Vamos a la Peña del Bronx

Award Recipients - 1998

Nieves Ayress, Victor Toro, Cofounders

Nieves Ayress and Victor Toro are lifelong activists in the struggle for human rights.  They began their work in their homeland of Chile – where they were imprisoned in the 1970’s for protesting and organizing against the military government of General Pinochet.  After spending years in prison, they were exiled from Chile and traveled throughout the world.  They finally settled in the South Bronx, and in 1987, they created Vamos a la Pena del Bronx, Inc.  The name translates as “Let’s go to the rock” and comes from a poem by the Chilean poet Violeta Parra.  It refers to the rock where earlier indigenous peoples gathered to plan their resistance movement.  
Ms. Ayress and Mr. Toro say they selected the South Bronx as the site for La Pena because it is home for neglected generations of African Americans, Puerto Ricans, Ecuadorians, Hondurans, Mexicans and the lesser-known Garifuna,  La Pena reaches out to the most disenfranchised, especially the hungry, homeless, unemployed, undocumented and HIV-positive.  All are welcome with no papers required and no questions asked.  La Pena activities include food distribution, help with the citizen process, English and Spanish classes, artistic workshops and attention to issues such as domestic violence, drug addiction and homelessness.  La Pena is open daily and is staffed by community residents and volunteers.  La Pena believes than any activity can happen so long as the community organizes to make it so.

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