Weekend Event Guide: Puerto Rican Day Parade Edition

Puerto Rican painter Sofia Maldonado usually works in abstraction but for this Saturday's solo show at Point Green she will return to her roots.  Photo: Sofia Maldonado, 'Bienal de Asunción,' 2015. Courtesy of the artist.

Puerto Rican painter Sofia Maldonado usually works in abstraction but for this Saturday's solo show at Point Green she will return to her roots. Photo: Sofia Maldonado, 'Bienal de Asunción,' 2015. Courtesy of the artist.

New York City’s 60th annual Puerto Rican Day Parade is this Sunday, June 11th. Nearly two million people come out to witness the giant event which celebrates Puerto Rican heritage and honors those who have made a lasting impact on the culture. This year, the parade’s organizers have chosen to emphasize unity in these divisive times. The 2017 parade theme is “Un Pueblo, Muchas Voces (One Nation, Many Voices).”  

In honor of the NYC Puerto Rican community, Point Green Zine’s weekend guide for the first week of June includes happenings that feature PR institutions, artists and musicians for the best events leading up to the parade.

Artist Sofia Maldonado is showing at the Whitney Biennial as part of Occupy Museums' Debtfair. The biennial closes on June 11th.  Photo courtesy of Occupy Museums. 

Artist Sofia Maldonado is showing at the Whitney Biennial as part of Occupy Museums' Debtfair. The biennial closes on June 11th. Photo courtesy of Occupy Museums. 

FRIDAY, JUNE 8th

Femme Nation @ Taller Boricua Gallery
12 - 6pm
1680 Lexington Avenue, NYC 10029
Taller Boricua first began as the Puerto Rican Workshop in 1969 in El Barrio. It helped fuel the Nuyorican Movement and today continues its legacy of providing a platform for marginalized artists who have typically been ignored by the mainstream art world. The gallery’s current show, Femme Nation, features Lizzy Alejandro, Sandra Ayala and Maria Extevez. The three artists use photography to explore themes of femininity, sexuality, and motherhood. Femme Nation was curated by L.C. Stephenberg and runs through June 30.
Website

The Whitney Biennial
10:30am - 10pm
99 Gansevoort Street, NYC 10014
The Whitney Biennial is one of the foremost exhibitions in contemporary art. It closes this Sunday so check it out on Friday before the weekend crowd descends. This year’s roster features many Hispanic and female artists, including Sofia Maldonaldo. See her piece in Occupy Museums’ Debtfair ahead of the opening of her solo show at Point Green on Saturday.
Website

Friday Night Poetry Slam @ Nuyorican Poets Cafe
10pm
236 East 3rd Street, NYC 10009
The Nuyorican Poets Cafe began in 1973 in the East Village living room of poet and writer Miguel Algarin. It soon began a haven for marginalized writers, visual artists, and musicians of color. Today the cafe continues to use performance as a means of social empowerment and is especially known for spoken word and poetry events. This week marks the perfect moment to check out the Friday Night Poetry Slam or head over on Sunday night for some post parade revelry.
Website

SATURDAY, JUNE 10TH

Fem Trap @ Point Green
5 - 9pm
260 Java Street, BK 11222
Puerto Rican artist Sofia Maldonado returns to her graffiti and skater roots with Fem Trap, her solo show at Point Green, a new gallery in Brooklyn. The exhibition is an exploration of young Hispanic female trap musicians and features new drawings, a visual playlist, skate decks, and a special pop-up shop stocked with special edition merch. Fem Trap opens Saturday and runs through June 30.
Website

33rd New York Salsa Festival @ Barclays Center
8pm
620 Atlantic Avenue, BK 11217
After checking out the ladies of trap at Sofia’s show, keep the music going at the New York Salsa Festival which is part of the annual programming of the Puerto Rican Day parade. This year’s lineup features Eddie Palmieri, Tito Nieves, Grupo Niche, Fruko y Sus Tesos, Tito Rojas, DLG, Eddie Santiago, Frankie Negron, Domingo Quiñones, and Nuyorican legend, Willie Colón.
Website

SUNDAY, JUNE 11TH

The Puerto Rican Day Parade in NYC celebrates its sixtieth anniversary this year. Photo courtesy of National Puerto Rican Day Parade inc.

The Puerto Rican Day Parade in NYC celebrates its sixtieth anniversary this year. Photo courtesy of National Puerto Rican Day Parade inc.

