Casita Maria Gala Cocktail Kickoff

Yvonna Russell
3 min readSep 17, 2023
Jackie Weld Drake, Estrellita Brodsky, Martha Bograd

Get your bachata together. Jackie Weld Drake, longtime chair of Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education hosted a cocktail party to kickoff the upcoming Fiesta! Gala. Jackie opened her Upper Eastside home to celebrate on the evening of September 13th in Manhattan.

Victor Roquette, Sissi Fleitas, Sergio Orozco
Liliana Cavendish, Marc Rosen, Margo Langenberg, Juan Montoya

Fiesta! Gala will be held at the landmark The Plaza Hotel on October 10th. New York City’s first and oldest Latino-serving charity, Casita Maria is a safe and welcoming community space, enriching and uplifting youth and families toward success through shared cultural, art, and educational experiences and programs.

Marc Rosen, Susan Gutfreund

What began in public school teachers, the Sullivan sister’s Harlem tenement apartment is now a state-of-the-art facility encompassing performance spaces, exhibition gallery, dance, and music studios, and more on its Simpson Street campus of Hunts Point.

The anchor of the South Bronx community for 89 years, Casita Maria showcases the beauty, life, and creativity that is embedded in every block.

Tana Dye, Michele Gerber Klein, Anencia Dixon, Sergio Orozco
Javier Samaniego, Elisa Meyer, Michael Hughes, Lee Fryd

As waiters passed trays of wine and hors douerves of sushi, empanadas, salmon with creme fraiche on cucumber rounds, and mini tacos, the committee members George Corton, Darlyn Portes, and Sissi Fleitas circulated among the very lively crowd as well as Casita Board Members Martha Bograd, Michéle Gerber Klein, Alberto Mariaca, Ben Rodriguez-Cubenas, and Jean Shafiroff.

Lee Fryd and Jean Shafiroff
George Corton, Jackie Weld Drake, Darlyn Portes

The intimate party was energized with conversations on everybody’s summer vacations; trips to Greece, the horse farm in Dutchess County, Europe, and the Hamptons in other words, the summer is over and gala season has begun.

Don Willmott, Ellen Willmott, Sissi Fleitas
Peggy Siegal, Steven Aronson

The party was a huge turnout with everyone talking and standing moving room to room including Estrellita Brodsky, Susan Cheever, Anencia Dixon, Lee Fryd, Susan Gutfreund, Ann Nitze, Marc Rosen, Victor Roquette, Daisy Soros, and Barbara Tober, joined by Casita Maria Executive Director Felix Urrutia and Artistic Director Gail Heidel.

Jackie Weld Drake, Barbara Tober
Jean Shafiroff, Daisy Soros

Fiesta Casita Maria’s 89th anniversary Fiesta! Gala will honor Grammy winning producer Nelson Albareda, Dr. Ramon Tallaj, the founder of SOMOS network, and Ambassador David and Jennifer Fischer at The Plaza Hotel on October 10th.

Alberto Mariaca, Catherine Bryan, Mai Hallingby

Fiesta! 2023 will be a very elegant black tie affair that ends with a blowout of hot dancing to live Latin music. Vamos!




Yvonna Russell

Yvonna Russell is a writer with over 10 years of experience in covering the arts, style, and good causes.