Ruben Rincon

The Travel Channel recently named Pittsburgh among the 10 best “All-American Vacations” for 2014, calling it “one of the hippest cities in America,” an arts destination in recreation-rich western Pennsylvania that’s “bubbling over with young people helping to redefine the city.”

They’re not the only ones. Ruben Rincon, a native of Popayan, Colombia who has been working in northern California for several years, is pursuing a master of science in software management at Carnegie Mellon University’s Silicon Valley campus. He won a free trip to Pittsburgh as part of a sweepstakes last fall tied to a Silicon Valley-focused business investment and talent attraction mission organized by the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance and ImaginePittsburgh.com. A project manager at Microsoft, Rincon had this to say about his visit.

Ruben Rincon, a graduate student at CMU's Silicon Valley campus, during a visit to Pittsburgh
Ruben Rincon, a graduate student at CMU’s Silicon Valley campus, during a visit to Pittsburgh

55,889: that’s the number of steps my Fitbit counted during three fabulous days that my wife and I spent in Pittsburgh over Memorial Day weekend. It was an enriching experience in which we learned about the city, its people and a little bit of history too – as well as enjoying weather in our favor with sunny blue skies.

The first things you notice when you get to Pittsburgh are the gold and blue bridges along the three rivers: the Allegheny, the Ohio and the Monongahela. It makes for a pretty, scenic view of what once was one of the biggest industrial spots in the country.

We were welcomed in the Westin Hotel with a basketful of goodies and suggestions for things to do in the city – a surprising amount considering its population is just 350,000. Scheduling all of the activities in one weekend was going to be a challenge, so we started with a visit to the nearby Cultural District, enjoying the Broadway show at Heinz Hall. It’s amazing how many cultural activities Pittsburgh hosts, including shows and concerts. I have never seen such a variety of shows in northern California. We spent the rest of the afternoon admiring the bridges, watching grooms and brides take their pictures in iconic city spots and walking around the popular PNC Park where the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team was playing. After a couple of non-alcoholic cocktails at Seviche, a downtown Latin American restaurant, we enjoyed dinner at Butcher & the Rye before taking the short walk back to the hotel.

Coming from California, we quickly noticed the low cost of living in Pittsburgh. Income is also lower, but it doesn’t take an accountant to see that the city offers affordable, decent living. For instance, the cost of living in Los Angeles is 31 percent higher than Pittsburgh, but average salaries in L.A. are just 12 percent higher. [Use ImaginePittsburgh.com’s cost-of-living calculator to figure out how much further your money would go in Pittsburgh.]

Ruben’s wife, Maria Caicedo, appreciating the Pittsburgh skyline.
Ruben’s wife, Maria Caicedo, appreciating the Pittsburgh skyline.

Our second day started with a couples’ massage at the Fairmont Hotel. Afterwards, we visited downtown spots like PPG Place – a courtyard amid a castle-like building made of glass and featuring fountains where kids played and dads ran behind them to avoid getting wet. Afterwards, we headed to the university district [Oakland] and entered the Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History, where we appreciated the largest dinosaur skeleton we had ever seen. This creature called the Diplodocus Carnegii and measures is 90 feet (27 meters) horizontally! We were also impressed by the architecture of the two universities near the museum – the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. We especially loved the Heinz Memorial Chapel on Pitt’s campus. At first glance, it gets overshadowed by Pitt’s towering, impressive Cathedral of Learning, but the chapel offers a mystic blue interior that must be seen.
As a student at CMU’s Silicon Valley campus, I was looking forward to visiting my alma mater in Pittsburgh and getting to know the acclaimed campus. I was impressed its buildings and big halls. We took pictures in the Hamerschlag Hall to show my colleagues back in Silicon Valley. We were impressed by the campus’s beautiful arts building and extensive lawns. To end the day properly, we went for a stylish dinner at downtown’s Grit & Grace where we enjoyed the American dim sum and other tasty and full-of-flavor dishes. (Tip: if you go, ask for the hidden sweet and sour dessert!)

Our last day was the shortest due to return-home travel plans, so we decided to visit some spots near downtown like Point State Park. There we visited the Fort Pitt Museum and took pictures with the massive fountain beside the river. It’s one of the greatest photography spots in the city. We headed to Station Square where we rode the incline – a funicular used to ferry people up and down the startling mountainsides that surround the urban core — to Mount Washington. From the top, you enjoy an astounding aerial view of the downtown buildings, the three rivers and, of course, its many bridges, many in shades or blue or gold.

