by Amanda Ong
On Sunday, May 21, from 3 to 6 p.m. in Plaza Roberto Maestas, the Beacon Business Alliance (BBA) and Movimiento Afrolatino Seattle (MÁS) will present Beacon Hill Small Business Pregones. Inspired by open-air Latin American markets, Pregones imbues music and celebration into the work of local Latin American and Caribbean businesses: Beacon Hill Nutrition, The Station, Cafetal Quilombo, Recetas de Abuelita, and Antojitos Lita Rosita.
According to BBA, “Pregones are the rhythmic or musical cries of street vendors”: “[Pregones] are the oral tradition of someone being out in the community, out in the marketplace, saying, ‘Come here! Come look at this business!’” said Angela Castañeda, director of BBA. “They have tamales, fresh tomatoes. This business is [saying it’s] open and to come visit.”
BBA also says pregones can be “powerful tools of collective resistance” — and for MÁS, such resistance includes uplifting artists and empowering communities through art. So more than just getting the oral message out there, this Pregones event has partnered five small businesses with local artists who have created full songs for the businesses following months of collaboration. MÁS founded and has previously hosted pregones, but this is the first year it has partnered with the BBA to create a full-scale event with a plethora of talented artists.
“The artists and the business owners have been able to meet,” Castañeda said. “[Sharing] what is their story? What is their history? What is the vision of the business? … So that the artists can learn to create something that tells [their] story for the public to witness.”
MÁS is a grassroots nonprofit started by Afrolatino communities and artists that’s focused on upholding and preserving Afrolatino cultural heritage through educational arts activities that are open to all. The BBA is a small community-based nonprofit founded in 2010 to serve the small businesses of Beacon Hill, where 67% of small businesses are immigrant family- and BIPOC-owned. Its work is part of a larger scheme of anti-displacement strategies to preserve the community culture and address gentrification in a variety of ways, including through sharing music, dance, and culture.
Each artist’s group will perform for about 20 minutes, while inside, they will play a video showing the making of these songs over the past few months and the history of pregones. The artists include Seattle Fandango Project, Hijos de Agüeybaná, DE CAJóN Project, Alfredo Chavez, and Correo Aereo, each of whom has been paired to work with one of the five businesses, crafting a song on behalf of that business.
“The business owners [are going to] hear it for the first time [with the audience],” Castañeda said. “It’s going to be really the first moment that they get to hear the song that’s written about their business and about them. And for me, that’s the thing that gives me goosebumps.”
All of the vendors will also be actively selling on-site the day of the event, so audience members can not only see their reactions to their songs, but also partake in some of their food. The event supports these small businesses from every angle, empowering them, offering a platform, and showcasing their talents as well as the artists.
“It’s about community,” Castañeda said. “Having space for the community to live life in a quality, creative, and safe way is so inspiring and loving. The world, historically racist systems, and the structure of American life [are] historically set up to put so many barriers to that [space]. And so we’re driven by the connections, building bridges, and the community.”
See Beacon Hill Small Business Pregones at Plaza Roberto Maestas, 1660 S. Roberto Maestas Festival St., on May 21 from 3 to 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. The BBA is still looking for volunteers to sign up for the event. To volunteer, fill out the volunteer form. Water and snacks will be provided to volunteers.
Editors’ Note: This article was updated on May 20, 2023, to give more information about Movimiento Afrolatino Seattle’s history and mission.
Amanda Ong (she/her) is a Chinese American writer from California. She is currently a master’s candidate at the University of Washington Museology program and graduated from Columbia University in 2020 with degrees in creative writing and ethnicity and race studies.
📸 Featured Image: Dance and songs will fill the streets of Beacon Hill with performances from Pregones. (Photo: Leo Carmona)
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