‘Loisaida’ is the NYC neighborhood at the root of powerful movements.
While walking through the Lower East Side, did you ever notice the other name for Avenue C?
If you’re Puerto Rican or have lived in NYC for long enough to see the neighborhood change, you may have a soft spot for the word, “ Loisaida”.
Say it slowly. What downtown New York City neighborhood does it sound like?
Before The Lower East Side (LES) was a shopping and restaurant area mostly for university students, the Manhattan neighborhood was a working-class neighborhood for immigrants from across the world. In the mid-1900s, the Latinos who lived there called it “Loisaida”. Puerto Ricans and other working-class people made Loisaida a place for activism in New York City from the 1940s to the 1990s.
Activist groups tried to improve the lives of residents in the neighborhood by leading protests and mass building squats. Locals also created spaces for the community, like gardens and restaurants. These actions along with art that brought Latinos together helped form national cultural pride. This created the The “Nuyorican” identity (preferred by some Puerto Ricans from New York),
Have you heard of the Nuyorican Poets Café, opened in 1973? Many Latino artists, like poet, Aja Monet and actress, Rosario Dawson performed here!
Today LES has the second-highest income inequality gap in Manhattan. As the neighborhood becomes unaffordable, Latino families who once lived well there are being pushed out.
Thankfully, some cultural hubs, like Loisaida Center and Tenement Museum, still exist and remind us of the Latino influence that helped strengthen Latino movements for justice, such as the creation of the modern Puerto Rican Flag!
Check out next week’s blog to learn more about the influence of the Lower East Side on the history of Puerto Rico!
|Soft spot- noun- to like something or someone a lot.|
Income inequality gap- noun– income = money, inequality= unequal, gap= space
Unaffordable- adjective– expensive, not easy to buy
Hub- noun – a place that is a center of a particular activity
Activism – Noun– social or political change
To squat – Verb – living in a building without the legal right to do so