Significant Latinx History Sites in the Village
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The Loisaida Center
The Loisaida Center at 710 East 9th street is a pillar of the Latinx/Puerto Rican community of the Lower East Side. Once threatened with eviction in 2008, the community rallied together and formed Loisaida Inc., which enabled them to stay. The organization hosts events and meetings, as well as a Culinary Incubator, which trains participants in the culinary arts. They also host the annual Loisaida Festival; since 1987 this has been the largest Latinx celebration in Lower Manhattan. It takes place on the Sunday before Memorial Day, and features music, activities, food, and general celebrations of the Loisaida history and culture.
The Loisaida Center has been instrumental in providing resources for artists and activists in the neighborhood, and is currently working on offering technological education with a new maker space.
The Loisaida building itself has been around since 1876. Designed by D.I. Stagg, it was originally built as Grammar School No. 36, then Public School No. 36.
Tompkins Square Park and the Young Lords
Tompkins Square park is filled with a rich history of activism and punk culture. Among many other firsts, it is also the site where the Young Lords announced the founding of their New York chapter on July 26, 1969. The Young Lords were a Puerto Rican political and social action organization that was active in many United States cities, most notably New York City and Chicago. Though they began as a turf gang in Chicago’s Lincoln Park in 1960, they reorganized into a civil and human rights movement by the mid-1960’s, led by Jose “Cha Cha” Jimenez. Their first political action in New York, only a few days after the announcement, was a garbage offensive, where community members put piled up trash in the streets, blocking traffic, to highlight the city’s neglect of the neighborhood.
The Nuyorican Poets Cafe
The Nuyorican Poets Cafe is famous for giving many well-known Latinx poets, playwrights, artists, and performers their start. The Café was founded by Puerto Rican poet Miguel Algarin, who, along with a group of Latinx artist friends, hosted the first event at his apartment. Once the group raised enough money, they opened at 505 East 6th Street, and later in 1973, moved to its current location pictured above at 236 East 3rd Street. The building was constructed in 1877 and designed by architect John M. Forster. The iconic mural outside was done by the artist known as Chico, who is responsible for a number of popular murals in the Lower East Side.
The spot gave rise to poets such Miguel Piñero and Bimbo Rivas, and was known for supporting and featuring immigrant, first-generation, and LGBT artists. Nuyorican is a term created to define the identity of Puerto Ricans in New York. It also is recognized as its own school of poetry, defined by Algarin and his comrades, as moving between cultures and languages, featuring spoken-word and dramatic elements, and addressing issues like belonging, family, joy, and the hardships of marginalization. This spot remains an outpost and incubator for theater, spoken word poetry, and so much more.
Former CHARAS-El Bohio/ Old P.S. 64
This now-abandoned but still standing structure used to be the home of the beloved community organization known as CHARAS. It’s an acronym of the names of its founders: Chino, Humberto, Angelo, Roy, Anthony, and Sal. The organization was known for its grassroots activism, and for providing studio space and workshops for countless artists,including John Sayles, Luis Guzman, Todd Haynes, Spike Lee and our narrator, John Leguizamo himself.
Unfortunately, the CHARAS organization was evicted in 2001 when Mayor Rudy Giuliani sold the building to a real estate developer. Ever since, Village Preservation has joined the community to fight to have the building returned to the community.
Before it was CHARAS the building was Public School No. 64 built in 1904 by Charles B.J. Snyder, it maintains that classic NYC public school look. You can learn more about the building and the movements to preserve it on our website and on our East Village Building Blocks site.
Studio of Jean-Michel Basquiat, 57 Great Jones Street
This uniquely-designed spot used to be the studio and home of famed Haitian-Puerto Rican street artist, Jean Michel Basqiuat. Now one of the most sought-after artists by collectors, in 1983 Basquiat was gifted the space by its owner, Andy Warhol. Warhol saw Basquiat’s talent and charisma, and knew that he would succeed. Both were deeply involved in the East Village’s art scene (it’s also said that Basquiat was at the time dating then-unknown singer Madonna), and Basquiat’s lineage informed much of the aesthetic of his art. Basquiat died of a heroin overdose in this very studio on August 12, 1988.
In 2016, Village Preservation unveiled a plaque at the residence.
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