The Beginning of Another Spring Celebrates the Life of Poet and Activist Ricardo León Villa-Peña.

Five years after his death, his widow, friends and residents of Umbrella House — an East Village building he fought for and turned into a Co-Op—keep Ricardo alive through his community-oriented achievements.

From left to right: the Umbrella House in the 90’s, early 2000’s and today. Why was it called Umbrella House? “When it rained, more water fell inside, there were no ceilings and no floors, they had to put umbrellas inside,” said Lopera Sanchez. “It [the building] was an umbrella, a symbol of protection and guard, to find a space to be safe”.
21 Avenue C — Umbrella House main entrance
Going up to the 5th floor

Ricardo’s widow, Clara Lopera Sanchez “La Tata” a resident of Umbrella House, remembers him as an open-minded person always thinking about what was best for the community and its people,” said Lopera Sanchez during an interview in Spanish.

La Tata in her apartment, looking through the pictures of Ricardo, trying to find her favorites.
Ricardo, La Tata and her brother, one day before their wedding in Colombia, 2010.
“He was the connection; that’s the word that describes him. A very authentic person, with an excellent and intelligent sense of humor. Very critical of the things that where happening around him,” said Lopera Sanchez.
Ricardo’s altar. “He was always wearing a scarf, when it didn’t exist anymore he would find a new one”.
What remains of the “years of struggle”: the years in prior to becoming legal with the help of Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB), in which the activist squatters were fighting to keep the building.
The building’s roof vegetable garden. The residents take turns and responsibilities gardening and share the harvest.

Ricardo planted the seeds, took care of them as they started to bloom and passed on the tools for the community to maintain his work alive while enjoying its fruits. Ricardo’s story is to be continued.

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