Dee Dee Eustace DancingThe Casita Maria Center, located on Simpson Street in the South Bronx, empowers young people and their families by generating learning opportunities through high quality social, cultural, and educational experiences.

Claire and Elizabeth Sullivan, two teachers who founded the Center in 1934, wanted to give the children of Latino immigrants support as they encountered a new language and school system. The teachers’ hope was that young people would thrive in their new American home and enable their parents and community to enjoy the American Dream. Casita Maria presently acts as a catalyst for scholastic enrichment through its various educational programs which focus on arts and technology.

Sarah Calderon, France Desmarais, Eddie Palmieri, Jacqueline Weld Drake, John Demsey, Alina Cho== CASITA MARIA Fiesta 2013== Mandarin Oriental, NYC== October 22, 2013== ©Patrick McMullan== Photo - Jonathon Ziegler/ ==

I attended the Gala’s cocktail reception. When I exited the elevator and ventured into the Mandarin Oriental Hotel’s thirty-fifth floor event space, I saw a beautiful room centerpiece presented in the form of a blown glass striated sculpture of graceful cranes. The view of Columbus Circle and Central Park was spectacular. Against the background of a piano board player offering old standards such as “I’ve got You Under My Skin” and “Dancing Cheek to Cheek,” I pressed my nose against the window glass to enjoy Manhattan’s panoramic expanse. But, upon realizing that only one mere glass pane prevented me from taking a great leap forward I thought it best to avoid, I turned away from the window and faced a phalanx of waiters holding hors d’oeuvres trays.

Salmon ensconced atop a cucumber slice, mushroom risotto, and duck spring rolls were offered. I particularly enjoyed the tuna tartar served on a gorgeous silver spoon adorned with an upward swooping handle. Photographers were busily snapping pictures of the black tie and gown clad guests. Since the room was crowded, I found myself having to take care not to step on women’s gown trains. While almost succumbing to the dreaded inadvertent gown train stomp, a server referred to the spring rolls by announcing “duck, m’am duck.” For a moment I thought that this was a Gala traffic navigation direction rather than information about a culinary component.

Jane Bloomingdale and the Pachanga Committee== CASITA MARIA Fiesta 2013== Mandarin Oriental, NYC== October 22, 2013== ©Patrick McMullan== Photo - Jonathon Ziegler/ ==