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The Richport East Villager
Volume 1, Issue 1 (Summer - 1998)
by William Millán
Since the earliest days of man, rattles and gourds have resonated with joyous sounds mesmerizing both young and old alike. What is it about the sound of a shaker that can drive the musical engine of an intricately syncopated ensemble, pacify a newborn child or even elevate a human being into the realm of ceremonial bliss?
In today's popular latin music, the maracas and güiro play essential roles in establishing what is called the marcha (the pulse of the music). The infectious rhythms they produce provide a smooth continuity to the rhythm section and act like an aural glue for the entire ensemble.
Having been born and raised in Manhattan's Lower East Side, I have often wondered about the origins of these remarkable instruments. How did they manage to survive the onslaught of electronic gadgetry that dominates our current music (picture Mick Jagger shaking a pair of maracas to Jumpin' Jack Flash)? The simple magic produced by these organic instruments has always amazed me and has even led me to research their origins.
One day at a family gathering, I casually asked my mother if she could help me acquire information on the history of these instruments from Puerto Rico. She caught me off-guard when she told me that she used to make the instruments as a child in her hometown of San Lorenzo. She proudly stated that both the güiro and the maracas have been a vital part of our Puerto Rican culture dating back to pre-Columbian times and the Taíno Indian.
That Sunday conversation gradually evolved into a lesson on how to make the maracas. As she sat rocking in her chair, she recounted how she used to go out into the fields of San Lorenzo to gather what is known on the island as higüera. According to her description, the higüera was a pumpkin-like gourd that was utilized by the Taínos to make different items such as bowls, cups, spoons and instruments (i.e., guiro and maracas). The gourd could be found in a variety of sizes but the ideal size used for making maracas was approximately 4" in diameter (or about the size of an orange).
She continued her account by explaining that, once the gourd was picked, it would be thoroughly cleaned and hollowed-out through a small incision made on one of its' sides. The inside pulp would be removed with a spoon through that same opening and then the empty shell would be set out in the sun to harden and dry. Upon hardening, the higüera shell (which would become the head of the maraca) was then partially filled with dried beans, seeds or pebbles and sealed with a piece of wood (usually a branch stick) that was approximately 3/4" in diameter and 6" in length. The stick would be wedged into the bottom opening of the shell, sealing the head of the maraca and doubling as its handle.
Güiros were made in a similar manner. A long squash-like gourd (approximately 12-14 inches in length) was picked and hollowed-out through two vertical holes made on its' back. The pulp was removed (as in the previous process) after which the artisan would use a hack-saw blade to score a number of evenly spaced lines across the face of the gourd (creating sound ridges). Each line was scored approximately 1/16 of an inch apart from the next covering practically the entire face of the gourd. Once the scoring was complete, the guiro was set out in the sun to harden and dry.
Unlike the maracas, the güiro sound is produced by scraping the ridges of the
gourd with what is called a raspador (scraper). The raspador is basically a
piece of wood that is whittled down with a knife to comfortably fit the contour
of the player's hand. Pieces of metal (frequently segments of bicycle spokes)
are then inserted into one end of the wooden handle for scraping against
the sound ridges. Each spoke is cut into 3" pieces then burned into the widest
end of the handle in a uniformed single row. The number of spokes affixed to the
scraper handle can range from about 2-12 depending on the desired sound. REV
REV1 -Shake, Rattle & Scrape? by William Millán
REV2 -La Llave/The Key by Luis Pérez
REV3 -LES Goes To Tampa Bay by Onésimo "Franco" Silva
REV4 -Destination - LES! by A. Julie Cruz
REV5 -Synergy: Music and the Martial Arts by Frank Ortega
REV6 -Juan Morel Campos by William Arana
REV7 -Un Breve Calendario Puertorriqueño
REV9 -Remembering Roberto "El Magnífico" by José O. González
REV10 -¡Fuego! ¡Fuego! by Fred Millán
REV11 -How i Learned My ABC's by Raymond A. Acevedo
REV12 -A Loisaida Tribute to "El Cantante de los Cantantes"
REV13 -LOCAL MUSEUMS & CULTURE
REV14 -How To Make Sofrito & Pollo Guisado by Carmen Martínez de Millán
REV15 -Notes On The CONTRIBUTORSREV16 -Acknowledgments
La Llave/The Key
by Luis Pérez
I am always surprised and amused at the reaction I receive from students when I share the stories about my experiences living in apartment #5A at 535 East 13th Street (on the Lower East Side). They just can't seem to believe that whenever a member of my family had to use the bathroom, we had to go to the hallway because that's where it was situated. "Get atta here!" is the usual response I get; but when I explain that our bathtub was in the kitchen, they really lose it.
