Article and interview by TaeHo Lee, Rutgers Raritan Scholar
Starting Saturday April 14 and running through October, the LRWP will join Mercado Esperanza in Joyce Kilmer Park (143 Joyce Kilmer Avenue, New Brunswick) for a community market celebrating the food, arts and culture of New Brunswick and its diverse Latino community. Learn more about the Mercado in TaeHo Lee’s interview (below) with Mercado Coordinator Carolina Moratti. In the interview Carolina gives a preview of a new program for 2019 called Mercado Esperanza Kids. As part of Mercado Kids, the LRWP and our coLAB Arts partners invite you and your favorite young person to make “watershed sculptures” for inclusion in our 2019 Sculpture Project gallery installation. The Mercado runs once monthly from 11-4 PM, and will be held on April 14, May 26, June 30, July 28, August 25, September 29, October 27.
Carolina Moratti and her son Abraham met me at a Café on George Street during Rutgers spring break to talk about the monthly Mercado Esperanza on Joyce Kilmer Avenue in New Brunswick. Carolina has worked with the Mercado since it started in 2016, and now serves as Coordinator. Carolina is a Peruvian born American. She moved to the US in 2005, and five years later became a citizen. She was a former student and an instructor of Elijah’s Promise. She currently works as a phlebotomist, partaking in community outreach with women and kids as a hobby. She describes herself as a hard working single mom. Abraham is Carolina’s 12-year old son and a 6th grade student of Von E. Mauger Middle School in Middlesex. Though he was born in the States, he identifies himself as a Peruvian, Central and South American.
T: Tell me about New Brunswick’s Mercado. What is your role at these monthly events?
C: I started by helping community women, entrepreneurs, and cooks who wanted to build a business. I would coordinate their involvement at the Mercado, helping them sell prepared foods. Later on I started to work managing the Mercado as a whole. I also created the Mercado Esperanza Kids, in which I work with young volunteers to do activities for kids. We have young kids doing temporary tattoos and face painting, and also environmental education. My current priority is emceeing the Mercado, taking care of Mercado Esperanza Kids, and doing social media and public relations.
T: Does the term Mercado mean market?
C: Yes! And Esperanza means hope. Mercados are everywhere in Latin America. Some places are called Marketa but we call ours Mercado Esperanza/Hope. We’re giving hope to people because sometimes they are in a difficult situation. They are homeless, they don’t believe in themselves, they are having a hard time making money, succeeding, and having their voice heard. So we gave them some representation, something that they can be proud of. It is really life-changing.
T: I think it is also very important that this Mercado also allows people to celebrate their culture.
C: People can feel secluded as immigrants in America when nobody sees them. But we give them some representation and help them to be seen. What I love about Mercado is that we keep in traditions. And we’re showing our kids how wonderful it is to go to a local Mercado and experience how we are trying to bring the culture of Mexico here. We’re bringing culture, we’re bringing memories, we’re bringing flavors, we’re bringing music, and all that vibe that we have when we go to another Mercado in any part of South America or Central America or Mexico. We have so many vendors with their kids selling and playing at the Mercado. It’s very good to see that the kids are also getting involved.
T: As part of Mercado Esperanza Kids you are working with the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and coLAB Arts to offer a “Watershed Sculpture Project” activity. Why is it important to you to see environmental outreach included as part of Mercado offerings?
C: The more things we include at Mercado the better. If you go there for food but we are teaching you about how to keep the water clean, how to produce less garbage, how to reuse, how to recycle. If we can give you that information we are making a change because we don’t have that in our culture. A lot of countries in Central or South America don’t do that. People are very excited to see environmental education. It’s a lot of information that is not easy to get to. So if we provide that with Mercado it’s amazing. Because I know it’s going to make a change.
T: Last summer you participated in a weeklong “Watershed Institute” with coLAB and the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership. What were some of the things you learned that week?
Abraham: I learned about water quality monitoring, and how it’s important to protect the environment. And I learned that we can protect the environment by making sure we recycle things. We can also clean up after ourselves and after others who have forgotten to do so. We could maybe even make a fundraiser for an environmental cause.
T: Do you have anything to say to adults who mainly created the environmental issues that you and I have to inherit for our lifetime and for the following generations?
A: They should have been more careful. They should have been more thoughtful. They should have cleaned up their mess after themselves. They should have been more aware of what they were doing.