The simplified proposal: an event in West Philly wants to encourage the community to discuss budget issues and express demands

Read this story in English here

A group of artists in Philadelphia bet that a topic as complex as the city’s budget can be interesting if it is discussed with tamales and art.

A People’s Budget – a project sponsored by Mural Arts Philadelphia in collaboration with different artists in Philadelphia, will hold a festival this Saturday, May 14 in West Philadelphia to encourage the community to discuss the budget from the city.

“Even budgets are complex financial documents,” said the project’s website, “they are also a city mission statement – a true display of what officials prioritize.”

The city council will hold hearings on Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposed spending program through May 25.

Held at the Kingsessing Rec Center in Southwest Philadelphia, the event will serve as a way for community members and beneficiaries to itemize their demands, for residents to get motivated to attend hearings, and for Prepare for next year’s budget.

The event will be in English but will be translated into Spanish live. Thanks to the local Mercado de Latinas cooperative, they will also have a free lunch; pupusas, tamales, tlacoyos, and a variety of desserts. Vendors will also be selling crafts and tupperware. After the discussion you will see live music and games related to the budget.

The project, which has been two years in the making, collaborates with local artists Blanche Browne, Samanthe Rise, Maia Chao and Eugenio Salas to reimagine the five most important components of the Philadelphia budget:

  • how we exchange and delegate
  • how we heal and protect our community
  • how we learn and mature
  • how we live and share space
  • how we govern and manage

Each artist visualizes one of the components of the budget with their own art form to investigate issues within the community and how to solve them.

Salas is creating a symbolic map of the different restaurants in the Italian market to better understand how immigrant businesses influence the community, reduce food insecurity, and provide culturally relevant experiences and connections.

He surveyed many businesses in the area to see what government assistance they receive and to visualize the impact these businesses have on the community.

“The idea is to create a settlement around the history and contribution that the Mexican migrant community makes in food to give the neighborhood its identity,” Salas said. “Well, more than identity, it also has a contribution that is really seen as a benefit, but nobody who participates in that economy has benefits.”

Salas refers to the “informal economy” — economic activities, businesses, jobs, and workers that are not regulated or protected by the state. It’s how more than 2 billion of the world’s workers make a living. Many are underpaid, lack institutional protections, and have zero benefits or contractual rights, but all lack social protections.

The People’s Budget is a way for Salas and his fellow artists and activists to help the community receive the benefits they deserve but may not know how to ask for, he said.

Eugene Salas

Salas knew that for an event of this type, he needed food. He spoke with Reyna Navarro, the creator of the Mercado de Latinas, a group of vendors selling food and crafts, to take care of the food service and to offer them a space to sell their products.

Mercado de Latinas started during the pandemic to help women entrepreneurs sell their food and crafts. They combined in-person and online opportunities to support women-led businesses.

This collaboration was an opportunity to not only support those who contribute to the economy but also for them to discuss what they need from the city.

“Latino communities are minorities and they have barriers and even the fact that they are women there are more barriers,” Salas said. “There are no possibilities for them to work because they have very complex lives being migrants, being mothers.”

The People’s Budget Festival will be held from 1-4 pm on Saturday, May 14 at 4901 Kingsessing Ave. Admission is free, lunch will be served. You will see a craft market right there; make sure you have cash.

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