Their favorite stories are the ones about the missing bathroom keys. You see, since we didn't particularly enjoy sharing our family's "private" rest room with our "junkie" and "alcoholic" neighbors, we had to keep it under lock and key. Everyone in the family had to endure my father's rigorous bathroom key training (which actually entailed walking to and from the bathroom as you took and replaced the sacred key from the nail on the kitchen wall). You can imagine what happened when you suddenly looked up to the nail and the key was missing. I mean, "when you gotta' go-you gotta' go!" I still recall our next door neighbor Doña Mona opening her door and saying "¿Qué pasa, la llave otra vez?" whenever she heard the screams "¿Donde está la llave?"
Yesterday I noticed that Natalie, a new member in our counseling group, didn't think that my bathroom key anecdotes were amusing. Later I found out that Natalie currently resides in a place called "the castle", a city-run shelter for families in the Lower East Side. Suddenly I remembered that having to go through changes to take a "shit" wasn't so funny after all. REV
LES goes to Tampa Bay
by Onésimo "Franco" Silva Jr.
When I was growing up on Manhattan's Lower East Side (back in the 70s), if someone had told me that I would someday be the host of my own latin music radio show, I probably would have laughed. But life is sometimes unpredictable and funny that way. Today I host Oye Latino, here in the Tampa Bay area.
Oye Latino is a latin music program that is broadcast live every Sunday evening from 7:30 PM to 9:00 PM on WMNF-88.5 FM. In addition to world and afro-Cuban music, the show features the classic salsa sounds of the 60s and 70s (everything from the Machito Orchestra to the Fania All-Stars). Producing the show has been a real learning experience and has exposed me to many fascinating aspects of this wonderful music.
My own exposure to latin music came at an early age. I remember, as a youth, going to rehearsals with my older brother to hear El Conjunto Saoco. The experience of attending those rehearsals left a lasting impression that later on became part of what I consider to be the foundation for my true cultural identity.
Those formative years in Manhattan proved to be very rich and enlightening. The neighborhood was always vibrant with sound (a blend of Motown and Fania) emanating from a sea of speakers. There were boom boxes, pocket radios and even fire escape stereos playing simultaneously throughout the neighborhood; you could not escape the music.
Back then, the latin air waves were dominated by such renown acts as Willie Colón and Hector LaVoe, Charanga 76, Típica 73 and Bobby Rodriguez y la Compañía. On Sundays, I wouldn't miss listening to the Sunday Salsa Show with Roger Dawson (on WRVR radio FM).
As time went on, my interest in music began to expand and I started listening to what was then known as dance music (now called house). I found myself going out to places like the Paradise Garage and Zanzibars (the more popular nightspots of the area - the latter in New Jersey). Those were fruitful days that helped in the development of my urban/New York musical identity. It was also during that period that I met Larry Lavan (then, the DJ at the Garage) who was the first to teach me about the fine art of mixing music and sound.
When I moved down to the Bay area (around the late 80s), I experienced a bout of culture shock. I couldn't find anyone who spoke my musical language and that void left me feeling culturally lost. I looked forward to returning home every chance I could to soak in some new music. Then one day back in 1991, I met a percussionist by the name of Frankie Piñeiro who walked into my mother-in-law's Pinella Park botánica one afternoon.
