Friday, June 25, 2010


Table of Contents (2)
A.) Getting To Know Mimi (B.) N.Y.C. History (C.) Italian Harlem(D.) Spanish Harlem (E.) Black Harlem (F.) New York State
(G.) Tenement Living: Social Issues Of Urban Life
(Poverty, Crime&Vice, Homelessness, Group Conflicts, Diseases, Gays&Lesbians: Gender Identity, Domestic Violence, Drug&Alcohol Abuse, Police Brutality )
Table of Contents (3)
(H.) Chit-Chat Over Coffee Swirls

Table of Contents (4)
(I.) Jewish Knowledge (J.) Self-Improvement (K.) Historical Facts On England & United States

Table of Contents (5)
(L.) Miscellaneous (M.) Timetables (N.) Ethnic Groups (O.) Legal Talk(P.) Entertainment: Backward Glances (Q.) Immigration

Table of Contents (6)
(R.) Women__Bio Sketches, Feminine Fancies, Recipes, Kitchen Talk.(S.) Worship

Table of Contents (7)
(T.) A Little Taste of History, (U.) U.S. History-Transportation, (V) U.S. History-Panics, Economic Depressions, Business Matters

Table of Contents (8)
(W) El Rincón En Español (The Spanish Corner: )
This section is dedicated to articles of historical facts, poetry, self-improvement, human interest stories etc. written in Spanish.

Table of Contents (9)
(X) So Mr. President, What Did You Do During Your Term in Office....? (The Series)

Table of Contents (10)
(Y) Brusciano, Italy News/Events: Dr. Antonio Castaldo, Journalist
(Articles in Italian and English)

Table of Contents (11)
(Z) The Italian Niche
Table of Contents (12a)
Pensieri di uno scrittore italiano: dott. Antonio Castaldo
Table of Contents (12b)
Thoughts of an Italian Writer : Dr. Antonio Castaldo
Table of Contents (13)
I) "El Rincón Borinqueña"

Table of Contents (14)
II) Arts and Entertainment

Table of Contents (15)
III) Architecture
Table of Contents (16)
IV Education
Table of Contents (17)
V Wisdom: Thoughts From the Indian Masters
VI Understanding Music
VII Creative Writing

Table of Contents (20)
VIII New York City Neighborhoods

Table of Contents (21)
VIX Memories
(Brooklyn, Manhattan and Personal)

(Feel free to express your comments or ask questions regarding: "" which will be reviewed before posting. Thank You..

************ .
Contact: or miriam@thehistorybox

Table of Contents (19)

. VII Published Articles -Written by Miriam B. Medina

Who is Miriam B. Medina?

Author Showcase:
    American Politics and the Second Coming of the Tea Party Part I (1)  
    American Politics and the Second Coming of the Tea Party Part 2 (a) (b)    

 Communications and the Cell Phone Addiction Part I (a) (b)
 Communications and the Cell Phone Addiction Part II (c) (d)
 Crusin' The 50s In a Volatile East Harlem (1) (2) (3)

Don't Be A Slave To Habit-Part I
Don't Be A Slave To Habit-Part II

 East Harlem, New York: Microcosm of the Melting Pot (1) (2) (3)
 Excuse Me, Are You Visiting or Have You Moved In? The Freeloader Nightmare (1) (2) (3)


Hello World: Gay Pride versus The Closet (1) (2) (3)

New York, New York-Undeniably One Helluva Town! (1) (2) (3)

Romancing the Age: A Sexual Revolution (1) (2)

Struggle for Freedom: The Impact of Women's Movements in the United States Part I (a) (b
Struggle for Freedom: The Impact of Women's Movements in the United States Part II (a) (b) (c)
Struggle for Freedom: The Impact of Women's Movements in the United States Part III (a) (b)

