Event Recap: Casita Maria Fiesta! at The Plaza

On October 20, 2023, Jacqueline Weld Drake welcomed friends at Casita Maria’s annual Fiesta Gala at The Plaza Hotel in New York City, arguably the BEST party in New York.

“I am so happy to see familiar faces and also so many new ones so that we can continue to grow and prosper” said Jackie,

“But I am here to be brief and grateful. I thank my co-chairs for the evening, HRH Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, George Corton, Darlyn Portes, Sissi Fleitas, Lydia Forbes, Thomas C. Quick, and Jean Shafiroff. And a salute and a thank you, to Felix Urrutia Jr, the new Executive Director of our organization.” 


Dressed to the nines, the black-tie guests danced till near midnight to the music of Bob Hardwick and his orchestra.  The tropical décor was designed by Full Moon.  As has become her tradition, Mary Snow (wearing head-to-toe red lace) hosted the largest table in the room, boasting friends including Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin, Laura and Diego Garcia, Alexandra Lind Rose, Lesley Schulhof, and Marie Louise Slocum.


Adding gravitas to the evening, Felix Urrutia Jr explained,

“The neighborhood we serve – the South Bronx – depends on us. On a daily basis we are dealing with the families that are anxious, combative, and stressed, but they are also hopeful and resilient. All they need is some help from organizations like Casita Maria. Not a great deal, just some attention, some affirmation, some love. With your support, Casita Maria can fulfill our promise to remain responsible stewards.”


Grammy Winning Producer Nelson J. Albareda, former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco David Fischer with wife philanthropist Jennifer Fischer, and SOMOS Community Care Founder Dr. Ramon Tallaj were honored. Jennifer Fischer from the stage shared,

“David and I have spent our lives believing that children’s future is the future of all of us. Whether it’s a job or self-esteem, or someone believing in you, or in our class that gives you a moment’s respite. Casita Maria lives with this dream to the max. We’re incredibly honored to receive this.”

Nelson J. Albareda said

“I’m honored to be here tonight, sharing this beautiful evening with all of you, in celebration of an organization that I think is not only groundbreaking, but breaking ground for many, many years in the Latino community. This organization creates a safe environment that empowers our community. It’s not every day a Cuban American boy from Miami makes it to New York City to be honored so I share this with all Latinos.”


Guests included Board Members and Trustees Martha Bograd, Miguel A. Fuentes Jr., Michéle Gerber Klein, Patrick Moran, Gautam Patel, Benigno Rodriguez-Cubeñas, as well as Peter Bacanovic, Edgar Batista, Tina Beriro, Estrellita & Daniel Brodsky, Sharon Bush, Carlos Campos, Lee Fryd, Bradley Gibson, Margo Langenberg, Alicia Lubowski-Jahn, Tony Marion, Juan Montoya, Darlyn Portes, Marc Rosen, Gabriel Rivera-Barraza, Victor Roquette, Alexandra Seegers, Kenny Thomas, Barbara Tober, and Charlie Ward.

Photos by: Dave Kotinsky, Patrick McMullan, Jared Siskin/PMC

Casita Maria creates a safe and welcoming community, enriching and uplifting youth and families towards success, through shared cultural, art and educational experiences and programs. Headquartered in the South Bronx, Casita Maria was established in 1934 by Claire and Elizabeth Sullivan as the first charitable organization to serve Latinos in New York City. Operating from a five-room tenement apartment in East Harlem, the Sullivan sisters, public school teachers who were also relatives of TV personality Ed Sullivan, had a primary mission to offer after school enrichment and recreational activities for the children of newly arrived families from Puerto Rico. Today, Casita Maria remains dedicated to its original mission, delivering services to the mostly Latino youth, and families of the Hunts Point community it serves in the Bronx. In 2009, Casita Maria inaugurated a state-of-the-art facility encompassing performance spaces, exhibition gallery, dance, and music studios, and more on its Simpson Street campus. This 90,000 square foot, six-story educational and cultural facility in collaboration with the Department of Education has enabled Casita Maria to expand its scope and capacities as a beacon of excellence.


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