Frank Piñeiro was selling ads for his alternative radio show called Salsa, Jazz Y Algo Mas when we first met. He noticed that I was playing a tape by Jerry González' Fort Apache Band at the botánica and immediately struck up a conversation on music. To make a long story short, we quickly hit it off and remained in contact. Then one day Frankie needed someone to cover his Sunday Show on nights when he performed with his group Guisando Caliente (one of Tampa Bay's most popular latin-jazz ensemble) so I was recruited as guest host.
Frank and I have worked as a team ever since. He helps me with Oye Latino and I reciprocate by pitching in with his four-hour program. Our collaborative efforts have proven to be both enriching and productive in that we have had the opportunity to promote and work with such luminary artists as Mario Bauza, Larry Harlow, Willie Colón, Tito Puente, Jimmy Bosch, Chucho Valdéz, Arturo Sandoval, Ray Barretto, the Fania All-Stars and numerous others.
If you are ever in the Tampa Bay area, please tune in and give usa
call. Salsa, Jazz Y Algo Mas can be heard on WRMD-680 AM Sunday nights from 9:00
PM till 1:00 AM right after Oye Latino which airs 7:30 PM to 9:00 PM on WMNF. It
can also be heard on the net at WMNF.org every Sunday night at 7:30 PM. Hope to
hear from you soon y que viva la
Destination - LES!
by A. Julie Cruz
If life's journey came with a passport, mine would be chock full of destination stamps and stickers. In reality, the most I have journeyed has been from 8th Street to 14th Street and then to the lower west side. But in my life's journey, God saw it fit that I take a real journey - fully equipped with airline tickets, camping gear and a list of stop-overs.
As a young Puerto Rican woman in the Lower East Side (in the late sixties/early seventies), I was totally absorbed with the thought that being Puerto Rican was exactly what was imposed on us. This imposed identity, however, made us lower-income New Yorkers - not Puerto Rican. I thought Puerto Ricans lived in housing projects (at least the "better-off" ones!), ate sorullitos made of USDA corn meal and bought groceries from Sula's on 7th Street. We cooled ourselves in the pump and ate homemade icies in the summer. We sang carols while we ate pasteles at Christmas and celebrated St. Patrick's Day with corned beef and rice and beans. Our music was Motown and we would become enraged if someone called us jíbaro.
The 60s and 70s were times of "heading out to find oneself." Iván head out to Mexico to discover the simple life and embrace poverty. I became involved with the crew of the 4th Street i Magazine developed by Diane Churchill and Fred González. Diane gathered up a group of us Puerto Rican teens who hadn't stepped foot on the island of Puerto Rico and took us on the journey of our lives. She solicited funds from guilt-ridden corporations and developed a special project for us to work on - our task was to research, write, edit and produce two magazines. One was to be focused on the native Puerto Ricans of the island, the other on New York-Puerto Ricans.
Both journeys, the journey of gathering information within the Puerto Rican community of the Lower East Side (to fulfill the obligation of the New York edition) as well as the actual Puerto Rico trip, were awakenings. I discovered a feeling of pride when I learned what a real jíbaro was and felt even prouder to know that I was the grand-daughter of two jíbaros from Puerto Rico's mountain town of Barranquitas. I discovered where I got my long legs - the Taínos were known for their height. I experienced the art of drum making by the town's spiritual leader in Loiza Aldea, ground coffee in a shack on the side of a mountain with a coffee grower, shared a cup of coffee in the kitchen overlooking the sea in La Perla and heard real fisherman stories in Guánica. Most of all, I discovered that the "P" in Puerto Rican stands not for poor but for Precious. I discovered that my people are all people - a loving, caring and accepting people. My people are white, brown, black, beige, straight-haired, blond and afro'd.