The Human Connection, Part I: A Positive Approach Toward a Happier Existence (1) (2) (3)
The Human Connection, Part II: A Positive Outlook on Life (1) (2) (3)
 The Plight of Winter Wonderland Part I (a) (b) (c)
 The Plight of Winter Wonderland Part II (a) (b)
 Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock, Goes the Merry-Go-Round of the Clock (1) (2) (3)

Table of Contents (18)


1. Terms & Processes Used in Interpretation of Music: A-C (1)
Terms & Processes Used in Interpretation of Music: E-K (1)
Terms & Processes Used in Interpretation of Music: M-N (1)
Terms & Processes Used in Interpretation of Music: P-S (1)
2. Art Forms in Music: Sonata
3. Art Forms in Music: Fugue

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cruising the 50s in Spanish Harlem (5b)

(Continued from Page:(5b)

In New York, especially within East Harlem, the Puerto Ricans also suffered the same hardships and racial discrimination that earlier immigrants such as the Irish, the Italians and the Jewish Community had to endure . Good paying jobs were not available to them due to the lack of the English language and special working skills. They were labeled as minorities suffering widespread discrimination by the hiring practices of businesses.

To the already established Jewish and Italian community who then dominated East Harlem and its economy prior to World War II, the Puerto Ricans with their culture and businesses were becoming a threat because they were catering to their own community and expanding far too rapidly throughout the neighborhood. The Puerto Ricans were apparently different. They had and still have great pride in their national heritage. They spoke the Spanish language that nobody understood, maintaining strong links to their homeland. They just didn't fit the image of what was expected by the current residents. They began replacing the Jewish Delis and Italian grocery stores and markets with their religious shops, bodegas (grocery stores) and restaurants, as well as filling the air with their Latin cuisine and loud Latin' music. The Jewish and the Italian community felt they were taking over and a terrible resentment started to build up and exploded into the "East Harlem Riot of 1926."

These are excerpts from two sources that reflect on the Riot of 1926.

"The precarious proximity of disparate groups exploded in the East Harlem Riot of 1926. The trouble started during July when a heat wave drove people out of their stifling apartments into the streets. Arguments arose, tempers flared, fights broke out, and bottles were thrown. For a week, gangs of old residents battled gangs of new residents. Pushcarts and stores were vandalized on both sides of the ethnic divide. Each group boycotted the other groups' businesses. Over fifty people were badly hurt and three Puerto Ricans were arrested. " (1)

" In July 1926, Puerto Ricans were attacked by non-Hispanics as their numbers were becoming larger in Manhattan neighborhoods. the "riots," took place in the intense heat when Harlem residents literally lived in the streets to escape their suffocating dwellings. The influx of Puerto Ricans, the most recent arrivals in the area of Manhattan called Spanish Harlem, provoked racist hostility among non-Hispanic neighbors, who were mainly of Italian and Irish stock. . The overwhelming heat excelerated this already smoldering resentment, which led to the attacks." (2)

After this incident, many of the Jewish merchants kept their shops and adjusted to the new inhabitants, willingly accepting the Puerto Rican businessmen and learning Spanish.

The projects that were started in the forties, accelerated during the 1950s, where many of deteriorating apartment buildings that had been built before 1901 in East Harlem, were razed. The projects were massive structures that covered whole city blocks, replacing the smaller apartment buildings and brownstones. As a result of these projects, African Americans and Puerto Ricans began moving into them. The Italians were in a better financial scale, and did not qualify for entry, so they moved out of East Harlem. In order to build these projects, 1500 shops were closed and 4,500 people unemployed in the process.

One of the features of the area was the Cosmo Movie Theater that was on 115th Street between 3rd Avenue & Lexington. It was founded in 1922, a one story building with 1405 seats. It was closed down in the 1980s.What a swarm of people to get in. My family used to get free passes from the local cop by the name of "Jack". I use to go alot to the Cosmo during the 50s, even though gang members would hang out in the area.

The first Puerto Rican Day Parade was held on Sunday, April 13, 1958, in Manhattan and takes place annually along Fifth Avenue and has grown to become the largest parade in New York City, attracting many politicians and celebrities.

