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Loisaida Timeline


“Focusing upon overcrowding, unemployment, delinquency and drug sales and addiction, some non-Latino residents, landlords, and commercial interested characterized the Puerto Rican community as a threat to the East Village.” (Christopher Mele 2000)

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CHARAS opened a loft space in the city-owned building on 303 Cherry Street to continue working with domes and alternative housing with maverick architect Buckminster Fuller. This began an intense two-decade activity of staging cultural events, community resistance, and revitalization

Pueblo Nuevo was founded by volunteers to combat a housing shortage. Its first project was building 172 apartments at 210 Stanton Street and after that organizing tenants in the neighborhood. It eventually managed troubled buildings that had been turned over to it by the housing court.

“Puerto Rican Obituary “ was first published in Palante, the Young Lords Party newspaper. At this time the YLP became culturally active as an incubator of the poetry movement.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yTWS1M6NhI&feature=related

B R E A K A N D E N T E R (R omp i e n d o P u e r ta s ), a film by Third World Newsreel, captured the militant antecedents to the housing reclamation movement in New York City. It depicted how several hundred Puerto Rican and Dominican families reclaimed housing left vacant by the city. http://www.twn.org/catalog/previewwin/gvwin.aspx?pid=109

The Rican, a journal of contemporary Puerto Rican thought in the U.S., was published. In 1974 it changed its name to Journal of Contemporary Puerto Rican Thought. During its duration, it published interviews, essays, art and poetry sections, and featured names such as Piri Thomas, Victor Hernandez Cruz, Papoleto Melendez and Jack Agüeros among others. (image of cover?)


United Graffiti Artists exhibit opened at Razor Gallery on Sept. 4, 1972. Founded by Hugo Martínez, a sociology major at City College, the UGA selected top subway artists from all around the city and presented their work in the formal context of an art gallery. Among the graffiti artists represented by Razor Gallery/UGA were: PHASE 2, MICO, COCO 144, PISTOL, FLINT 707, BAMA, SNAKE, and STICH. (image catalogue)


CHARAS, along with six other groups, co-founded Seven Loaves, a network of community/cultural/arts organizations pulled together support for the purposes of[organizational structure, resources, fund-raising, etc. (Link to the founding members and affiliates of the Seven Loaves network under ORGANIZATIONS )

The Devil is a Condition, a film by Carlos de Jesus, was screened at the Whitney Museum and won several prizes in Paris. The short film was a lyrical ode to Latinos and Blacks who were fighting to improve their housing conditions throughout the city.

Our Latin Thing (Nuestra Cosa) a salsa-centered musical documentary was directed by Leon Gast. Filmed in the Hispanic barrios of East Harlem and the Lower East Side, the film focused on the Puerto Rican urban experience – N.Y.C. style. It captured the atmosphere of a Fania All-Stars momentous concert at the Cheetah club (1971). Gast spotlights the audience, dancer, and struggles and everyday life of community hand-in-hand with improvisational skills of singers and the musicians’ virtuosity (Ray Barretto, Willie Colon, Cheo Feliciano, Hector Lavoe, Johnny Pacheco, Bobby Valentin etc.)


Miguel Algarín began to host a poetry salons in his living room in the Lower East Side. This experiment was to become the Nuyorican Poets Cafe They believed that poetry was “the vital sign of a new culture”(http://www.nuyorican.org) and it needed to be heard live - rather than read - to be fully appreciated. Despite the bleak economics of the '70s and '80s, this began a new cultural surge in the Lower East Side. El Teatro Ambulante, fronted by the venerable Jorge Brandon (El Coco Que Habla -The Talking Coconut), and the Nuyorican Poets Cafe run by Miguel Algarín forged a new synthesis of Latino poetry and theater. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2Tt8giNOnk


Pedro Pietri first published the poem Puerto Rican Obituary in a collection of his work with the same title with Monthly Review Press.

