Terraza 7, a cultural hub for immigrants from all over the world

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Colombian immigrant Freddy Castiblanco opened Terraza 7 in 2002 with the purpose to bring unity to the many different international communities that coexist in Jackson Heights, Queens.

“When I moved to the neighborhood, I was fascinated by its diversity. There are Indians, Mexicans, Colombians, Ecuadorians, and many other communities here” he said. “But I didn’t like that they really didn’t interact with each other.”

Castiblanco, who is a big Jazz fan, said that the best way to bring people together is through music, which is why he invites guest bands that play rhythms from all over the world.

Some of the most requested genres include: Cuban folk music, an Indo-Latin fusion between bhangra and salsa, Colombian cumbia and experimental jazz, said Terraza 7’s DJ Michael Noonan.

“Probably the most popular band is this Afro-Colombian group called Rebolu,” he said. “It is always a packed house when they come.”

The bar, which gets its name from the balcony in the second floor and its vicinity to the 7 train, is also a cultural hub. It hosts, for instance, an open-mic poetry reading on the first Tuesday of each month. It is also a place for discussion on domestic and international issues.

Castiblanco, who is heavily involved in community activism, often hosts panels about Colombian politics. A little over a month ago, he invited a political-science professor to discuss the historical significance of the peace agreement between President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC left-wing guerrilla.

Although Terraza 7 has become an important part of the Jackson Heights community, it will have to close its doors at the end of the year because Castiblanco’s lease is up and the building will be transformed into a condominium. Although he would like to move to another location in the same neighborhood, the new rent would cost him more than $15,000 per month, compared to the $4,500 a month that he pays now.

Back in April, some of his most faithful regulars started an online petition to show landlords how important the bar is for the Jackson Heights community. The petition collected almost 1,300 signatures, but it closed without reaching the 2,000. signatures goal.

Although the lease ends in less than three months, Castiblanco is still trying to find a solution.