PHOTOS: Casita Maria Fiesta 2018 with Nicky Hilton & James Rothschild, Olivia Palermo, Amy Fine Collins

Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education celebrated their annual Fiesta 2018 on Tuesday, October 16th, 2018 at The Plaza Hotel in New York City. Each year Casita Maria’s Gold Medal of Honor is awarded to outstanding individuals in recognition to their contribution to the worlds of arts, education, and philanthropy. This year, Casita Maria honored three exceptional philanthropic individuals: Dayssi Olarte de Kanavos, Mary Snow, and Carlos Souza.

The evening was hosted by Cuban Actress Sissi Fleitas and chaired by Jacqueline Weld Drake, HRH Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, and Carlos Mota. Honorary Chairs were Elizabeth Peabody, Christine Schwarzman, and Lynn Wyatt. American-Brazilian singer Bebel Gilberto performed  with guitarist Guilherme Monteiro as guests danced in the Plaza Hotel ballroom until the early morning hours.

Jaqueline Weld Drake is the driving force behind Casita Maria “I am proud to say that in 2018, our programs serve more than 1000 promising young members daily in the Bronx, East Harlem and Harlem communities. Looking ahead to what’s in store in 2019 and beyond, Casita Maria will continue to advance our mission and work to build a brighter, more creative, and culturally rich future for our children and all future residents of the South Bronx and East Harlem.”

Casita Maria’s Executive Director, Haydee Morales, said “For more than 80 years, Casita Maria’s educational and creative arts programs have opened doors of joy and opportunity for the youth, families, and communities we serve. We are proud of our history as the first and oldest Latino-serving charity in New York City, and look forward to many more years serving the people of East Harlem, Hunts Point and the South Bronx. Over the last year, we have redoubled our efforts to bring high- quality education to South Bronx youth, and to curate and present artists and performers who represent the best of the Bronx’s diversity, beauty, and resilience.”

Guests enjoyed Smoked Salmon Polka Dot Carpaccio as an appetizer, followed by Grilled Filet Mignon as a main course. Dessert was Alternating Fifth Avenue Cheesecake and Blackout Cake Redux.

Guests included Muffie Potter Aston, Paola Bacchini, Joachim Bader, Edgar Batista, Tony Bechara, Tina and Simon Beriro, Gaby Bonetti, Halim Bulos and Hasan Green, Geoffrey Bradfield, Andrea Casanova, Pippa Cohen, Amy Fine Collins, Suzi Cordish, Francisco Costa, Sofia Sanchez de Betak, Ann Dexter-Jones, Bella Eastham, Madeline Eastham, Moataz El Refaie, Joanna Fisher, Brian Fisher, Sissi Fleitas, Stephen Gainless, Bebel Gilberto (performer), Ellery and Marjorie Reed Gordon, Zani Gugelmann, Giorgio Guidotti, Susan Gutfreund, Ashlee Harrison, Rachel Hovnanian, Johannes Huebl, Michèle Gerber Klein, Margo Langenberg, Princess Astrid Von Liechtenstein, Ambassador John Loeb and Sharon Handler Loeb, Annabella and Alberto Mariaca, Mary McFadden, Dimity Giles and Horacio Milberg, Lara Meiland-Shaw, Malu and Sergio Millerman, Emily Mohr, Haydee Morales (Executive Director, Casita Maria), Carlos Mota, Fred Negem, Ann Nitze, Ann Rapp, Nell Rebowe, Nicky Hilton Rothschild and James Rothschild, Marc Rosen, Cole Rumbough, Allison Sarofim, Sana Sabbagh, Olivia Palermo, Elizabeth Peabody, Natalya Poniatowski, Yolanda Santos, Christine Schwarzman, Martin and Jean Shafiroff, Adrienne and Gianluigi Vittadini, Christine Witker, and Sabrina Wirth.

Casita Maria’s annual benefit is an elegant and fun evening that begins with cocktails, followed by seated dinner, music and dancing by The Bob Hardwick Sound. Past honorees have included outstanding individuals such as Santiago Calatrava, Marcelo Claure, Roberto Cavalli, Patricia Cisneros, John Demsey, France Desmarais, Marta and Placido Domingo, Emilia and J. Pepe Fanjul, Joanna Fisher, Carlos Fuentes, Audrey Gruss, Agnes Gund, Rosaura Henkel, Audrey Hepburn, Carolina Herrera, Julio Iglesias, Hilda Ochoa-Brillembourg, Eddie Palmieri, Elizabeth T. Peabody, Rodman C. Rockefeller, Julia Salvi, Daisy Soros, Hutton Wilkinson and Lynn Wyatt.

For more than 80 years, Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education has served as a cultural and community anchor for thousands of young people and their families in the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx. Casita has earned a reputation as the first and oldest Latino charity in New York City. The mission of the Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education is to empower youth and their families by creating a culture of learning through high quality social, cultural, and educational opportunities. Casita Maria was founded in 1934 by Claire and Elizabeth Sullivan, two schoolteachers in the living room of their apartment. Their goal was to give the children of recently arrived Latino families the support they needed to meet the challenges of a new language and a novel school system. The hope was that the young would thrive in their new homeland and lead their parents and their community to full participation in the American Dream. By developing innovative responses and programs as issues arose, relocating to the South Bronx as its community moved around the city, Casita has been able to effectively serve each new generation. By 1961, Casita was offering programs and essential services to thousands of New Yorkers.   Even when the Bronx “burned” in the 1970’s, Casita remained a safe haven and a gateway to opportunity. Today, Casita Maria is an institution, a driving force for scholastic enrichment through its vital after school and educational programs that focus on the arts and technology.

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