Then it was time to catch the 28X bus  to the airport. On our way we ate some remaining chocolate and pretzel popcorn made by the Pittsburgh Popcorn Company and recalled memories of a trip we will never forget.

We expect to come back soon to see the places we missed during our short stay. This city offers so much to do that three days went by like a breeze. We are truly thankful to ImaginePittsburgh.com for granting us this wonderful experience.

Come visit! You will not forget it.

Check out Ruben’s Instagram account for more of his photos.

Bonnie Pfister
EGC Clementes from stage 062214CROPPED
Luis and Roberto Clemente Jr., sons of the late Pittsburgh Pirates All Star, introduce fellow Puerto Ricans El Gran Combo at the Pittsburgh JazzLive Festival June 22, 2014.

The Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival wrapped up Sunday with sunshine and salsa as thousands of fans danced in the streets of the Cultural District to the rhythm of the legendary El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico. (See videos and photos on Flickr and ImaginePittsburgh.com’s social media channels, links above right.)

In its first-ever performance in Pittsburgh, the 52-year-old orchestra — sometimes described as “the Rolling Stones of salsa” for their high-octane longevity — drew fans from across Pennsylvania, Ohio, western New York, Maryland and Washington D.C. – as well as many Puerto Ricans, Nuyoricans and other Latinos who have chosen to make the Pittsburgh region their home.

In the pulsating crowd a few rows back from the stage, local musician María Eugenia “Geña” Nieves Escoriaza said it was hard not get a little teary. “I use to see them live all the time at festivals in Puerto Rico. It’s been almost 20 years since the last time,” she said. A native of Quebradillas (about an hour west of San Juan), Nieves moved to Pittsburgh from New York in 2004. “I needed this so badly. Props to those who made it possible!”

The concert was sponsored by Fifth Third Bank and ImaginePittsburgh.com as part of the ¡HolaPittsburgh! partnership, which has launched a year-long effort to highlight the Pittsburgh region as a place of opportunity for people from Puerto Rico and other Latinos around the country who may be considering new career opportunities. Cleveland-based Noël Quintana and the Latin Crew, which performs frequently in Pittsburgh, played for a smaller but equally joyous audience at Katz Plaza between performances by El Gran Combo and jazz singer Dianne Reeves, the festival’s closing act.

Even mid-week, Pittsburgh’s social and digital media scene continued to buzz with excitement about the concert. “Pittsburgh will never be the same!! Salsa from the best! Muchas gracias!!” wrote one commenter on JazzLive’s Livestream page. “THANK YOU for bringing them to Pittsburgh. I haven’t danced that much and had that much fun since I moved here 5 years ago,” said another.

“Jazz festivals should be more than simply a collection of concerts. They should be celebrations of music; festive, as the word implies,’ wrote Bob Karlovits on TribLive.com.  “(JazzLive Director) Janis Burley Wilson has kept it on the streets. The result is a festival with a sense of democracy…. It was also a great celebration of types of music. Nothing showed that better than the performance of El Gran Combo.”

What’s next for the ¡HolaPittsburgh! initiative? Look for social media updates under the hashtag #HolaPittsburgh on Facebook.com/HolaPittsburgh, Twitter.com/Hola_Pittsburgh and the ImaginePittsburgh Instagram account or Pinterest page.

In addition to ImaginePittsburgh.com and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust (presenter of the JazzLive festival), other ¡HolaPittsburgh! partners include The Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Latin American Cultural Union, Roberto Clemente Foundation, Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation, Allegheny County, Allegheny County Airport Authority, City of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, Pittsburgh Promise, Point Park University, World Affairs Council-Pittsburgh, Vibrant Pittsburgh and VISITPittsburgh.

 

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Looking for a job? Pittsburgh’s got ‘em — more than 20,000 open positions across the 10-county region. Check out our powerful job search aggregator at ImaginePittsburgh.com/work.

Find a job, advance your career, build a life you’ll love: ImaginePittsburgh.com.

Bonnie Pfister

Since 1986, volunteers with the Latin American Cultural Union have been preserving and celebrating the culture of Pittsburghers of Latino heritage — as well as newcomers from Latin America and the Caribbean. LACU organizes events year-round that are open to everyone and highlight Latino music, dance, art, food and fellowship.

Southwestern Pennsylvania’s Hispanic population is small (about 32,000 as of 2010) but fast-growing (up 72 percent over 2000). LACU is working to forge stronger connections among Latinos across the region, in part by beefing up its presence on social networks and other digital media.

