7. El Barrio and the Upper East Side: It had been a crazy morning as I ran all over my house trying to find my jacket and boots. My mom had been admitted into the hospital that morning for a massive headache and all I could think about was whether or not she would be okay. I took her to the emergency room that day before so going to class was the last thing on my mind. My father and sister had agreed to stay with her till I ended class so I was more at ease knowing she wouldn’t be alone. After running all over my house looking for my things I quickly gathered myself to make my train.
I finally ot to Penn Station with four minutes to spare. I quickly walked to where the rest of my class was as we waited for instructions to where we would be heading today. Mike had finally told us to gather together and briefly ran through our plans for the day. We found out that we would be visiting East Harlem as well as the Upper East Side. East Harlem also known as Spanish Harlem was our first stop.
The area is an uptown neighborhood of Manhattan and is also known to many locals as “El Barrio. In recent events like many parts of the city the neighborhood has been experiencing gentrification and some residents have even been forced to ove out of the area. Over the years the area has been home to a large amount of different ethnic communities and immigrants. Today the area is known for its Latino population and community. After walking a bit through the area we went into the Museum of the City of New York. The museum’s exhibitions spoke and mostly focused on the city’s history and diversity over the years. After entering the museum we all met with our tour guide right outside El Museo del Barrio.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to enter the museum but we later found out that the museum was part of a public school classroom and was rganized by Puerto Rican activists from the area to show and preserve their heritage and culture to the public. Our tour guide had us stand in a circle to try to get to know us all better. We found out that he was actually Latino himself and lived in the Bronx. He began taking to us about the neighborhood and explained to us how the area was filled with many immigrants from South America (161).
We continued our tour through East Harlem and just like every different part of the city; this area was unique in its own way. What made this area stand out compared the other parts of the ity that I had visited before, was that painted murals could be found on many of the buildings. We walked on 103rd Street and came across one of my favorite murals the “Sprits of East Harlem” mural. Hank Prussing created this mural around the late 70s. The mural was created to show the individuals of the area taking part in their daily customs.
The reason that this mural stood out to me the most was because growing up my grandmother had lived in a similar area in the Bronx. Many of my uncles would be playing cards or domino in front of their homes and some of the people would even be playing their usic. The mural itself captures the community in how individuals from the neighborhood are all going through different situations each day, yet at are all coming together as a community. Prior to painting this mural Prussing had spent some time photographing individuals from the neighborhood to use as inspiration for the mural (163).
Prussing’s mural was not the only mural within the neighborhood. Another mural across this known as the mural dedicated to Rev. Pedro Pietri stands directly across form his. This mural like many of the area’s public art represents a part of the community. This mural however was dedicated to Perti a Puerto Rican immigrant who was also a community activist and had also established Nutorican Poets Cafe. After admiring some of the public art within the area we walked over to the Modesto “Tin” Flores Garden. This garden had been created as a joint effort between GrowNYC and Hope Community.
This garden had previously been a dumping growing until the two organizations had come together to give the community an escape from the urban life. A fountain sculpture stands in the middle of the garden was created by Lina Puerta and is called “Seed of Growth” Puerta created this fountain as a epresentation of strength and diversity of women (164). The neighborhood had many other forms of art created for the community. As we walked toward 116th Street we came across the Graffiti Wall of Fame.
This mural expands across the schoolyard of P. S. 3. Ray Rodrigues, who was also an activist, created this mural. Rodrigues’s wall of fame was created to display graffiti artwork. Today this mural is the only graffiti art that can legally be demonstrated to the public. As our tour of East Harlem slowly came to an end our tour guide had as all gather around him to talk about what we had seen and learned about from our visit. As he began to speak a man behind me screamed “Gentrification! It’s happening! ” We all began to laugh because we had thought Mike or Meritta had paid him to scream that.
Our tour guide continued speaking to us about the area and how many of the immigrants from the area have faced discrimination and poverty (165). Our last stop of East Harlem was in a small shop known for selling good luck bracelets. I of course was sold on the fact that if I bought a bracelet I would be the luckiest person in the world. However, with over 23 students almost all the bracelets were gone and I only had the chance to buy one of them. Although I wanted a bracelet badly I knew that I would buy one and give it for my mother so that she could get better.
So I only bought one and as soon as I got on the train and got to the hospital I told my mother all about my day and how I bought her a bracelet so that she was able to get better. That same day my mother’s nurse had come into the room and noticed her bracelet. She asked my mother where she had gotten it and mother told her all about my class and me. The nurse was surprised to find out where I got it from and told my mom she had taken Gotham NY as well when she was a student at Molloy College.
During the tour beginning of my tour of East Harlem all I could think about was how my mom was feeling and had a difficult time enjoying all the art and history in front of me. However, in the end I am glad I chose not to miss my class. After buying my mother the bracelet and after a week of recovery she was feeling a lot better. I couldn’t believe that Mike was right when he said that those bracelets were in fact good luck. I even felt more connected with my mother after learning about how immigrants from South America have faced discrimination and poverty.
My mother is an immigrant from Ecuador and moved to the U. S. hen she was younger. During my tour through East Harlem all I wanted to do was tell her about how we were learning about our Latino Heritage. I began to think about all the moments I took for granted growing up. My mother had always spoken Spanish to me and always spoke about our culture and her homeland, and yet I didn’t realize how hard it was for her moving to a different country. My mother grew up in a poor area in the Bronx and had faced discrimination just like many people from East Harlem had. Looking back it was as if the class was planned for me to go home and tell my mother how proud I was to be a Latina.