Saturday, January 23, 2010

Spanish Harlem-1939 (3)

Cock-fighting, a sport that is legal in Puerto Rico but illegal in New York, goes on now and then in Spanish Harlem. The place and time are carefully guarded; the audience gathers surreptitiously in a basement or empty room, where a small shallow wooden "ring" has been laid with dirt and sand. The cocks' steel-tipped talons are examined carefully by their sponsors. The birds are brushed, caressed, huskily exhorted, and then let loose amid excited betting and low-pitched cheering. Not till one of the cocks lies dead is the fight finished. Then the winner is embraced, washed, and hurried into hiding.

Most of the Latin-Americans in Spanish Harlem are of peasant or peon stock. The majority are American citizens. (All Puerto Ricans are.) They have an intense love of their homelands, and despite an occasional flurry of nationalist jealousy, a warm sense of neighborhood solidarity. Almost all are property less working people. They have their own political clubs, and during the past few years some organizations that were once interested primarily in the politics of the homelands, have become powerful pressure groups fighting for improved conditions in Spanish Harlem. As a result, their influence in city politics has increased. In 1937 this district elected O. Garcia-Rivera, a Puerto Rican lawyer, to the new York State Assembly.

The majority of Spanish Harlemites are Roman Catholics. The neighborhood Catholic churches include St. Francis De Sales, 137 East 96th Street; St. Cecilia, 220 East 106th Street; and Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, 77 St. Nicholas Avenue. The Iglesia Metodista Episcopal, 1664 Madison Avenue, where services are held in Spanish, is an outgrowth of a Methodist mission among Puerto Ricans and other Spanish-speaking people in New York.

The most important holiday observed in Spanish Harlem is DIA DE LA RAZA (Day of the Spanish Race), celebrated on Columbus Day by all Spanish-speaking people. They hold a ceremony in front of the statue of Columbus, a copy of the one in Madrid by Sunol, the Spanish sculptor at the south end of the Central Park mall.

Source: Transcribed from:New York City Guide Random House-New York Publishers.(1939) Copyright by the Guilds' Committee for Federal Writers' Publications, Inc.

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