By Nelson Santana
September 10, 2018
When I heard the Village Voice was shutting down a part of me shut down. I really didn't know what was happening but I became increasingly sad as the day progressed on that Friday. I'm not going to be a hypocrite and lie about how I would read the Voice daily. In fact, I hadn't been an avid reader of the Voice since graduating college a little over a decade ago. So why does the death of the Village Voice bother me?
As someone who co-founded a digital magazine (hint, hint: ESENDOM), it pains me to see a fellow (and great) digital content generator vanish. But, this isn't the only reason.
As an eighteen-year-old college undergrad I was rather naive about the world ahead of me. I lived a somewhat sheltered Brooklyn life: hanging out mostly with Latinos and some Black folks. Born in the Dominican Republic, I moved to Brooklyn before my first birthday. I grew up in Sunset Park, a predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood with a booming Dominican population, alongside Chinese, African Americans, Mexicans, and Ecuadorians.
I started college in the summer as opposed to beginning in the fall. Sunset Park was not a secluded neighborhood and I did encounter some Asian, African, and White classmates. The high school I attended—Telecommunications, Arts, and Technology—in Bay Ridge, did expose me to other cultures via books, but not necessarily in real-time.
It was at Baruch where I encountered people from different cultures and befriended some folks with whom until this day I remain close. Baruch not only exposed me to the cultures of other people (eating Indian or Turkish food for the first time) but also emboldened me to feed my curiosities (dating non-Dominican women, reading publications I never knew existed, etc.).
Then one day while on my way to Baruch I came across the Village Voice. At that time people would periodically distribute the tabloid in the streets or they’d be waiting for us college students in an area devoted to free newspapers at school. Eventually I would either get my copy at Baruch or one of those newspaper boxes in the street.
Initially, I looked down at the Voice because it was so odd and was nothing like I had ever read before, at least, not in public. At the outset, I was afraid to hold a copy in my hands because people would stare at me and others who had a copy in our hands due to the nature of the content inside, even though I did enjoy the content. Some of the “questionable” content some people had an issue with pertained to the political and LGBTQIA articles, dating classifieds, and especially the front covers, hence, many people would hide the newspaper from the sight of others.
As time passed, I found myself reading more the Voice and enjoying the content—both the written word and amazing visual art.
Today I mourn the Voice because it peaked a curiosity in me I never knew existed. Through the Voice, I learned not to be judgmental and enjoy art for being art. I learned to disentangle my brain from everything I had ever known and learned, and attained a fruitful and enjoyable knack to say f*ck it and just consume whatever the h#ll I want to consume.
The Voice was also therapeutic for many other people. I encountered many individuals whom the Voice helped to overcome any stigma of the LGBTQIA community and/or internal and international politics and provide them with a better understanding of the world they cohabitate.
As a college student, the Voice shaped my understanding of the world, especially my New York City.
Adios querido Village Voice
In its pages, The Village Voice captured some of the most important cultural shifts in New York and American history. It gave, for instance, space to radical departures from traditional music from free jazz, punk, rap and hip-hop to disco. The Voice was that rare Downtown paper everyone Uptown read. The key to its appeal was its inclusiveness and openness, something rare these days. It amplified the voices of protest and change in every imaginable way.
The Village Voice’s location was part of what made The Voice the voice. Writing in Republic of Dreams: Greenwich Village: The American Bohemia, 1910-1960, Ross Wetzsteon locates radical roots of the now-defunct weekly newspaper:
From its earliest years, the Village was associated with revolution. It was informally called “Green Village” in the eighteen century for its stretch of game-filled woodlands and marshy pastures several miles north of the thriving settlement tip of Manhattan. Tobacco plantations occupied the area the Sapokanickan tribe had used for hunting and fishing a century earlier. A young rebel named Thomas Paine lived in a ramshackle building on what is now Grove Street, and among the fine homes of the well-to-do families who settled in the countryside was a mansion called Richmond Hill, where George Washington established his temporary headquarters during the American Revolution and where John Adams and Aaron Burr lived.
We mourn the passing of The Village Voice today but we’ll look at a legacy that will remain alive for years to come.