The Family Theatre Company was formed as a troupe largely made up of ex-convicts and directed by Marvin Felix Camilllo, who discovered the playwriting talents of Miguel Piñero while teaching a workshop at Sing Sing penitentiary. Mr. Camillo later became an award - winning director for his staging of Mr. Piñero's drama ''Short Eyes'' BroadWayWorld.com - Filmmaker Abel Ferrara

First significant wave of community gardens appeared on the Lower East Side with Adam Purple's the Garden of Eden (demolished in 1986), and the Liz Christy's Bowery-Houston Community Farm and Garden, among them. Rubble-strewn lots were cleared, designed and planted. The Green Guerillas group was founded. http://www.greenguerillas.org/GG_ourprograms.php#ourhistory

Adal Madonando and Alex D. Coleman co-founed Foto Gallery in SoHo. Located on the third floor of 492 Broome Street, Foto Gallery was a not-for-profit, artist-run photography and multi-media gallery. During its five years of existence Foto Gallery exhibited and/or held workshops with a number of groundbreaking photographers including Robert Mapplethorpe. (video excerpt ADAL)

CHARAS: Improbable Dome Builders is published by Syeus Mottel. http://www.letsremake.info/library_2.html#char

New York magazine published "The Graffiti Hit Parade" by Richard Goldstein. It stood for early recognition of a new genre of artist, starting the perception shift of graffiti from vandalism to subway art. http://nymag.com/guides/summer/17406/

The Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) was enacted as a United States federal law to train workers and provide them with jobs in the public sector. As an extension of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) program from the 1930s, the act was intended to decentralize control of federally controlled job training programs, giving more power to the individual state governments. In N.Y.C. this served as temporary income to many Puerto Rican artists who became employed in CETA divisions of arts, murals and teaching projects as well as an opportunity to meet peer artists and socialize. (video ADAL)


Miguel Piñero’s play Short Eyes was presented at Riverside Church in Manhattan. Theater impresario Joseph Papp saw the play and was so impressed that he moved the production from Riverside Church to The Public Theater and eventually to the Vivian Beaumont Theatre. The play was nominated for six Tony Awards. It won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award and an Obie Award for the best play of the year. The play was also a success in Europe. It catapulted Piñero to literary fame.


Bimbo Rivas and Chino García were the first who used the term Loisaida, based on a poem by Bimbo, thus giving birth to the name of the Latino immigrant section of the neighborhood.

CUANDO (Cultural Understanding and Neighborhood Development Organization) was formed as a community organization centered on youth issues, and used its site to build New York City's first solar air heater.
Books.google.com - Popular Science

Adopt-A-Building's headquarters were moved to the Lower East Side. The organization empowered residents in the remodeling and homesteading of abandoned buildings; sweat equity (self-help renovations); organization of block associations; energy conservation; neighborhood planning; and job training. Adopt-a-Building, led during its formative years by Robert Nazario, one of the original RGS leaders, played a fundamental advocacy role to get support of city government for sweat equity homesteading. The broader homesteading movement of the ‘80s and ‘90s was a direct descendant of these early efforts.)

The Eleventh Street Movement awakened media interest due to the severity of abandonment on the block. Under the auspices of Adopt-A-Building, the movement rehabilitated three abandoned tenements, which incorporated solar energy, wind power, and aquaculture into the design of sweat equity buildings. In the early ‘70s those participating in sweat equity initiatives were 70 percent Latino and 30 percent White, Black and Asian. They were described as the collective resilience in face of urban blight, or rescates. They rescued buildings and raised revenues to complete the rehabilitation projects through well-attended street fairs and block parties.
Books.google.com - Community Open Spaces

The Loft Law, formally the Emergency Tenant Protection Act, which legalized living in industrial spaces, was passed. This became a turning point in the artistic development of downtown areas, such as SoHo.


New York City went officially bankrupt, and President Ford refused to bail out the city, prompting the famous “Ford to City: Drop Dead!“ New York Daily News headline.


Miguel Algarín, with the assistance of Miguel Piñero, Lucky Cienfuegos, and Bittman ‘Bimbo’ Rivas, founded the Nuyorican Poets Café in an Irish bar (the Sunshine Cafe) on 505 East 6th Street.