Puerto Rican Day Parade
11am - 5pm
Fifth Avenue from 44th to 86th, NYC
Don’t miss the main event of the weekend! Dubbed “America’s largest cultural celebration,” the parade is a choice way to set off summer in the city vibes. Since its 1958 debut, the Puerto Rican Day Parade has attracted massive crowds so get to Fifth Avenue early to secure your spot. This year’s edition marks the 60th anniversary of the event so it’s bound to be one for the books and the Snaps.
Website

A Short History of The Nuyorican Movement

The Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Photo courtesy of Melting Buter.

The Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Photo courtesy of Melting Buter.

By Christina Di Biase

Most American immigrants understand what it means to migrate for a chance at a better opportunity. Puerto Ricans, after gaining citizenship in 1917, flooded into New York City in the early to mid-20th century. The need to assimilate showcased itself in the Nuyorican art movement, which picked up speed in the 1960’s. A community of people, stuck between two cultures and identities, proclaimed themselves through poetry, literature, and visual arts. By creating their own hub of support and creative energy they thrived not only in their respective neighborhoods, but on a larger scale as well.

Miguel Piñero and Miguel Algarin co-founded of the Nuyorican Poet’s Café on the Lower East Side (Loisada). Initially operating out of Algarin’s apartment in 1973, the production became so populated that they moved to a local pub and then finally to their current building on East 3rd Street. The Lower East Side was largely a Puerto Rican and Dominican community in the 20th century before being of interest to real estate companies that made it into the “trendy” area it is today. The Nuyorican Poets Cafe was and is a space by the people for the people, a production that existed and thrived outside of the mainstream. There was an aroma of love and struggle that existed in unity within the cafe and within the movement. Communities of marginalized voices sparked a resistant and active arts community, which is what the Nuyorican movement was. Miguel Piñero wrote “A Lower East Side Poem” expressing this love and sadness. The influence of rap on the poem is apparent, also at the start of its popularity.

Miguel Piñero moved to the Lower East side from Puerto Rico at four years old. His father left at an early age and his family lived in poverty. He turned to theft at a young age-- first, to support his family, and later, because it was familiar. Affiliations with gangs and robberies led him from detention center to jailhouse, where he spent a lot of his young life. It is also where he wrote his play, “Short Eyes,” in 1974 as a part of a prison workshop, which would go on to Broadway and win “Best American Play” twice. His writing career was ignited in prison and continued to roar thereafter.

…there’s no other place that I can see

there’s no other town around that

brings you up or keeps you down

no food little heat sweeps by

fancy cars & pimps’ bars & juke saloons

& greasy spoons make my spirits fly

with my ashes scattered thru the

Lower East Side . . .

 

A thief, a junkie I’ve been

committed every known sin

Jews and Gentiles . . . Bums & Men

of style . . . run away child

police shooting wild . . .

mother’s futile wails . . . pushers

making sales . . . dope wheelers

& cocaine dealers . . . smoking pot

streets are hot & feed off those who bleed to death . . .

 

all that’s true

all that’s true

all that is true

but this ain’t no lie

when I ask that my ashes be scattered thru

the Lower East Side…

 (A selection from Miguel Piñero’s poem “A Lower East Side Poem” )

Further uptown in East Harlem, known colloquially as El Barrio, rests another pocket of artists very active during the Nuyorican movement. Spanish Harlem still remains the largest population of Puerto Ricans in the city. One of the more popular destinations even today is El Museo, known for their celebration of Latin American and Caribbean cultures through visual arts. The museum was a fire station before its transition. Occupied by radical activists, it soon became a place where many fought for educational progress among the Latin community. The El Museo community fought for an integrated education, in a time where the primary focus was on white western cultures in classrooms. After continuous and persistent pressure, the board expanded programming by the late 60’s.

Rafael Montañez Ortiz, an artist, activist, and teacher, was appointed to create the materials for schools that highlighted Puerto Rican culture and history. He then transformed those materials into a museum that acted as an educational institution. In 1969, El Museo first functioned out of a local public school. It moved from brownstone to storefront over the years, before settling in its current location on 104th street and 5th avenue. The museum offers exhibitions, workshops, apprentice programs, library resources, and art project funding, all budgeted through the board of education.

The Nuyorican movement embodied the question of the creation of the self. Arts became a form of activism, amplifying their voices in a system that attempted to drown them out. It transcended ethnic groups and became a symbol of Latinx culture, but also a symbol of hope for any American immigrant who felt they were leaving their culture behind.