Cultura y conciencia

Nueva York’s Latinos: 1613-1945

Nelson Santana

By Nelson Santana

September 20, 2010

-- EL BARRIO, NEW YORK. On Thursday, September 16, El Museo del Barrio was the scene of the opening reception of an historic exhibit that documents the history of the Hispanic and Latino population in the capital of the world, New York City.

Presented by the New-York Historical Society in collaboration with El Museo del Barrio, the exhibit “Nueva York (1613-1945),” highlights the role that Latinos and Spanish-speakers have played since the 17th century to help shape New York into the culturally vibrant city it is today.

Political figures, renowned scholars and some of the most prominent luminaries of the City were present for an evening of Latino cultural enrichment.

Those in attendance for the exclusive by-invitation-only opening of this finely detailed exhibit included Council Members Melissa Mark-Viverito, Ydanis Rodriguez; Bronx Borough President Ruben Díaz Jr.;State Senator Bill Perkins; Assembly Member Adriano Espaillat; state senator candidate Gustavo Rivera; former Governor of Puerto Rico Sila Maria Calderon; and former Commissioner of the New York City Records and Information Services Idilio Gracia-Peña, among some of the noteworthy political figures in attendance.

Other prominent figures present were the scholars Dr. Silvio Torres-Saillant and Anthony Stevens-Acevedo, founding members of the City University of New York Dominican Studies Institute.

Moreover, to accent the importance of this event one should go no further than its keynote speaker: the Honorable Sonia Maria Sotomayor, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States; the Bronx native is the third female and first person of Hispanic ancestry with this distinction.

Among the evening’s speakers were Roger Hertog, Chariman of the Board of Trustees of the New-York Historical Society; Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New-York Historical Society; and Julian Zugazagoitia, former Director of El Museo del Barrio.

In his speech, Hertog stressed the importance of the Hispanic community in New York. Proud of his immigrant roots, Hertog’s family immigrated from Germany during the 1940s.

The Honorable Justice Sonia Sotomayor revealed “I never lived in Puerto Rico,” but when she spoke of her Hispanic roots one could not but absorb the fondness she has in her heart for her Latino ancestry. Born and bred in the Bronx, the Honorable Sotomayor connected with society’s elite and regular folks alike in attendance.

As noted by the Justice, “the history of Latino immigrants begins in 1613 with Jan Rodriguez,” a man born in Santo Domingo – capital of present-day Dominican Republic – who became New York’s first official immigrant resident. This information in particular was made possible through the investigative research conducted by Anthony Stevens-Acevedo, Assistant Director at the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute.

The exhibition pays homage to Latin-American immigrants, children of immigrants, Spaniards and Puerto Rican migrants.

Documents, art works books and artifacts such as clothing and a miniature boat comprise this intriguing exhibition. “Nueva York (1613-1945)” also tells the New York story of noteworthy figures including Arturo Alfonso Schomburg (Puerto Rico) and Jose Marti (Cuba).

In addition to the “Nueva York (1613-1945)” exhibition, the New-York Historical Society in collaboration with other institutions including the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, Graduate Center of CUNY, El Museo del Barrio and The Hispanic Society of America will sponsor numerous programs and exhibitions that honor and document Latino and Hispanic heritage in New York.

For information about the exhibition “Nueva York (1613-1945)” you may visit El Museo del Barrio’s website at:

You can read more about the New-York Historical Society at: