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Exhibit Surveys Puerto Ricans In New York
By DEEPTI HAJELA | Associated Press Writer
21 January 2005
NEW YORK -- Puerto Rican exiles living in New York created the design for the Puerto Rican flag in 1895, and throughout the years, expatriates continued to take an interest in their homeland.
But they were also part of the city where they lived, championing social causes in the tumultuous 1960s, creating art and literature and proudly taking on the name "Nuyoricans."
A new exhibition chronicles the history of Puerto Ricans in a part of New York that became synonymous with them: El Barrio, or Spanish Harlem. "El Barrio: Puerto Rican New York" opened Friday at the Museum of the City of New York and runs through June 12. It was organized with the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College.
"El Barrio ... served as an incubator for the creation of the Nuyorican identity, this generation of people who were born and raised in El Barrio and who took their Puerto Rican identity from that neighborhood as opposed to the island of Puerto Rico," Kathleen Benson, the exhibition coordinator, said.
Although their numbers have been diminishing in recent years, Puerto Ricans make up the largest Latino ethnic group in the city, at just over 873,000, according to the U.S. Census. From the middle 20th century until the 1980s, a large concentration of Puerto Ricans could be found in Spanish Harlem -- an area running from about 96th Street to 120th Street, between Fifth Avenue and Third Avenue.
The show covers decades of history, using photographs and documents to examine the history of El Barrio, and focuses on such themes as politics and cultural life. Many of the visual images come from the work of Hiram Maristany, a resident of the area who has been chronicling the community for decades.
There are images from La Marqueta, the storied vendor space under the Park Avenue viaduct that at its height was home to about 500 vendors. There's the woman selling ices on a street corner; entertainer Jimmy Sabater entertaining an appreciative audience.
The documents show the ship routes Puerto Ricans took come to New York, and another section shows the images of some of those who requested identification cards that proved they were citizens.
A timeline showcases historic achievements -- the first Puerto Ricans in state and federal government, the opening of "West Side Story" on Broadway, the creation of El Museo del Barrio in 1969.
Benson said that there was interest in taking the exhibition elsewhere, including Puerto Rico, but no travel plans have been finalized. The museum has planned a series of events tied to the show, including a concert and walking tour of the neighborhood.
On the Net:
Museum of the City of New York: http://www.mcny.org