When I returned from Puerto Rico, the beauty of the community of the Lower East Side shone through like white under a black light. The beauty surfaced because I knew what to look for - and only then was I able to look beyond the dimly lit and urine drenched hallways to find the beauty of our culture alive and well in Loisaida. I discovered here, grandmothers with stories to share, recipes for flan and even a drum maker on 8th street; it was all here! And I discovered that even though Motown was cool - Fania was better and jíbaro improvisations even better! One of the beauties of this unique neighborhood is that you do not have to lose your culture to love the Lower East Side...And you don't have to equate either with ignorance, joblessness, drugs, alcohol or welfare. To quote Diane Churchill from a poem she wrote in the 70s - "Sometimes called poor, how rich you are. I love you, I love you Lower East Side!" REV
Synergy: Music and the Martial Arts
by Frank Ortega
The cadence of carefully blended rhythms and melodies reverberate throughout the room. Delicately plucking the strings of his guitar, the player envisions a kaleidoscopic flow of rhythmic sound patterns. Melodies interweave, riding the player's feelings like a surfer sliding down a wave that creates a wondrous sound.
The scene now changes, another time-a different place. The same player now performs a cadence not of melodies and rhythms but of physical movement-flowing movements-spontaneously coming about as a result of the performer's imagination and soul.
Such is the parallel between playing music and practicing martial arts. Upon listening to a catchy melody, a person can sometimes feel and envision movement from within. These movements may be those of a particular dance pattern or one of free expression (like a physical or emotional surrender to a seductive beat).
In the higher levels of martial arts, the practitioner can sometimes envision and feel an inner melody or rhythm when movement is perceived from within or around the body. In certain forms of martial arts such as karate, a predetermined set of movements (a kata) can be executed to music. Although the movements are always the same, the music sensed by a seasoned practitioner can be different each time the kata is performed.
However, when it comes to freestyle movement (wherein a predetermined form of
kata does not exist), the result is much different. It is here that the
creativity and vitality of the perceived inner music is at its' highest. Much
like a spiritual experience, this is the level that the masterful martial
artists envisions, for within it exists the melodic rhythm of life and death
itself. Constant consciousness of both music and life's movements flow as it
unfolds. Spontaneity tends to be the rule while predetermined structure is
avoided. For the martial artist at this level, there is music with every
movement he senses and motion with any music he hears. REV
Juan Morel Campos
by William Arana
Juan Morel Campos was born on the 16th of May-1857 in the southern city of Ponce, Puerto Rico. His birth coincided with the arrival of King Alfonso XII of Spain (then the dominant colonial force in Puerto Rico). It was said that Campos' was christened with the crown of art and inspiration--more lasting and valuable than the diadem worn by the Spanish Monarch.
One of the most noted composers of Puerto Rico, Campos is considered by many to be the main exponent of the Puerto Rican danza. In addition to his fame as a composer, he was also known for his many talents as an organist, flutist, double bass fiddler and director of orchestra. He headed a European tour for a company of zarzuela (a light musical opera) and directed the overture for the theatrical piece called El Reloj de Lucerna (The Clock of Lucerne)-one of his most famous works.
Juan Morel Campos was indeed the embodiment of authentic musical expression in Puerto Rico during the latter half of the 1800s. His compositions reflected the society and times in which he lived. Campos is credited with writing La Danza Puertorriqueña, a simulated minuet movement that is recognized as one of the island's most important compositions. His rhythmic inventions and carefully crafted melodies have long heralded the Hispanic-American classic music that we still listen to today.
Affected by the sickness "du Siecle", Campos sought refuge in performance and composition. By spontaneously expressing his most intimate sentiments (i.e., his sorrows, happiness, humor and impossible loves), he developed a unique style that manifested into the clarity and sincerity of his danzas. These personal characteristics stand out as the pillars of his art.
