La Guagua 47: An ode to Philly’s Latino community through the eyes of Alba Martinez
The premiere of La Guagua 47 is a tribute to Latinos in Philadelphia, and represents a sense of community and belonging.
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When Alba Martinez first moved to Philadelphia from Puerto Rico in 1985, she was eager to start a new chapter in her life.
However, coming to a new environment brought its challenges.
Still learning her way around the city and trying to find her community, she discovered the 47 bus, which runs through parts of North and South Philadelphia, Center City and Olney.
Her discovery of the 47 bus is the catalyst for a song, later turned into a short film and arts project titled, “La Guagua 47.”
September 15 — the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month — marked the official premiere date of “La Guagua 47,” a collaboration between AL DÍA, SEPTA, Ritmo Lab, and Dream Art Media Group.
“This magical community project called ‘La Guagua 47’ began at a time when I was feeling the need to belong,” said Martinez, producer and creative director for La Guagua 47, during her remarks at the premiere.
Hundreds of people filled the Perelman Theater at The Kimmel Center to watch the premiere of the short film, which for many within the Latino community who were in the audience, felt truly represented them.
The venue for the premiere screening was paramount.
“Every day here on the Kimmel Cultural Campus… we celebrate creative artists. We are here truly in service of what artists can bring to our community and so it's especially fitting that we can introduce this magnificent film,” said Matías Tarnopolsky, president and CEO of The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Kimmel Center, Inc.
In the short film, the lead dancer and protagonist, played by Ashley Rivera, onboards the 47 bus at the corner of 5th Street and Lehigh Avenue — where a large population of Philly’s Latino population resides.
“La Guagua 47 is more than a film, it is a journey,” said Martinez.
As the decorated bus travels down 5th Street into many different neighborhoods, music and dancing fills the scene, effectively displaying the Latino culture of Philadelphia.
The film is a microcosm of the impact the 47 bus had on Martinez as she was settling into the Philadelphia community, and served as her inspiration to fully immerse herself to that community, as she has over the past 30-plus years, making the city her home.
“Philadelphia's Latino community wrapped around me, helped me heal and showed me that Latinidad is more than just a phrase. It empowers us. It motivates us. It feeds us, It shields us, and it honors us,” she said.
Her story and connection to the 47 bus is not a singular story, however. It is one shared by many within Philly’s Latino community.
Isabel Sánchez, multimedia journalist for Telemundo 62/NBC 10 and host for the event, said as much.
“I know that for me… when I first came to Philadelphia, it was through the route of the 47 that I discovered donde estaba mi comunidad,” said Sánchez.
Leslie Richards, CEO and General Manager of SEPTA, shared some remarks about the 47 bus, and SEPTA’s overall impact on the Philadelphia community.
She noted that the 47 bus runs 24/7, and is one of the longest bus routes in Philadelphia, traveling 10 miles one way.
“It's also one of SEPTA’s busiest bus routes, rolling through dozens of neighborhoods connecting diverse communities along the way,” added Richards. “La Guagua 47 is another way to show how SEPTA is more than transit, it is the way we connect to each other,” said Richards.”
Beyond it being a film and journey, La Guagua 47 is also a vast artistic production.
Jane Golden, founder and executive director of Mural Arts Philadelphia, has been a huge advocate for the influence that art plays on society.
Projects like La Guagua 47 are a representation of that influence.
“Acting like a prism, the arts inspire us to view the world through a new lens,” said Golden. “Art makes us look again at things we thought we knew. It surprises us, it delights us and it inspires us.”
More than 250 individuals had a hand in the production of the project, which shows the passion and creativity that is instilled within Philly’s diverse Latino community.
In addition to Martinez and Rivera, some of the other leaders of this project includes Pedro Escárcega, film director; Christina Castro-Tauser, choreographer; César Viveros, lead visual artist; and AL DÍA's Martin Alfaro and Alaitz Ruiz-Arteagoitia, who were both lead media/creative partner and associate producers.
“My hope is that this project tells every Latino and every person out there that they belong,” said Martinez.