Dancing at the 2013 JazzLive Fesitval, of which this year's El Gran Combo performance is a part. Photo courtesy Jesabel Rivera
Dancing at the 2013 JazzLive Fesitval, of which this year’s El Gran Combo performance is a part. Photo courtesy Jesabel Rivera

LACU President Jesabel Rivera has been an important element this increased visibility. Originally drawn to the region from San Juan, Puerto Rico for graduate studies in public health at Pitt, she is now a health strategy consultant for Highmark.

She’s also a member of the steering committee of ¡Hola Pittsburgh!, a public-private partnership that seeks to improve the region’s diversity and inclusiveness to sustain its population, economic prosperity and quality of life. The partnership’s kickoff event is the free outdoor concert in the Cultural District this Sunday, June 22 at 3 p.m. featuring El Gran Combo, called by some “the Rolling Stones of salsa.”

And of course, Jesabel is one of our ImaginePittsburgh.com Neighbors, individuals who help to extend the welcome beyond hello to newcomers, boomerangers and native Pittsburghers alike. You can check out her profile here; take the “Find Yourself in Pittsburgh!” quiz to see which Neighbors share your interests or careers; and then ping them via their LinkedIn profiles (linked on their ImaginePittsburgh.com profile page).

And if it’s a career change you’re contemplating, be sure to check out our powerful job search engine. It combs more than 900 websites and job boards (including Monster, Career Builder and Craigslist) nightly to let you access the more than 20,000 jobs available now.

P.S. Fascinated by Roberto Clemente, but have never had a chance to get inside the private museum in Lawrenceveille dedicated to him? Now’s your chance to do so while helping raise scholarship funds for Hispanic students. For $50 this Saturday, June 20, you can explore this the museum’s collection of baseball artifacts, photographs and memorabilia that highlight the All-Star right fielder’s career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, his personal life and his humanitarian work — and enjoy delicious drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Buy tickets or learn more here at the website of the Greater Pittsburgh Metropolitan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

 

Bonnie Pfister

It’s almost here! We’re just days away from the free El Gran Combo concert at 3 p.m. at the outdoor Penn Avenue Stage One at Ninth Street in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District, sponsored by ImaginePittsburgh.com as part of the ¡Hola Pittsburgh! partnership.

espadaThe concert is part of the PittsburghJazzLive International Festival that kicks off Friday. The festival alone could keep your feet happily tapping all weekend. Thursday, June 19 acclaimed nuyorican poet Martín Espada appeared with Pittsburgh’s own  artist/activist Vanessa German at the New Hazlett Theater on the North Side.

 

Salsa dancing. Photo by Jason CohnFriday night usually means salsa dancing at at Cabaret at Theater Square on Penn at Seventh Avenue, with free dance lessons by Jeff & Colleen from 10:00 – 10:30 p.m. This Friday June 20 is no exception, but El Gran Combo hits will be played through the night (including cuts from their first production in 1962) with 50th Anniversary El Gran Combo CDs given away as door prizes. $5 cover charge.

ClementeFascinated by Roberto Clemente, but never had an opportunity to get inside the private museum in Lawrenceveille dedicated to him? Now’s your chance to do so while helping to raise scholarship funds for Pittsburgh students of Latino origin. For $50, at 6 p.m.  Saturday June 21 you can explore this the museum’s collection of baseball artifacts, photographs and memorabilia that highlight the All-Star right fielder’s career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, his personal life and his humanitarian work — and enjoy delicious drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Buy tickets or learn more from the Greater Pittsburgh Metropolitan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

DTorresArochoAlso Saturday we’ll be welcoming Daniel E. Torres Arocho, winner of a free trip from Puerto Rico to see El Gran Combo and experience Pittsburgh as a great place to play — and possibly live and work. It’s part of the ¡Hola Pittsburgh! campaign to market our region to people from Puerto Rico who may be considering a move to the states. Why choose Miami, DC or New York when you can live in Pittsburgh with lower costs of living, better schools, cleaner streets and friendlier people? Torres will enjoy a weekend of downtown lodgings, tours by VisitPITTSBURGH, meals at iconic Pittsburgh restaurants and of course Sunday’s concert, including a backstage meeting with los profesores del Universidad de Salsa.

2014 El Gran Combo Training Resized-8On Sunday June 22, look for the ¡Hola Pittsburgh! hospitality tent from noon until 8 p.m. at Penn Avenue and Ninth Street. There you’ll find friendly “ambassadors” (like those pictured here) who can give you tips on where to find food, fun and the bathroom at the JazzLive festival, as well as hip you to the fact that there are more than 20,000 open jobs across the 10 counties right now. We’ll also be raffling off a free iPad! Dance on over before or after El Gran Combo takes the stage at 3 p.m.