Unfortunately, Morel Campos died of a heart attack while still a young man on
the 12th of May-1896 (in his native city of Ponce). Despite his short span of
life, he left behind a substantial legacy of works that includes: one symphony,
one overture, a processional march, a number of religious pieces, three
zarzuelas, numerous waltzes, marches, cuadrillas (quartets), mazurcas, polkas
and more than two-hundred danzas. Today, he is considered to be one of
Puerto Rico's most distinguished musical figures and the father of La Danza
Un Breve Calendario Puertorriqueño
January 2, 1851- Manuel Elzaburu (founder of El Ateneo Puertorriqueño) born in San Juan
January 6, 1752- José Campeche (painter) born in San Juan
January 9, 1897- Doña Felisa Rincón de Gautier (Co-founder of the Partido Popular Democrático and Alcaldesa) born in Ceíba
January 11, 1839 - Eugenio María de Hostos (philosopher, sociologist and journalist) born in Mayagüéz
January 24, 1874 - Arturo Alfonso "Afroborinqueño" Schomburg (Documentarian) born in Santurce
January 28, 1869 - Virgilio Dávila (poet) born in Toa Baja
February 18, 1898 - Luis Muñoz Marín (Founder of the PPD, politician and 1st native born governor of Puerto Rico) born in San Juan
March 2, 1917 - President Woodrow Wilson signs the Jones Act giving Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship
March 9, 1940 - Raul Julia (actor) born in San Juan
March 20, 1898 - Luis Pales Matos (poet) born in Guayama
March 22, 1873 - Spain abolishes slavery in Puerto Rico
April 8, 1827 - Ramón Emeterio Betances (physician and Politician) born in Cabo Rojo
April 16, 1866 - José de Diego (barrister, journalist and politician) born in Aguadilla
April 22, 1957 - First Pablo Casals Festival in Puerto Rico - Rio Piedras)
May 14, 1876 - Luis Llorén Torres (poet) born in Juana Díaz
May 16, 1857 - Juan Morel Campos (composer) born in Ponce
June 17, 1833 - Francisco Oller (painter) born in Bayamón
July 17, 1859 - Luis Muñoz Rivera (politician and journalist) born in Barranquitas
July 25, 1898 - The United States assumes custody of Puerto Rico from Spain
July 25, 1952 - Puerto Rican flag adopted
August 18, 1934 - Roberto Clemente (baseball player and humanitarian) born in Carolina
September 12, 1891 - Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos (Primary leader of the Nationalist movement) born in Ponce
September 14, 1843 - Lola Rodríguez de Tío (poet and journalist) born in San German
October 24, 1892 - Rafael Hernández (composer) born in Aguadilla
November 3, 1970 - Herman Badillo is elected to the U.S. Congress (first Puerto Rican elected)
December 11, 1931 - Rosita Dolores Alverio (Rita Moreno - actress, singer and dancer) born in Humacao
Celebramos 40 años de la parada Puertorriqueña, el bicentenario de la fundación de Juana Díaz-Puerto Rico y el centenario de la unión de los cinco condados de la ciudad de Nueva York.
Remembering Roberto "EL MAGNÍFICO"
by José O. González
As a young boy, I was always in awe of such legendary players as Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Sandy Koufax and other greats. But, no one stood out so prominently in my mind as the man who I consider to be my childhood hero and mentor. I vividly recall a rare outing to Shea Stadium when I first saw the man they called "El Magnífico".
The visiting Pittsburgh Pirates were behind 3 to zip, trailing the Mets who were well on their way to a victory. However, with three men on in the top of the ninth, Pirates' second baseman Bill Mazeroski stepped up to the plate and jolted a pitch over the wall for a Grand Slam home run. The stadium reverberated with cheers from the enthusiastic fans celebrating the Pirate lead which resulted in their victory (I imagine the Pirates had their contingency of fans in New York that day outnumbering the Met fans).
I must admit, I was impressed by the heroics of the second baseman and the incessant shaking of the stadium after the homer. But in retrospect, the most impressionable moment of that game was watching Roberto Clemente launch a throw from the outfield to catch a runner at third base. Every baseball player knows that a throw from right field to third base, on a fly, has to be the most difficult throw in the game (with the possible exception of the catcher's throw to second on an attempted steal).
Clemente had in his arsenal, undoubtedly, the greatest arm in the game. The rifle shot that I witnessed that day didn't surprise his teammates nor the fans because it was a routine play for No. 21. The runner on first speeded to third on the hit into the right field corner. Clemente, sliding to his knees to avoid slamming into the wall, fielded the ball and uncorked his rifle arm in the direction of third base.
