By Daleelah Saleh & Gabrielle Narcisse
On the corner of 47th Street and 4th Avenue, in Pena Herrera Park in Brooklyn, sandwiched between a playground and a
basketball hoops, is a handball court. If you were to walk by on any given day, you would see a group of kids dancing in sync through a chainlink fence. They are led by a gentle instructor of Mexican descent named Benito Bravo. Bravo, 38, is an essential part of life in Sunset Park. He weaves in and out of the some of the most important celebrations within LatinX culture. From Quinceñeras to Sweet Sixteens, he choreographs the dances and designs the costumes, but probably most importantly he brings young people together in celebrating their heritage.
Bravo is the founder of his own dance company, named Ballet Folklorico Quetzacoatl. When he first started teaching, he had just three students; he now proudly has over seventy. The classes he gives are free, thus making them accessible to everyone in the community, regardless of economic status.
Because of this, he is uniquely positioned within his community to provide outreach, and as a result, he has been pushed into activism. “Here in Sunset Park lots of people know me. Every organization, political, the churches. [...] I represent the people. If someone has problems, [they] call me. Any problems, call me. And that’s how the people pushed me into this work. Problems with the people in my groups, in my company, that’s why I’m busy everyday. Because I do a lot of different things, [...] so I have so much work.”