Mural, designed by artist Manny Vega, pays tribute to Dr. Pantoja’s contributions to New York City’s vibrant Latino community
New York, NY– Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the New York City Housing Authority today unveiled a new mosaic mural honoring Dr. Antonia Pantoja, located on the Corsi Senior Center on East 116th Street in East Harlem. The mural was commissioned by the Dr. Antonia Pantoja Mural Committee and New Yorkers who were inspired by Dr. Pantoja’s lifetime of dedication to the Latino community in New York City and beyond. The unveiling marks the successful completion of a project that was driven by community and local leaders, and received funding from dozens of donors that included residents, neighborhood organizations, and elected officials.
“Dr. Pantoja’s example of dedicated service and visionary leadership showed generations of New Yorkers the power of engagement, advocacy, and education to lift up entire communities, here and around the world,” saidMayor Bill de Blasio. “This mural by one of our city’s extraordinary artists, Manny Vega, will serve as a lasting reminder of why and how we come together to support our neighbors and work together to create a more inclusive and equitable society. I’m proud that we were able to accomplish this in partnership with local supporters to give El Barrio a terrific new artwork honoring our Latino community and inspiring New Yorkers for generations to come.”
“Dr. Antonia Pantoja’s life and legacy is woven into the fabric of El Barrio,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “She believed in empowering and uplifting everyday New Yorkers to be makers of positive change in their communities and taught young people to take pride in their heritage. So much of the vibrant history and activism of East Harlem can trace its roots back to Dr. Pantoja and her vision. She was a leader and a fighter in our community – and a mentor, inspiration, and friend to me. This mural celebrates and recognizes her invaluable contributions to New York City and will charge the next generation of pioneers to take up the cause. The City Council is proud to support this timely testament to an incredible human being. I thank the Dr. Antonia Pantoja Mural Committee, NYCHA, the City, the New York Women’s Foundation and the individual donors who contributed to make this mural a reality.”
The mural is the result of years of staunch advocacy by the Dr. Antonia Pantoja Mural Committee and East Harlem residents who recognized Dr. Pantoja’s pivotal role in the community. Led by Lillian Jimenez of the Latino Educational Media Center, the Committee mobilized a strong groundswell of support for this timely recognition of Dr. Pantoja’s life and legacy.
Dr. Pantoja, who died in 2002, helped found ASPIRA, a national Hispanic organization dedicated to developing the educational and leadership capacity of Hispanic youth. For her lifelong education and advocacy work, she earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which President Bill Clinton presented to her in 1996. She is depicted wearing the medal –the highest honor bestowed upon civilians by the U.S. government – in the new mural.
The mural was created by Manny Vega, a sculptor, painter, illustrator, printmaker, costume and set designer, and arts instructor born and raised in the Bronx. Vega’s work explores and celebrates the Latin American experience, and he has numerous works of art on public display in New York, including mosaic murals at Pregones Theater and the Lexington Avenue and 110th Street MTA subway station. Vega was originally motivated to work on the mural of Dr. Pantoja to celebrate and promote her lifelong dedication to serving her community.
“It has been an honor to support Manny Vega’s vision on the creation of this public mural. We believe that it is important to pay homage and tribute to the ancestors who have blessed us and worked in their lifetime to make a better place for us all. We hope that as the public encounters this work of art they will be inspired to learn more about the life and work of Dr. Pantoja, and that by doing so they will experience a desire to reaffirm their commitment to living a full life and to opening the doors of opportunity for those who come behind them,” said the Dr. Antonia Pantoja Mural Committee.
“NYCHA is proud to be a part of this mural project honoring education and social justice crusader Dr. Antonia Pantoja, who dedicated her career to Hispanic advancement, at Corsi Senior Center,” said NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye. “This mural will serve as a recognition of the Latino community’s deep cultural history and influence in East Harlem for all to see. We thank Manny Vega for making this contribution to public housing.”
“This mural celebrating visionary leader Dr. Antonia Pantoja is an extraordinary expression of how New York embraces its Latino community as an integral part of what makes our city so dynamic and diverse,” saidEdwin Torres, Acting Commissioner of Cultural Affairs. “We are proud to have artists like Manny Vega who publicly pay homage to the contributions of our Latino residents to the City’s civic life, and we thank the dedicated partners who made this new contribution to our cultural landscape possible.”
Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, whose Council district includes East Harlem, was an early supporter of the Committee’s work and visited Manny Vega’s studio to help lay tiles on the mosaic mural. NYCHA accepted the mural donation with support from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs. The project was made possible by individual donations from across thecity and beyond and by funding from Speaker Mark-Viverito and the New York City Council, the New York Women’s Foundation and fiscal support through the Hispanic Federation.
Dr. Antonia Pantoja
Dr. Antonia Pantoja was an educator, social worker, feminist, and civil rights leader. In 1961, she helped found ASPIRA, a national Hispanic organization dedicated to developing the educational and leadership capacity of Hispanic youth. Dr. Pantoja also founded numerous other educational and advocacy groups, and inspired an entire generation of Latinos living in the U.S. and elsewhere to seek quality education and equal rights for themselves and their communities. These efforts earned Dr. Pantoja the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which President Bill Clinton presented to her in 1996.
Mr. Manny Vega’s inspiring and energetic work can be seen in public spaces thorough East Harlem. His artistry includes the street mosaic of poet Julia de Burgos on 106th Street and Lexington Avenue, and murals depicting Latino East Harlem life inside the 110th Street and Lexington Avenue subway stop. The National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institute recently purchased a mosaic by Vega of Dr. Pantoja. Antonia Pantoja the social worker, civil rights activist, educator and the founder of ASPIRA, a national Latino Youth Leadership Organization.