I watched in awe as the throw reached the waiting third baseman on a fly. The runner had to be absolutely stunned when he got called out at third base (I'm sure his memory of the play obviously exceeds mine). I didn't know it then, but I had seen one of the greatest players of all time.
America was not yet ready to accept Hispanic athletes as bonafide stars. Players like Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron were the stars of the day. Nevertheless, Clemente was the exception in spite of being truly underrated in comparison to Mantle or Mays. Even though playing in a small-market town like Pittsburgh didn't help, Roberto remained undeterred in his quest for excellence. The league players and his teammates recognized Clemente's greatness while most of the American public did not. Unfortunately, the media which had the responsibility to write down the facts, played into the hands of an unenlightened public by depicting Hispanic and black players as unequal to their white counterparts. The result was inevitably the perpetuation of Hispanic stereotyping and the minimization of Clemente's stellar achievements.
Despite being an articulate representative of the Puerto Rican people, Clemente was ridiculed for not correctly pronouncing certain English words by the press. They routinely misinterpreted his thoughts and feelings. As a result, the American public was deprived of knowing the true individual - a man who held his head up high, who was proud of his heritage and who strived for perfection. Men of his stature and dignity appear but once in a lifetime.
Today Roberto Clemente is loved and respected by both Hispanics and Americans alike. His tragic death in an airplane crash, while attempting to assist the victims of a Nicaraguan earthquake, was followed by innumerable posthumous awards including: a special induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the issuance of U.S. postage stamps and the dedication of numerous parks, schools, baseball fields and institutions.
The greatest contribution made by Clemente has been the high standards that he set for all of us to follow. Puerto Ricans today strive for the level of excellence that he represented. Following in his footsteps, many of today's Puerto Rican player have contributed to their communities in the same unselfish manner that Clemente gave. They have shared their wealth both in monetary contributions to the poor and in time given to the youth of the Island.
I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to watch his talents in person,
more fortunate to see many Puerto Ricans following in his steps. Those Puerto
Rican players like Juan González, Iván Rodríguez, Sandy and Roberto Alomar,
Edgar Martínez and Bernie Williams have made a positive difference in many
lives. These human beings, together with every individual who strives to give
back to the community the love and respect it deserves (as did Roberto Clemente), also deserve their special place in the People's Hall of Fame. REV
by Fred Millán
Reflecting back on growing up on the Lower East Side generates many memories for me, both good and bad. Several of my most vivid and profound had to do with some of the inherent risks of tenement living. Anyone who has ever lived in one knows of the daily difficulties, problems with heating, plumbing, overcrowding, drugs and noise. However, my greatest concerns, and fears, always had to do with fires. I recall the adrenaline rush that I'd experience when I'd hear someone screaming "¡¡Fuego!!" in the halls.
We used to live on the second floor of a five story walk-up. It was an old battered tenement with hypodermic needles in its dark halls. Our apartment was too small for me to have a room so I slept on a cot in the kitchen. "¡Fuego! ¡Fuego!"
We had been in fires before but we had no specific plan other than to get out down the two long flights of stairs as soon as possible. The neighbors' screams in the halls served as our alarm to get out of the firetrap. Usually we would just throw on some coats, run down the stairs and wait for the firemen to resolve the situation. "¡Fuego! ¡Fuego!"
My father and older brother weren't home this time and I was left as the seven year old "man of the house" to deal with this situation with my aunt and mother. When we opened the door to head down the stairs, the hallway was filled with dark, black smoke. I couldn't even see the stairs at the end of the hall. "Now what?", I thought. My aunt let out an "ay Dios mío" as she realized that our regular route was out of the question. We rushed over to our second option "el fire escape". Of course we had to find the key for the window gate lock that was intended to keep out the burglars but now locked us in this fire trap. "¡Gracias a Dios!", we found the key. When I climbed out the window I realized where the fire was. It was in the apartment directly below us! The flames rose out from the window and crawled up the wall of the building toward our window. The fire escape below was covered in flames. We prayed - to deal with our fears, "Que sea lo que Dios quiera".