Algarín and Piñero co-edited and published Nuyorican Poetry: An Anthology of Puerto Rican Words and Feelings. The landmark publication introduced audiences to the unique bicultural experiences and expressions of New York based Puerto Ricans including photographs by Gil Mendéz.

The New Rican Village Cultural and Education Center was formed, with headquarters at 101 Ave A. Led by former Young Lord Eduardo Figueroa, the organization aimed to be "a non-commercial alternative space for the exploration of arts that expressed an evolving self-interpretation of New York Latino identity." (Marina Roseman 1983)The New Rican Village was credited with creating a musical renaissance, where bomba and plena met jazz, with members of the experimental Conjunto Libre as the house band. http://www.jstor.org/pss/780283

Geno Rodríguez co-founded the Alternative Museum in the East Village. First housed on 28 East 4th Street, its motto was "ahead of the times, behind the issues." Rejecting the ethnic-specific and community-based models followed by his peers, Rodríguez established the Alternative Museum as a multi-disciplinary artist-run space that responded to global issues.

On June 10, the Friends of Puerto Rico (established in 1956) opened the Cayman Gallery in a SoHo loft at 381 West Broadway, with Jack Agüeros, future director of El Museo del Barrio, as its first director. Then, led by Nilda Peraza, the space expanded its focus and included other Latin American artists in its programming. Its purpose became to "fill the gap between museums and commercial galleries," and to support the growth of Hispanic artists from all disciplines.” (Fact Sheet, MoCHA Records, Hostos Community College) Cayman Gallery eventually became the Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art (MoCHA), located at 585 Broadway.

The Association for Hispanic Art (AHA) was founded by a consortium of organizations that supported Latino artists. Marta Moreno Vega became its founding director. It was first located on 200 East 87th Street. The Nuyorican Poets Cafe and Cayman Gallery were linked to, and partially supported by, AHA. The AHA newsletter became a convenient aide for artists looking for job openings, networking opportunities, and other happenings in the N.Y.C. Latino and Latin American cultural scene.

Pedro Pietri (who served as 'Spanglish Metaphor Consultant') along with Willie Pietri and Papoleto Meléndez formed the Latin Insomniacs Motor Cycle Club Without Motorcycles, a traveling micro-troupe/workshop of performance, poetry and theater. The trio also worked/collaborated on scripts, plays and other mixed media works. (flyer)

Alfredo “Freddy” Hernández began to work with Cityarts Workshop, an initiative that integrated Puerto Rican residents and motifs into the community process of mural making. (image of cityarts mural)


Lee Quiñones became a shadowy legend for the whole 40-foot subway car murals he began creating in late 1975. This started a whole-subway-car campaign strewn across the #5 IRT. Over the next decade he would paint an estimated 115 whole subway cars throughout the MTA system. http://www.leequinones.com/index.php?page=subway


La Plaza Cultural was founded by residents and greening-activist members of CHARAS. They took over what were a series of vacant city lots piled high with rubble and trash. A usable plaza – in the tradition of Latin American cities – was built right in the heart of the Big Apple. The whole structure and space was an experiment in recycling and alternative architecture. Artist Gordon Matta-Clark helped construct La Plaza’s amphitheater using railroad ties and materials reclaimed from abandoned buildings. Green Guerillas pioneer Liz Christy seeded the turf with “seed bombs.” Later, block residents tilled the western portion and planted vegetables, flowers and fruit trees.

First Latin American Theater festival was housed at The Public Theater. Among the collaborators were: Joseph Papp, Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Friends of Puerto Rico/Cayman Gallery, Teatro 94, Teatro Juruntungo. (posters from collection)


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The New Jíbaro Democratic Club was co-founded by Arturo Santiago, son of Petra Santiago. He also ran the Association of Community Services as part of the effort to win control of local school boards. He registered thousands of new - mostly Puerto Rican - voters, which made the locals understand how the system worked, and would thus set the tone for future activism. Arturo Santiago also served as Democratic District Leader in Lower Manhattan and ran for State Assembly.

