A Brief History of Latino Culture in New York

Latino culture in New York is starting to evolve as a huge minority population in New York. They exist in almost all cities and towns throughout the state. Primarily, they came from different communities such as the Caribbean, South America, Central America, and Mexico.

Throughout their entire existence in New York, they have immensely contributed to its history and culture. Very little has been kept to record the history of Latino culture in New York though.

The Latino Population in the US 

latin ny magazineThe Latinos started out as a small population of 6 million in 1960. Back then, this covered just 3.24 percent of the entire population in the United States compared to 16 percent of the entire nation’s population that they represent nowadays. The current population of the United States is at 50 million. Throughout time, Latinos have been able to produce impact economically, politically, culturally, and socially in the United States. This effect brought about an interplay of global, regional, and national developments, as well as changes in military and foreign policies.

The Puerto Rican Population in the US 

Puerto Ricans in particular were able to occupy New York City with most numbers. They were able to exercise a basic right of US citizenship, which is free movement within US’ territorial boundaries and its possessions. After Balzac ruling and Great Depression, many Puerto Ricans moved to New York.

The reasons of the immigrants were mostly for employment purposes as they were not experiencing any economic improvements in their place. Their population boomed from 53,000 to 70,000 and until now, majority of them are found in New York. Most of them worked for the clothing manufacturing and service industries.

The Cuban Population in the US

Meanwhile, Cuban immigration to New York was brought by a different factor. A mass exodus of Cubans was due to the uprising led by Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara agains dictator Fulgencio Batista. In the 19th century, a significant population of Cubans moved to Florida and New York. They were only 71,000 in 1950 and soon, their numbers grew to 163,000 in 1960. With the diverse social profiles of these Cubans, they’ve also had different paths. Of the Latino subpopulations who went in the United States, the Cubans did pretty well.

In 2008, almost 25% of Cubans aged 25 and above have obtained college  degrees. Even people over 16 have a median income of $25,478 at a very early age. Also, data shows that 13.2% of them lived below the poverty line.

Reshaping the Economy 

latins in new yorkWith all the Latinos migrating to the United States, there was a stunning structural economic reshaping that occurred. The three main Latino populations that made their way to the United States were the Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans. As said earlier, most of those who moved to New York were the Cubans and Puerto Ricans. Aside from affecting the population, they were also to able to affect the cultural aspect of those places they resided in.

Arts, Music and More 

With regard to art, after World War II, the global center of art moved to New York from Paris. Christie’s and Sotheby’s were the frontrunners along with auction houses. Soon after, museums and galleries followed. Currently, March is the art fair month in New York and during May and November, the Latin art scene is given focus.

In terms of music, New York City has become the world capital of Latin music. Among these are Bachata, Merengue, and Salsa. Latin music paved way for our connection to classical music and the opera. If not for Latin music, we never would have the Broadway, salsa, disco, punk, hip-hop, and the jazz. Jazz has become the American music. It is said that rock and roll even came from jazz. If not for jazz which originated from its Latin influence in New Orleans, we would not be enjoying the kind of music that we have today.

Latin Theater and Films 

New-York-International-Latino-Film-Festival1Moving on to theater, it is said that all Western theater has its Latin roots. Since theater primarily originated from Greek culture and the Spanish theater continued this legacy, Western Broadway shows that drew influence on Spanish theater somehow still took the influence of Latin theater, though indirectly. In 2008, a Puerto Rican named Lin-Manuel Miranda even became famous in the Broadway with a Tony and Grammy award-winning musical entitled In the Heights.

It was personally written by Miranda which is an account of how he grew up in Washington Heights, a Dominican community. Meanwhile there is also a famous Latin theater called Teatro SEA which is a puppet theater for bilingual children. Casts are from different places in the world, but the director is Puerto Rican. Teatro SEA takes pride in flawlessly switching between English and Spanish languages during their performances.

For Latin film, what used to be a sideshow became a mainstream event. When Franco died in 1975, a lot of Spanish filmmakers were freed, not to mention Argentine and Brazilian filmmakers. Latinos are known for their inexpensive filmmaking capabilities. Among the famous filmmakers who are Latinos were Alfonso Cuaron who directed Gravity. He became a 2014 Oscar winner. Another one is Paulo Sorrentino for The Great Beauty.

The presence of Latinos in New York has proven that they were able to make a considerable contribution to the current cultural heritage not only of New York, but also the entire United States. This gives the proof that mixed cultures, when working hand in hand, would give very positive results.

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