Look for us on social media under the hashtag #HolaPittsburgh and hit us up with your photos, texts and more at Facebook.com/HolaPittsburghTwitter.com/Hola_Pittsburgh and on the ImaginePittsburgh Instagram account  or the ImaginePittsburgh Pinterest page.

The ¡Hola Pittsburgh! partnership includes the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Latin American Cultural Union, the Roberto Clemente Foundation, the Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation, Allegheny County, the Allegheny County Airport Authority, the City of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, Pittsburgh Promise, Point Park University, World Affairs Council-Pittsburgh, Vibrant Pittsburgh, VisitPITTSBURGH, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and its ImaginePittsburgh.com initiative. ¡Hola Pittsburgh! seeks to improve the diversity and inclusiveness of the Pittsburgh region to sustain its population, economic prosperity and quality of life.

Bonnie Pfister

El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico – one of the oldest and best-known salsa bands in the world – will headline the Fourth Annual Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival which takes over Penn Avenue at Eighth Street in the Cultural District on June 20-22. The free festival consists of three days of jazz and jazz-influenced musical performances on outdoor stages and attracts more than 20,000 attendees from around the country.

Founded in 1962, the 15-member orchestra has never stopped recording, with four of El Gran Combo’s albums reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Tropical Album chart over the past decade. (Check out a recent hit, Sin Salsa No Hay Paraiso [Without Salsa There Is No Heaven] here.)

Sin Salsa No Hay Paraiso
2010′s Sin Salsa No Hay Paraiso (“Without Salsa There Is No Heaven”)

“The JazzLive Festival is committed to presenting a vast array of music from locals to legends, and El Gran Combo’s history takes the festival to new heights as an international music destination,” said Janis Burley Wilson, director of jazz programs and vice president of education and community engagement for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

ImaginePittsburgh.com is sponsoring El Gran Combo’s performance to kick off a year-long initiative highlighting the Pittsburgh region as a place of opportunity for people from Puerto Rico who may be considering a career move to the states.

ImaginePittsburgh.com is a project of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and its Affiliates, which are part of the ¡Hola Pittsburgh! partnership. Also including The Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Latin American Cultural Union, Roberto Clemente Foundation, Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation, Allegheny County, Allegheny County Airport Authority, City of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, Pittsburgh Promise, Point Park University, World Affairs Council-Pittsburgh, Vibrant Pittsburgh and VISITPittsburgh, the ¡Hola Pittsburgh! partnership seeks to improve the diversity and inclusiveness of the Pittsburgh region to sustain its population, economic prosperity and quality of life.

Learn more at HolaPittsburgh.com, and look for social media updates under #HolaPgh.

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Looking for a job? Pittsburgh’s got ‘em — more than 25,000 open positions across the 10-county region. Check out our powerful job search aggregator at ImaginePittsburgh.com/work.

Find a job, advance your career, build a life you’ll love: ImaginePittsburgh.com.

 

Bonnie Pfister
The Night Market in 2013. Photo Copyright Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership
The Night Market in 2013. Photo Copyright Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership

Hope to see you April 25 at the Gallery Crawl and Night Market Downtown and in the Cultural District!

Sponsored by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, the quarterly gallery crawl means free entry – plus (usually) complimentary beverages and snacks – to dozens of galleries and performance spaces in the Cultural District proper (generally Penn Avenue downtown and its arteries) as well as along Liberty Avenue, where radio station WYEP 91.3 FM will set up a control booth and speakers. Things kick off at 5:30 p.m. and continue through at least 9:30 p.m.

There are lots of don’t-miss offerings, including Toby Fraley’s Secret Life of Robots show at SPACE on Liberty.

Also back in action is the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s Night Market, running from 5:30 – 11 p.m. at the corner of 8th St and Penn Avenue. Unassuming parking lot by day, this locale tonight becomes a pop-up shopping market featuring music, food, jewelry, art, photography, crafts and more from more than 30 local independent vendors.

The Night Market will also feature “The Airmasters” aerial dance team performing a half hour aerial show full of breathtaking ticks at the top of every hour with performances at 7, 8, 9, and 10:00 p.m. The PDP will also be organizing free games of cornhole throughout the night and DJ Soy Sos will be on hand spinning a variety of American pop, soul, funk, Latin and reggae.

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Find a job, advance your career in the Pittsburgh region at ImaginePittsburgh.com.