The famous "La Marqueta" on Park Avenue, during the 50s was the shopping center for everybody in the neighborhood. It was then and still is a marketplace located under the Metro North elevated railway tracks between 111th street and 116th Street on Park Avenue. It was a unique place known for its hustle and bustle of shoppers chattering and hands gestulating wildly at the Jewish vendors, and, where trains seem to rumble eternally overhead. The Jewish vendors there knew enough Italian and Spanish in order to make a sale.

East Harlem now home to many recent diverse immigrants, is referred to as Spanish Harlem or better yet "El Barrio." When asked "where do you live in Manhattan? They would also proudly identify themselves with their block and neighborhood and say , " Yo soy del Barrio. Vivo en la calle 110. (I'm from El Barrio and I live on 110th street.) In the summer there is always the familiar sight of the piragua man on each corner as well as the sidewalk domino players. The delicious alluring aromas of roast pork, fried steaks with garlic and rice with chicken, from the little cafes and restaurants located throughout Spanish Harlem are carried by the summer breeze, enticing tourists as well as local residents to enter through their doors.

So there you have now some background of what the 40s and 50s were like in East Harlem, or better said Italian Harlem and Spanish Harlem.

FOOTNOTES (for the riot of 1926)

1) The restless city, A Short History of New York From Colonial Times to the Present By Joanne R. Reitano (2006)

2) Dictionary of Latino Civil Rights History by F. Arturo Rosales (2006)

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Cruisin' the 50s in Spanish Harlem (5a)

(continued from page: (5)

Loud Latin Rhythmic music would blast through the open windows and doorways of apartment dwellings penetrating the ears of reluctant hearers. Puerto Ricans have always loved their music and plenty of it back then and even now, whether they are cooking, doing the laundry, cleaning the house or driving a car. There is something in the rhythmic beat of Latin music that reaches into their very soul. Their style of musical compositions incredibly rich in Latin variations of tone, blend the base ingredients of rhythm, melody, and harmony sounded by one or more instruments which may include trumpets, trombones, saxophones, piano, drums, maracas, cowbells and guitars. For many of the Puerto Ricans in "El Barrio," dancing was an escape from the frustrations of their daily lives." It didn't matter how tired they felt or how miserable their lives were, as soon as their bodies were swept up by the passionate rhythm they would become rejuvenated , literally dancing until they dropped.

This dance was first seen in the dance-halls of America, in the early 50s, following closely Mambo, from which it was developed. The music is slower than Mambo. Mambo dancing was a sensual Cuban dance and it was one of the most popular form of dances in the United States. After the World War II the Mambo was pushed aside by the Cha, Cha, Cha which became popular around 1956.

There was a growing popularity of Latin dance music during the forties and fifties. Latino dancers from all over Spanish Harlem would flock to the "Park Palace Ballroom" located at 110th Street and Fifth Avenue, El Caborojeño and Broad-way Casino, two popular dancehalls on the west side of Manhattan, the Palladium ballroom down in mid-Manhattan, the Grand Plaza and Tropicana in the south Bronx or go to the Roseland Ballroom located on 51st street taking advantage of their Latin Tuesdays which were always packed, for an evening of Latin rhythmic excitement. As the musicians played their instruments to the greatest names in Latino music, "the partners , skins flushed with perspiration would spin around the dance floor, whirling around each other. Their hips and shoulders swaying in time, and feet marking the beat of the music" to rhumbas. boleros, guarachas and the mambo, floors shaking under their body movements. The young busty Latin women would heat up the atmosphere as they moved seductively, swaying their curvacious hips to the beat of the drums. Occasionally a flirtatious remark made by another male dancer who had a little too much to drink, would set off a verbal confrontation between both men that would lead to an outright street brawl of switchblades and broken bottles as others would rush to their defense. Unfortunately, for the people from "El Barrio" there never was a dull moment even when they wanted to have a good time.

