Santa Wanda – August 1, 2015

Written by Juan Martinez

Tourist buses from Philly and New York City and other areas sit idly have dropped off their many passengers earlier in the morning to visit the Latino Cultural Center located in Santa Wanda. The buses with their passengers will leave later in the evening after one of the two nightly shows in the 5,000-seat theater. Prior to the 9:00 PM show some of the attendees to the show were to various Hispanic cuisine featuring samples of Cuban, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Peruvian, Costa Rican and Guatemalan dishes at the buffet provided at Latino Cultural Center dinner.

Other tourists and visitors arrive by train and private cars to Santa Wanda. Many of these tourists and visitors spend their day at the Latino Cultural Center designed in concept after the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii.

Still an even significantly larger group of tourists and visitors travel to Santa Wanda to eat in the many restaurants featuring all types of meals native to Spanish-language countries in the Caribbean, Mexico, South and Central America. Still others walk the streets and sidewalks in Santa Wanda looking and shopping the clothing and artwork indigenous to Santa Wanda. Others stand in line to see the latest play at Repertorio Espanol. Still others stand in line at the theater next door to see a revival of the play “¿Quién mató a Héctor Lavoe?” Then there are others who arrive way after the last of the buses leave to return their passengers back to Philly, New York and other places who venture to the hot, throbbing dance clubs located thorough out Little Tenochtitlan to give homage to the music of salsa, meregue, bacata and other Hispanic genres.

As a recent article in the New York Times Sunday magazine proclaimed, “For all of those who always wanted to visit Mexico, Puerto Rico or Guatemala, but never had the opportunity, Santa Wanda in Central Jersey is the next best thing. New York and San Francisco have their China towns, Miami its Little Havana, the Iron Bound in Newark its delightful Portuguese restaurants, none have the variety and authentic as Central Jersey’s Santa Wanda.”

The area now known as Santa Wanda was once called Chambersburg home to a predominately Italian-American community and was widely noted for its fine Italian restaurants. As the Italian families left new immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries came and rebuilt the area in their own image.

Your young men will see visions; your old men will dream dreams.

Juan Martinez

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2 comments so far

  1. pjs on

    This is racially and ethinically divisive, not to mention BARELY literate (by someone who ostensibly “works” for the Board of Education – irony!); it’s quite troubling to me.

  2. Jon Carl Lewis on

    Having known “old” Chambersburg, I don’t think it is a stretch to see the similarities between a “Hispanic” Chambersburg and the “Italian” Chambersburg. It was the strong ethnic influence of succeeding waves of immigrants making this part of Trenton their own which has led to it’s layers of charm. I’m not sure I’d like to see the name of the neighborhood changed (“Chambersburg,” for instance, is not an Italian name by any stretch of the imagination) but I do think this is an eloquent, statement of a vision which honors the realities of Trenton’s past and present while presenting an exciting directional opportunity for the future.


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