I'll never forget the relief I felt when I heard the sirens of the firemen, the shattering window glass, the splash of the water hitting the flames. More black smoke rose but it had the damp smell of fire drenched in water, then the loud banging on the door and the firemen hustling us out into the street until the fire was totally under control.
We must have stood there, with other tenants and the onlookers who always gather to observe tragedy, for what seemed to be a long time but probably was no more than a few minutes. People consoled each other and tried to make sense of what had happened. The rumors were someone had fallen asleep while smoking and the bed had caught fire.
As I walked back up the long staircase back to my family's apartment, the
firemen were still working on the apartment that went up in flames. Its front
door was behind the stairs I was scaling. I peeked over the banister and took
in the last image of this adventure. The rumors appeared confirmed. The firemen
were bringing out the charred remains of the apartment's tenant. The person was
allegedly a female, though her badly burned body revealed no features to confirm
that. They placed her into a body bag and brought a close to what had been a
frightening but unforgettable experience. Until the next time I hear, "¡Fuego!
by Raymond A. Acevedo
Mention the Lower East Side, and the first thought it conjures up is: Alphabet City. While geographically one can agree with this, the true meaning that many would like to engrave in our thoughts is of a dark, dangerous, uncivilized neighborhood.
What do they know? I grew up there! It was there that my spiritual, intellectual and sexual formation blossomed and enabled me to travel beyond its boundaries with a positive message and purpose.
I grew up in the Jacob Riis Houses development on Avenue D. During the 60s, the projects housed Asians, Eastern Europeans, Blacks and Puerto Ricans. This diversity combined with my parents teaching of positive co-existence, enabled me to learn about other cultures. Looking back at those times, I was naive about the atrocities that were perpetrated on the blacks in the south.
School provided me with history lessons that did not include that of my own heritage. My parents saw to it that I read El Diario daily and encouraged questions. But in school, those questions would not be answered. Every June, my mother would take me to the Puerto Rican Day Parade. I always looked forward to seeing my friends march and hoped that one day, I would also march up Fifth Avenue. But that has not happened, yet! I could probably write more about my life, but I think I'll define what the Lower East Side means to me.
It is now Loisaida, but we knew her when. When we played the congas in
the park, the beat intoxicating us, raising us to that spiritual plateau...we
were one with El Taíno y El Yoruba. It was those cold nights when we walked each
other home. The Christmas nights when we would raise our voices and sang
aguinaldos to our neighbors, creating a manger for Him...a streetlight our
guiding star. It was the riots of 1967, it was them vs. us....or was it really u...REV
"El Cantante de los Cantantes"
Lower East Side Tenement Museum
90 Orchard Street
29 East 4th Street
62 Fifth Avenue (12th Street)
54 Pearl Street
Community Theatre & Exhibits)
605 East 9th Street
236 East 3rd Street
Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center
107 Suffolk Street
New York, New York 10002
Museum of the Chinese in the Americas
70 Mulberry Street (2nd floor)
18 First Place Battery Park City
12 Fulton Street
Theodore Roosevelt's Birthplace
(National Historic Site)
28 East 20th Street
How To Make: Sofrito & Pollo Guisado
by Carmen Martínez de Millán
One of the most important cooking ingredients utilized in Puerto Rican cuisine is what is known as sofrito. Sofrito is a mixture of vegetables and herbs prepared together to form a condiment for seasoning a wide variety of foods. The blend is used in the preparation of such dishes as arroz con pollo (chicken and rice), arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas), arroz guisado (yellow rice) and my family's particular favorite- pollo guisado (stewed chicken). It is also used to add flavor to beans and stews (called guisados and asopa'o). It is not uncommon for Sofrito to be prepared in advance and refrigerated for future use. The amounts used in a specific dish may vary by recipe and food portions, but the usual recommended portions are 1-3 tablespoons per casserole (again, depending on the amount of food being prepared).
