Ford Motor Company has been a member of Puerto Rico’s consumer culture for decades, putting tens of thousands of vehicles on local roads. But over the past five years, the automaker has also inserted itself into the island’s community in a different way — investing in nonprofits to drive education and prevention programs.
Since 2009, when Puerto Rico was included in Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services’ “Operation Better World,” the company has partnered with dozens of organizations that by the end of this year will have split a combined $1 million in funding, said Jim Vella, president of the automaker’s philanthropic arm in an interview with this media outlet.
“The challenges in Puerto Rico are not a whole lot different than in other markets. However, education and unemployment among young people are key problems here,” Vella said. “To figure out how to best address those problems, we partner with our dealers and identify local partners that can help us decide what to develop and how to distribute funds.”
“It’s important that we stay connected to markets like Puerto Rico, which we think is important,” he said.
Important enough to drive Ford to include Puerto Rico among the first 18 markets in its “Operation Better World” initiative that will comprise 25 stateside and 25 global locations by the end of 2017.
This year, the Ford Motor Company Fund is working with local partners Nuestra Escuela, which offers scholarships to Puerto Rican students; the United Way, to provide services in education, health, shelter and other basic needs; Sapientis, to support leadership programs in three schools in high-risk communities in San Juan; the American Red Cross to support disaster relief initiatives; Make-A-Wish, on youth drug prevention programs; the Ricky Martin Foundation, to support the development of the TAU Center in Loíza; and, Museo Las Américas, which is hosting the “American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music” exhibit that opened over the weekend.
Open through July 6, “American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music,” a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition, was developed by the University of Washington and EMP Museum in Seattle, that has traveled to eight cities in the U. S. as part of a 12-city tour until 2015. The exhibition, its national tour, and all its related programs are made possible by Ford Motor Company Fund.
“We’re very proud to bring this exhibition to Museo de Las Américas; it presents the contributions Latinos have made to United States popular music from the 1940’s to the present day,” said Mary Angela Lopez-Vilella, director of the museum located at the Cuartel de Ballajá in Old San Juan.
American Sabor focuses on five major centers of Latino music production, the City of New York, Los Angeles, Miami, San Antonio, and San Francisco, showing the contributions and influence Latino musicians and music have had on the formation and evolution of popular music in the United States after World War II.The exhibit includes short films that present the stories of Latino and Puerto Rican musicians in New York, such as Tito Puente, Tito Rodríguez, and FANIA All-Stars.
The exhibit explores the combination of cultural stories and life experiences of Latino musicians and fans, demonstrating how their creativity and rhythmic innovations have had a profound impact on traditional music genres, such as jazz, rhythm and blues, rock ‘n’ roll, punk, and hip-hop across ethnic and racial boundaries to contribute to the formation of a rich hybrid tradition of popular music that has diversified the musical landscape of today in the United States.
American Sabor is bilingual (English and Spanish) and includes didactic panels, interactive units, and a dance floor with a jukebox to select and dance to music to your liking. The exhibit also includes short films that present the stories of Latino and Puerto Rican musicians in New York, such as Tito Puente, Tito Rodríguez, and FANIA All-Stars, interviews with Latino musicians, such as Johnny Pacheco, Willie Colón, and Carlos Santana, who have shared their experiences in different musical events, as well as comments by experts on different aspects about Latino music in the United States.
“Ford Motor Company Fund is proud to support American Sabor as part of our long time commitment with the arts and Hispanic culture,” said Vella. “Visitors to the exhibition will be able to learn about the many contributions Hispanic musicians have made to the music of the USA and about the richness of Latino rhythms.”