The Big Bronx Sancochazo. Photo: Jesse Vad
The community dances at the Big Bronx Sancochazo at Brook Park on Sept. 28. Photo: Jesse Vad

Huge pots of stew bubbled and steamed over a fire in the Brook Park community garden on the last Saturday in September for the sixth annual Big Bronx Sancochazo. The event provided an opportunity for the community to work together by cooking Sancocho, a traditional stew.

Green Worker Cooperatives, which trains co-op workers and helps them launch new co-ops, put together the Sancochazo. Omar Freilla, 46, founder and co-op academy coordinator of Green Worker Cooperatives, said the purpose of the event was to have people in the community see what cooperation looks like.

“We wanted to put on an event that people from all over and throughout the community would come to,” said Freilla. “That they would be able to walk in and see and feel and taste and touch what it looks like and how powerful it can be when people work together to make something happen.”

The main part of the event was the Sancocho itself, a stew that the community created together by contributing ingredients. Volunteers continually chopped up vegetables over the course of the day and threw them into the simmering pots of Sancocho. 

Ysanet Batista, 28, creator and chef of Woke Foods, ran the cooking operation. The cooking process began before noon and continued until about 5:30 p.m. when the stew was served. 

Batista explained that the Sancocho is an ancestral stew traditionally of root vegetables and meat. She said that the collective nature of the event and the Sancocho gives people a chance to work together and take part in the cooking.

“You’re bringing the ingredients, you’re chopping the ingredients or you’re washing them or if you’re just standing around, you’re a part of the process,” said Batista. “This is a way to have a say in your food.”

There were also 12 co-ops present at the Sancochazo to teach the public about their missions. Most of these co-ops target those who lack accessibility to certain services or products.

Hair 4 Purpose is one such co-op. Khadiedra Williams, 31, operator of Hair 4 Purpose, said her goal is to get in touch with her community and specifically to people who can’t reach her to provide them with hair salon services.

Williams said that the Sancochazo event provided an opportunity for her to network and communicate with other co-ops in the community.

As the day continued, people danced and ate together. Jessenia Lopez, 27, a teaching artist and designer, came to the Sancochazo to enjoy her Saturday in the lively environment.

Lopez also said she learned about cooperation and new opportunities in the area. “It’s not always about going out and going far to get what you need,” said Lopez. “Sometimes you can get it right here in your community.”

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