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La Fortaleza

"The Heart & Soul of El Barrio/East Harlem"




The mission is to brand the community of El Barrio/East Harlem as a vibrant living cultural community with a history and where the non-profit sector is equally regarded as a major contributor to the local economy as is the for-profit sector and where arts & culture are valued as engines for economic development and establish an arts & cultural hub where they're stimuli for creating jobs and influencing surrounding communities to do likewise.

Organization history/organization:

La Fortaleza Project was conceived by published poet and former NYS Department of Youth Services, Alberto O. Cappas, with the thought in mind of an organization comprised of vested community investors and neighborhood stakeholders in arts/culture, small business & non-profit sectors, faith leaders, and residents. It represents a growing trend in raising progressive social consciousness, re-mapping neighborhoods, and defending communities against encroachment while taking management of its assets and resources. See our About page for the whole story.

Art & Cultural Programs:

Arts & culture are not regarded as vital contributors to the social, cultural, & economic well-being of local communities. To address this, we create live art and cultural projects while supporting and partnering with other groups and organizations to raise their importance.



“El Festival del Libro/Festival of Books” has been a constant since 2013. The project introduces Puerto Rican/Latino authors, writers, poets, and literary organizations that can meet & interact with locals, present their work, introduce their publication, provide guidance & tips to both readers & writers as well as make books available for sale. "El Festival" takes place during Indigenous People's Weekend, generally the 2nd week in October, and is held on both a school day and a weekend.

“HERspanic Achievement Celebration” (May), a personalized award ceremony where patrons & sponsors choose whom to honor. The event features live cultural arts entertainment, dancing, and pan-Latin American cuisine. This is a way of bringing community, friends, & families together as a symbol of the “Village” to promote harmony, unity, and community partnership. We make sure to contact the art community to participate and display their talent at all events, thus pushing the art theme as the carrot to business and economic development.

La Fortaleza has been a vital partner & collaborator in such place-making activities such as the "National Writers Union Virtual Open Mic" series, “The Nuyorican Poets Café", "The International Puerto Rican Heritage Film Festival", "Benefit Nights", the "ONE Festival", and others. Our calendar of events is made possible by individual patrons, community organizations, local & corporate businesses, and grants from local government agencies.

We are working directly with local businesses to provide art space to feature the artwork (prints/posters) of our artists to expose Latino art to a Latino community that has a low attendance record in attending art exhibitions. If space is available, our poets, writers, and artist will have a place to perform, which further enhances consumer traffic. Our plan is to transform the whole designated or target area into a Community Art & Cultural Community Center.

Our quote:If our community does not go to an art gallery, we will bring the art gallery to the community.”

La Fortaleza has a unique communal approach to economic development. Since mapping the community discovered a plethora of un & under-used locations and venues in 2011 - 12, we have held repeated events & activities since 2013. They are La Fortalea's "parapet" and include, Metropolitan Hospital Center, The Poets Den, The Tato Laviera Theater, The Crystal Ballroom, La Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center, Mt. Sinai Medical Center, the defunct Children's Aids Society East Harlem Center, and El Barrio's Artspace P.S, 109.

Based on this belief, we have shared our program concept with locals, and other Latino communities in other states and we're working on a calendar of collaborative events & activities that will be hybrid, multi-point, and accessible to the general public as well. For example, a Puerto Rican/Latino group in Buffalo, NY has adopted our concept. It is now working on sponsoring similar programs such as “El Festival del Libro”, and the community Latino art gallery.  Similarly, we work on joint programs in Philadelphia (Pa), Holyoke (Ma), and several cities in Connecticut as well. This has led to the sharing of ideas both ways, helping each region to enhance and provide better community service.

As an appreciation for our community partnership, the Buffalo Latino Village has offered us a monthly column in their publication. We have a similar partnership in Connecticut and Tennessee.

Our immediate need to continue this vision and concept project is sufficient financial seed money. We plan that within five (5) years, La Fortaleza will be financially independent, and able to fund and support its own programs & others.  We are proud to report that La Fortaleza was officially incorporated in 2019 and has been responsible for retaining a greater portion of the $484 million of lost revenue or income.

Our effort alone has created new consumer traffic with our businesses, and there is more to come.

Photo: Félix Leo Campos, Executive Director


Alberto O. Cappas

Evelyn Collazo

Jose Garza

Félix Leo Campos


Henry Calderon

Danny Camacho

Evelyn Collazo

Alexandria Faiz

Félix Leo Campos


Alberto O. Cappas

Jose Garza

John Girard

Felix Leo Campos.jpg
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