Adopt-A-Building officially moved to the abandoned public school building at 605 East 9th Street. CHARAS/ El Bohío followed a short time later in the same year.

Miguel Piñero's Short Eyes was turned into a movie; the soundtrack was scored by Curtis Mayfield, of Super Fly fame, and directed by Robert Young.

The Latin Insomniacs Motorcycle Club Without Motorcycles organized the first South Bronx Surrealist Festival, held downtown at the New Rican Village. The festival was held on the Lower East Side until 1984. (flyer)

Newly elected President Jimmy Carter visited the South Bronx (by that year a burnt-out slum). There were over 25,000 abandoned lots in the city. The Lower East Side was another epicenter of the fires and demolitions that gutted neighborhoods due to the intentional withdrawal of city services from the poorest neighborhoods.

The Quality of Life in Loisaida community magazine was co-founded by Alfredo Irizarry and Mary McCarthy. After it started publishing, internationally renowned anthropologist Margaret Mead became a member of their board. (image of cover)


The exhibit Bridge Between Islands: Retrospective Works by Six Puerto Rican Artists in New York opened at the Henry Street Settlement (Abrons Center), traveled to the Bronx Museum of the Arts, and finally, in 1979, to El Museo del Barrio. It included 45 works by Olga Albizu, Tony Bechara, Eloy Blanco, Marcos Dimas, Evelyn López de Guzmán, and Jorge Soto, and accompanied by a thirty-two-page catalogue. (catalogue image)


Tu Casa Studios at 95 Avenue B/Charlie Parker Place was developed by CHARAS, as a community music workshop, where musicians could meet and rehearse. It continued to be a place where a whole range of diverse artists – from Gema y Pavel to the Yeah, Yeah Yeahs - found affordable rates to record and rehearse. (foto from sonido costeno)

Jean Michel Basquiat and Al Díaz, began the tagging of phrases in downtown Manhattan as SAMO, a character they created as fellow students at City As School High School. Before becoming an acclaimed figure in the international artworld “Jean-Michel Basquiat first made his name as the graffiti artist-poet Samo, whose observations about the state of the world have amused and provoked New Yorkers, at least downtown ones, for the last few years.” (Roberta Smith 1982) By December 1978 the Village Voice published an article on the SAMO graffiti which included an interview with Díaz and Basquiat

Fashion/Moda was founded by Stephen Eins in the South Bronx. Later artist Joe Lewis and William Scott, a Puerto Rican teenager from the neighborhood, joined as co-directors. Fashion/Moda attracted many local graffiti artists ,including Lee, of the Lower East Side, and began the aesthetic mergers between the downtown/uptown scenes, hip hop, punk and DIY sensibilities.

Charlie Ahearn, a movie director and producer, started using the murals of graffiti artist Lee Quiñones as background for experimental film projects with a 16mm camera; he was one of the first directors who captured a group of local kids doing early forms of break dancing.

Marlis Momber, a photographer and an early homesteader on the Lower East Side, produced the documentary film Viva Loisaida for German television. (video excerpt)


The population of Loisaida declined 40 percent over the 1970s decade.


Freddy Hernández contributed to the "Adventures in Loisaida" comic strip to Quality of Life in Loisaida magazine. (images of cartoon)

Philip Pocock, photographer, began documenting Lower East Side murals “made for and by the Spanish ghetto” along with small scale tags and vernacular street interventions by unknowns. His work was published a year later as The Obvious Illusion[ and exhibited in the Cooper Union. The book included an introduction by Gregory Battock and insightful interviews with several muralists including Freddy Hernandez, Tomie Arai, who worked with CITYarts, Art Guerra, who worked with CCF, CETA, and Victor Collazo Signpainters.

In the Heart of Loisaida , a documentary of homesteading movement, was made by Bennie Matías with in-kind contributions and a small grant from Adopt-A-Building. (video excerpt)

CHARAS/El Bohio Community Center was founded as a multi-tenant arts space in an abandoned school building. (image of building)

Loisaida Inc., a non-for-profit organization, was founded; it later organized the Loisaida Street Festival.