5 - onions (peeled)
3 - ripe peppers (green sweet peppers may be substituted)
1/2 lb. of Ajicitos (dwarf sweet red & green peppers)
1/2 lb. of garlic (peeled)
1 pkg. of Cilantro (wide leaf coriander - with roots removed and washed thoroughly)
1 pkg. of Cilantrillo (thin flowery parsley type - thoroughly cleaned and dried)
1 pkg. of Sazón 1 teaspoon of Olive Oil
INSTRUCTION FOR PREPARING SOFRITO
Cut up onions, peppers, Ajicitos, garlic, Cilantro and Cilantrillo then place them in a blender. Add package of Sazón and one teaspoon of olive oil then blend all of the ingredients until they form a pasty texture. Remove the mixture from the blender into a glass mason jar, cover tightly and refrigerate for future use (Sofrito will keep for up to approximately 3 weeks refrigerated).
II. POLLO GUISADO (Chicken Fricassee)
2 - Tablespoons of Cooking Oil
2 - Tablespoons of Sofrito (see Instructions)
10-12 Stuffed Spanish Olives
1 - 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
1 - bay leaf (optional)
1/2 envelope of Sazón (opt.)
6 - pieces of chicken cutlets (quartered and seasoned) or a whole chicken cut in pieces (i.e. thighs, leg, wings, etc.)
3 - medium white potatoes (quartered) 2 - medium carrots (sliced)
1 - teaspoon of salt
COOKING INSTRUCTIONS FOR POLLO GUISADO
In a large pot, pour in oil then add Sofrito, olives, bay leaf and Sazón. Stir in 1/4 cup of tomato sauce then simmer for approximately 5-10 minutes. Continue stirring occasionally to avoid sticking to the pot. Next, add your chicken pieces, potatoes, carrots and salt into the pot as you stir-in the remaining tomato sauce. Cover the pot and cook at low heat (occasionally stirring) for approximately 45 minutes or until the potatoes and carrots are tender.
*Note: If you use a whole chicken instead of cutlets, add approximately 30
minutes to the cooking time.REV
The contributors of this newsletter represent a unique group of talented individuals who come from Puerto Rican backgrounds and are the product of New York City's Lower East Side. They comprise a pool of educators, bankers, psychologists, social workers, counselors, photographers, musicians, radio commentators, martial artists and writers. These individuals have generously donated their time and efforts to this project with the collective intention of reciprocating the support that they received from that diverse community known as the Lower East Side. We hope this modest effort will help illuminate the path for others and promote a sense of pride in our dual culture as well as our old stomping grounds.
Raymond A. Acevedo is a contributing editor for the New York based Tompkins-Times.
William Arana is a Bank Manager with a major New York City lending institution.
A. Julie Cruz is the Assistant Director for the School of Continuing Education and Office of Public Affairs at New York University. She is also a youth minister at St. Anthony of Padua Church.
José O. González is an Assistant Vice President with a New York based foreign bank. He is also a photo journalist.
Carmen Martinez de Millán (Project Facilitator) is a Bank Manager with a major New York City lending institution.
Fred Millán is a Professor of Psychology and has his own private practice.
William Millán (Project Coordinator) is a Social Work Supervisor with the New York City Department of Social Services.
Frank Ortega is a Martial Arts Instructor who has developed his own teaching system based on the Philippine "Kali" style of martial arts. In addition, he has been a music teacher and performer for over 30 years.
Luis Pérez is a Guidance Counselor in the New York City public school system. He is also a trained actor.
Onésimo "Franco" Silva is a radio broadcaster at station WMNF in Tampa.
I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to this fantastic group individuals who, without any hesitation, agreed to take time out of their busy schedules to participate in this project. Many of us have known each other since childhood and have maintained solid friendships for well over thirty years! So, here's a toast to our familia of friends, living proof that the Lower East Side has successfully nurtured our minds as well as our souls creating a lasting sense of community and neighborhood.
If you are interested in writing or participating in the REV project (or maybe just want to drop us a line), please feel free to contact us at:
-HASTA LA PRÓXIMA-