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Gary Viteri opened up his cafe with the initiative to highlight music and coffee in South Philly. Photo: Gary Viteri.
Gary Viteri opened up his cafe with the initiative to highlight music and coffee in South Philly. Photo: Gary Viteri/ Jarold Guzman.

Pharmacy Cafe to throw its first annual Latin Punk Festival

Founder Gary Viteri is throwing it back to his roots with his cafe’s first show celebrating the genre.

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It is accurate to say that punk music has deep traces of Latino influence within the genre.

From the strumming of the guitar strings, to the pounding of the drums, those instruments came from Africa, made their way to Latin America and then the United States.

That history and influence is set to be on full display this weekend in Philadelphia.

One Latino that is making it a priority for people to recognize Latin punk music, and his name is Gary Viteri, owner of Pharmacy Cafe in Point Breeze.

Running a cafe wasn't what he always intended to do. He was at one time a successful guitar player that performed all over the world.

It was a traumatic event that caused him to go into the small business.

“I was involved in a car accident, I was hit by a UPenn truck,” Viteri said in a recent interview with AL DIA News.

Luckily, they offered him a settlement, but unfortunately, he did not feel comfortable being on the road again.

He found a place in South Philadelphia, and created a community space where people can feel free and tap into the music realm, without any judgment.

“My friend told me about this old pharmacy a few blocks away from me,” he said. “It felt like it was meant to be.”

With the settlement money, Viteri was able to buy the old space and focus on making coffee and music its main focus.

“We opened in late 2011, and from then on, we were doing over 300 music events a year, it was overwhelming,” he said.

After almost 10 years of diverse talent stepping into the cafe, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing Viteri’s business to close.

“We had to close for exactly a year, it was really hard scraping by,” he said.

Despite the shutdown, Viteri managed to remodel his venue, install hardwood flooring throughout the space, and get his permits up to date.

“We were waiting for a safer time to reopen and once it came I just started spreading the word that we have reopened,” he said.

In light of relaunching, Viteri, whose family hails from Ecuador, wanted to create something that could highlight his business, but also other Latino-small businesses. 

That desire spawned the plans for the Latino punk night. The show is free and there will be local food vendors providing classic Latino staples, like empanadas, tamales, and ceviche.

Viteri will also be handing out free coffee from a locally sourced, Latino-owned roaster called Bean 2 Bean.

Along with the cultural and delicious food that will be provided, the music will also be in full effect.

One of the distinct voices set to perform is Laura Lizcano, a Colombian-born singer-songwriter based in Philly.

“She has a jazz singing voice,” he said.

Different rock bands from New York will also be performing on the cafe’s rooftop, one, in particular, is Viteri’s latest project, which has psychedelic and kumbia influences.

“Every band has Latin American members, and this is the first time that this will be happening, so we are very excited,” he said.

If you are in the Point Breeze on Saturday, May 8, and are looking for some fun, check out the Latin Punk Festival in Point Breeze at the Pharmacy Cafe.

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