Homenaje: María Cruz

rro0035's picture

“Don’t point to blame,” espouses María Cruz from the roof of Taíno Towers. “Instead of pointing fingers and saying this is your problem,” she points to an unnamed building in the distance. “This is your problem,” she points to another. “This is your problem.” She points below again. María turns and smiles. “Use that finger to reach out and touch someone’s heart.”

María Cruz is the Executive Director for ARCO Management, Inc., the entity that runs Taíno Towers. Taíno Towers is the low-income housing development built in the 1970s on the Harlem/Spanish Harlem border. It is made up of four 35-story towers surrounded by landscaped plazas. The idea behind its creation was to build a housing development that people could be proud to call home.

María takes me on a tour of the complex that starts with the roof. She is open, engaging, friendly, warm, and welcoming. As we tour the development, different people walk up to María and greet her. Some even embrace her. She stops many times to have brief conversations with the residents. Many of them look at the camera equipment and the notepads and deduce she is being interviewed. One woman approaches me, “You know, she is la madre del barrio. She is the mother of El barrio.”

We get to the fountain. A Guatemalan woman comes up to me, “María Cruz is the Angel of Taíno Towers. Please write that down in your article. People need to know how important she is and all that she has done for us here.”

As we leave the plaza and head back upstairs, an older gentleman sees María and slowly walks to her. She smiles and puts her hand on his shoulder. She introduces me and they talk for a few minutes. He turns and talks to me before he leaves, “Los políticos ayudan a los amigos. Politicians only help their friends. María ayuda al mundo. María helps everyone regardless of who he is.”

I could write pages about all of the programs María has created for the residents of Taíno Towers: the daycare, the computer lab, the theater, the art gallery, the landscaped plazas, the charter school, the pre-school, the picnics—but I think the residents of Taíno Towers say it best.

María truly is the angel of El Barrio.

© Ricardo Muñiz. Published by permission in Centro Voices on 8 May 2015.

Centro Voices (ISSN: 2379-3864).
The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of Centro Voices, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies or Hunter College, CUNY.