Those from "El Barrio," who didn't go to the nightclubs, would stay at home and have their own loud parties on the weekends. On unbearable hot nights many families would sit on their stoops and spend hours in loud endlesss chatter and laughter until the wee hours of the morning irritating the neighbors who wanted to sleep.

To be continued: Cruisin the 50s in Spanish Harlem (5b)

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Cruisin' the 50s in Spanish Harlem

During the 1890s, a first small group of Puerto Ricans arrived in East Harlem. The United States took possession of Puerto Rico at the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898 and has retained sovereignty ever since. In 1917 the Jones-Shafroth Act gave the islanders U.S. citizenship along with the obligation of serving in the American armed forces . This newly acquired citizenship allowed them to work and live in the United States as well as travel without the need of a passport between the island and the United States mainland. Puerto Ricans, in search of a better existence than what they had in Puerto Rico, continued to migrate to the United States, after both World Wars.

Not aware that they would be facing a highly racialized labor market which would deny them the opportunities to move into the American mainstream, a large number of Puerto Rican families made New York City's East Harlem, their first mainland destination. Assimilation to the American culture was not their priority. As long as they lived here, they were going to preserve their heritage through the Spanish language, music, and cultural activities and never completely cut their ties with their homeland. Puerto Ricans by the thousands found employment in the factories as unskilled operators and even as seamstresses in the garment industry. They competed with other ethnic groups for the positions of unskilled labor such as , maids, maintenance, dishwashers, janitors, doormen and laundry workers. As the Puerto Rican population began saturating the East Harlem area, both Italians and Puerto Ricans found themselves in constant conflict competing for housing, educational and employment resources. As a result of air travel commencing in 1945 and a one-way ticket from San Juan to New York costing less than $50, the steady flow of Puerto Rican migration which had begun during World War I, had reached an immense proportion, of circa 70,000 to 250,000.between 1940-1950 that it overwhelmed the communities that were already established since the 40s, and began forming their own distinctive neighborhoods.Puerto Ricans became an important and visible presence in East Harlem during the 1950s that the area was given the familiar name of "Spanish Harlem", which is also known as "El Barrio."

During that era of the forties through the fifties, the Italians in East Harlem possessed a fierce pride and loyalty to their provincial customs and dialects. They spoke their own language, ate their own ethnic foods, practiced their customs and religion as if back in their homeland resenting the newly arrived Puerto Ricans who were invading their territory with their strange language, customs and loud music.. Assimilation to the American culture was not the Puerto Rican's priority. As long as they lived on the mainland, they were going to preserve their heritage through the Spanish language, music, cultural activities and never completely cut their ties with their homeland. It was very difficult and frustrating for the Puerto Ricans who had to leave the island seeking employment on the mainland to speak English,which became a racial discriminating factor for them in adjusting to their new environment . Out of extreme necessity, in order to survive in the midst of a highly prejudiced society, a new form of communication with its own vocabulary was created. It was called "Spanglish." .Spanglish was common throughout the neighborhood as frustrated Puerto Rican residents struggled to pronounce correctly the strange English words, which were new to them. Some say it is a mixture of Spanish and English commonly used by the Puerto Ricans of New York or better said "Nuyoricans." It is a jumble of English and Spanish words and phrases, switching back and forth between the two languages. Also when the speaker is unsure if the word is correct or not, then a Spanish suffix is added to the end of English words such as in the word "plataforma" which means Platform. Here are a few examples of Spanglish that were used then and moreso now.

1. Oye nene, ya comiste el lonche?
2. Mami, hecha me la bendición, que voy chopin. (cho-ppen)
3. Hay bendito, Ernesto lost his job y está bien pelao.
4. Hey honey, va a chequear el newspaper para ver si el show está allí?
5. Te veo ahorita, me voy de shopping para el mol.
6. Oye mi negro, Que vas hacer this weekend.?
7. Oye Marta, el hijo tuyo le gusta bulear a los otros niños.
8. Petra, voy al banco, to cash my check...vengo enseguida.
9.Juanito, come here and give abuelita un beso.

