experiences that are free of charge and open to the general public regardless of age, race, ethnic background, sexual preference, economic status, disability or religion,” LACCQ President Nayibe Núñez-Berger told the PRESS of Southeast Queens.
According to the organization’s website, LACCQ has three distinct goals: strengthening the collective identity of Latinos in America through the preservation and celebration of their cultural legacy, nurturing a cultural pluralism by seeking and fostering opportunities for cooperation and cultural exchange with other ethnic groups, and encouraging Latino Americans to participate actively in the civic and political lives of American society and contribute to the advancement of their new homeland.
Núñez-Berger has led this initiative from the front lines. Born in the South American country of Colombia, she has spent most of her life here in Queens. She initially moved to Queens in 1962. She studied social work at Stony Brook University, graduating in 1981. She has since had a successful career in the field, even owning her own practice for more than 25 years.
But over the years, Núñez-Berger’s passion for the arts always remained central to her heart. While furthering her career in social work, she has stayed involved in the Queens arts scene, especially as it pertains to the Latino community. She is a founding member and president of the board of directors of the Latin American Cultural Center of Queens and co-founder of the Queens Theatre in the Park. In addition, as past president and member of the Advisory Board of the Queens Council on the Arts and former member of the board of trustees of the Queens Museum of Art, she has been a strong advocate for Hispanic arts and emerging artists. Her involvement in the Queens cultural scene has benefited LACCQ well as it has collaborated with many other organizations including the Queens Museum of Queens, the New York Hall of Science, the Queens Theatre in the Park, the Queens Botanical Garden and the Queens Jewish Center.
“With these partnerships the Center brings new audiences to these institutions and the Center exposes our community to a variety of cultural organizations,” Núñez-Berger said.
Of everything that LACCQ has been able to accomplish over the years, Núñez-Berger said that helping Latinos assimilate to their new homes has been its proudest accomplishment.
“For the last 13 years we have assisted hundreds of individuals to become English proficient, to pass the U.S. citizenship test and become citizens of the United States,” she said. “We also provide information and guidance about community social services.”
“We are [also] very proud of serving the community and to have grateful parents thanking us for exposing their children to cultural activities such as Posadas, Three Kings, Hispanic Heritage, and art classes. These individuals let us know that they are able to take advantage of our programs because they are free.”
The Latin American Cultural Center is located at 120-55 Queens Blvd. in Jamaica.