Philadelphia and the Countryside - Press Room

Releases: Expanded View

Jul 28 2015

Philly's El Centro De Oro Neighborhood Radiates Latino Flavor & Culture

The Spirit Of “The Golden Block” Lives In Its Cultural Centers, Restaurants & People

The hub of Latino culture and life in Philadelphia, El Centro de Oro ("The Golden Block") is home to international non-profit organizations, many third- and fourth-generation family-owned businesses and residents descending from almost every Latino country. Visitors to this lively enclave—just a short cab ride from Center City Philadelphia—can feast on authentic Latin/Caribbean dishes at Isla Verde, find inspiration in the work of Puerto Rican artists at Taller Puertorriqueño or feel their way through a flamenco dance lesson at Raíces Culturales Latinoamericanas.

Here are some ways to experience Latino culture and flavors in El Centro de Oro and beyond:

Neighborhood Culture:

  • Owned by the Gonzalez family for three generations, Centro Musical stocks the largest collection of Latino music CDs in the entire state. It’s also a one-stop shop for musical instruments and a good place to catch an impromptu musical performance by a neighborhood artist any day of the week. 464 W. Lehigh Avenue, (215) 425-7050
  • Located at what locals consider the start of El Centro de Oro, the HACE Business & Visitor Center provides visitors with information about cultural activities, events and businesses in the vibrant neighborhood. The center also houses an art gallery featuring the work of local artists. 2708-10 N. 5th Street, (215) 426-4990,
  • Six urban gardens comprise the Norris Square Neighborhood Project’s Food and Landscape program. The hub, Las Parcelas (“the parcels”) encompasses more than 30 lots managed by the organization and supported by community groups and individuals who grow flowers, vegetables and herbs. People enjoy educational and cultural programs, cooking demonstrations in the outdoor kitchen and “la casita,” a tiny house that has been transformed into a mini-museum of life in rural Puerto Rico thanks to residents’ donations of musical instruments, cooking utensils and homemade crafts. Other gardens: El Batey, “a place of retreat;” Raices, Spanish for “roots,” where children are encouraged to learn and play in a safe place; Villa Africana el Colobó, a space celebrating Afro-Caribbean culture; and Jardín de Paz, “garden of peace.” 2141 N. Howard Street, (215) 634-2227,
  • Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program beautifies neighborhoods all over the city with stunning and thought-provoking installations. A couple highlights in El Centro de Oro: Tropical Landscape with Waterfall (5th and Berks streets) by Ana Uribe looks over the area, and Wall of Neighborhood Heroes (2239 N. 2nd Street)—painted by Mural Arts’ founder and executive director Jane Golden—depicts the likeness of residents Iris Brown and Tomasita Romero, among others. (215) 685-0750,
  • Visual and performing arts are the focus at Raíces Culturales Latinoamericanas, founded in 1991 by a group of Latin American folkloric dancers and musicians. On the weekends, Raíces hosts a Latin music jam session. In addition, the organization presents music and dance showcases at venues throughout the region. Crane Art’s Old School, 1417 N. 2nd Street, (215) 425-1390,
  • Opened in 2010 by Betsy Casanas, A Seed on Diamond Street provides an alternative space for artists in music, spoken word, dance and the visual arts from various communities and cultural backgrounds to share their stories. 124 Diamond Street, (264) 844-5072,
  • Taller Puertorriqueño, the first and only Latino organization in the state to receive the Governor’s Award for the Arts, showcases the city’s most extensive collection of Puerto Rican and other Latin American paintings, sculptures and other visual arts. And the gift shop offers authentic and original works by local artists at affordable prices. No wonder it’s dubbed the “Cultural Heart of El Barrio.” The groundbreaking for its new El Corazón Cultural Center (5th Street and Huntingdon Avenue), which will be the largest Puerto Rican/Latino-based arts and cultural facility in Pennsylvania and the region, takes place in fall 2015. 2721 N. 5th Street, (215) 426-3311,
  • Every September, several neighborhood organizations host Feria del Barrio, one of the largest celebrations of Latino art and culture in the city. The free music, dance and arts extravaganza takes place on the lively streets and sidewalks of El Centro de Oro. 5th Street between Lehigh Avenue & Cambria Street, (215) 426-3311,

Neighborhood Restaurants:

  • Serving authentic tastes of Puerto Rico for the past 20 years, El Bohio dishes out salads, sandwiches and small plates, including fried plantain chips, fried cassava root, beer brined wings and croquetas. 2746 N. 5th Street, (215) 425-5991
  • In the heart of the Latino community, Isla Verde Café serves traditional tapas Thursday through Sunday. Patrons can dance to the hottest local DJs on Friday nights and groove to the house band on Saturday nights. 2725 N. American Street, (215) 426-3600
  • People step off of 5th Street and into Mexico when they enter Taco Riendo. Hungry patrons indulge in traditional Mexican favorites such as burritos, quesadillas and tacos and sip on whatever they want—it’s a bring-your-own-bottle spot, after all. 1301 N. 5th Street,
    (215) 235-2294

Nearby Flavors:

  • The husband and wife behind Sazon have been serving up home-cooked Venezuelan food since 2004. Chef Judith Suzarra-Campbell, born in Venezuela, grinds her own corn flour for her arepas, which she fills with shredded beef, chicken, pulled pork and scrambled eggs. Her husband Robert Campbell, the chocolate alchemist, mixes up a selection of hot chocolates and truffles. The menu also features a number of vegetarian and gluten-free options. 941 Spring Garden Street, (215) 763-2500,
  • Specializing in authentic Colombian and Cuban cuisine, Tierra Colombiana draws a late-night crowd to its cozy, tropical space. Musical performances feature Latin sounds from Central, South and North America and the Caribbean. 4535 N. 5th Street, (215) 324-6086,
  • From south of the border to North Philadelphia, Las Cazuelas satisfies patrons’ Mexican cravings. Philly native Alfredo Aquilar cooks up classic ceviche, popular mole poblano and much more. 426 W. Girard Avenue, (215) 351-9144,

VISIT PHILADELPHIA® makes Philadelphia and The Countryside® a premier destination through marketing and image building that increases the number of visitors, the number of nights they stay and the number of things they do in the five-county area.

On Greater Philadelphia’s official visitor website and blog, and, visitors can explore things to do, upcoming events, themed itineraries and hotel packages. Compelling photography and videos, interactive maps and detailed visitor information make the sites effective trip-planning tools. Along with Visit Philly social media channels, the online platforms communicate directly with consumers. Travelers can also call and stop into the Independence Visitor Center for additional information and tickets.

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The hub of Latino culture and life in Philadelphia, El Centro de Oro (“The Golden Block”) is home to international non-profit organizations, third- and fourth-generation family-owned businesses and residents descending from almost every Latino country. Visitors to this lively enclave—just a short cab ride from Center City Philadelphia—can feast on authentic Latin/Caribbean dishes at Isla Verde, find inspiration in the work of Puerto Rican artists at Taller Puertorriqueño or feel their way through a flamenco dance lesson at Raíces Culturales Latinoamericanas.

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