The Young Puerto Ricans who were reluctant to enter the labor force, after seeing their parents discriminated against, and disappointed, because the unskilled jobs that were available were limited by the language barrier. The jobs were only given to those who could speak an English that was understood. The unemployed parents in turn would put pressure on their teen-age son, to help out. Not having any money for their living expenses created daily conflicts, between the husband and wife, which would at times accelerate into domestic violence. These young Puerto Ricans resented being pressured into joining the mainstream's workforce. They knew that if they followed their parents footsteps, the alternative for their future would be more of the same, unskilled low-paying jobs with no possibility of advancement." Hell no man, that's not for me!" they would say. It was easier to hook up with a gang or to organize one, which gave them a sense of worth, belonging, and one of acceptance, something that most of them were not able to find at home. Gang life meant solidarity and toughness in a discriminating neighborhood. Yet, there were other young Puerto Rican youths who loved and respected their parents, that grasped their responsibilities with capability and understanding, working together as a family to excel themselves in the face of a highly prejudiced society.

Gang violence was a frightening reality during the 40s and 50s. The East Harlem atmosphere became explosive, with rumbles between the black Dragons, Italian Dukes, Puerto Rican Viceroys and the Italian Redwings. Puerto Ricans and the Italian teen-agers clashed with one another to establish and maintain their turf and honor. These rumbles were easily set off by the side that was looking for a fight, whether it was over the boundaries of their turf, establishing claims over streets and parks, testing their machismo and as usual petty things over their ladies. The girls had the protection of the gang and if any of them would be insulted, which in many cases were fabricated stories just to provoke a war, they would defend her honor, even if they all knew she was a whore. The Greasers anywhere from fourteen to nineteen years old would strut with their chest pushed out, carrying with them zip guns ready to fire just in case, baseball bats and switchblades which were common weapons back then. Yeah man, it made them feel real macho, cool and tough, they were prepared, anytime, for a good rumble, knowing that no matter how afraid they were, they would not admit it. Racial slurs tossed back and forth provoked frequent confrontations which would many times result in death or being hospitalized with crushed heads and serious crippling injuries from switchblade knifings, beaten by tire chains or shot by bullets. Some members of the gang in preparation for a rumble would store on the roof tops piles of gravel-filled milk bottles, bricks, cinder blocks, iron scrap and whatever else they could find to use as ammunition.

Statistics say that in 1952, about one million American teenagers were in trouble with the police. In New York City during the 50s there existed at least several hundreds of gangs. Benjamin Franklin High School was opened in 1942 on Pleasant Avenue between 114th and 116th streets. In the late 1940s, the area around the Benjamin Franklin High School was controlled by Italian youth gangs, some say it was the Red Wings. "It was their Turf," and if any African-American or Puerto Rican, tried to use the Jefferson Park pool, they would be attacked. To make matters worse, even inside the school the Puerto Rican students were assaulted. Benjamin Franklin was a volatile mixture comprised of young people with active gang affiliation and kids from different neighborhoods. The dominant group, claiming their rights to Benjamin Franklin as "Their Turf," would threaten and attack gang members that were a minority. The atmosphere was continually charged with verbal and physical violence, which were prevalent in frequent confrontations in the school yards, hallways or even in the bathrooms with vandalism against school property . Not only were the Latinos assaulted by the Italian gangs, but the black students as well would be targeted as a barrage of bricks, bottles and rotted garbage would be thrown from the rooftops of the tenement buildings near the school. It was dangerous to go to school, and a lot of the students were plain scared of being jumped on, beaten up every time, or knifed, so they had no choice but to fight and defend themselves, be called a punk or run as fast as their legs could carry them. Some students would even join gangs from either side, just for protection, whereas many would drop out of school at ages 14-17.

To be continued: Cruisin' the 50s in Spanish Harlem (5a)

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