Friday, April 19

A 'Hood By Any Other Name?


Rafael Merino comments on “The South Bronx, and Proudly” by David Gonzalez of The New York Times.
In a media-centric society, branding has become everything. It is scary to see how a small group of shortsighted individuals can sway the masses, or at least give it a good try.
Here, in El Barrio/ Spanish Harlem, we’re fighting a very similar battle. Although the generic moniker of “East Harlem” has gained more ground than “Downtown Bronx,” El Barrio and Spanish Harlem designations are well respected, engraved in a large amount of small businesses, defended by local politicians and civic groups, and immortalized in popular culture. How do you turn your back on that? Some have tried.
Yes, there was a “SpaHa” café that opened up once — they didn’t last a year. A feeble attempt to vandalize our neighborhood with an “Upper Yorkville” mark was met with immediate and almost violent reaction.
sobroCongressman Serrano was right about respecting the roots, struggle and unabridged history of a community — or person; embracing the complete story is what builds character — and brand name recognition. And to poor and working communities that don’t have much in the way of real ownership of land, these names and symbols create an important physiological bond to the closest thing we can call “home.”
Puerto Rico is a larger example of that. It may be a colonial possession; the people’s will to incorporate into the global economy may be curtailed by the US government; their soldiers keep getting killed even though they can’t vote for their Commander-in-Chief; and they have no real voice in the same US Congress that controls their destiny; but mess with their flag and you’re gonna get cut.
You build on that kind of passion, you don’t paint over it.
— Rafael Merino


  1. “Wake up Loisaida, defend what’s yours, Wake up Boricua, defend what’s yours!” – Armando PerezI see that this piece was written back in October of 2008, and now (2009) there are two brand spanking NEW buinesses in East Harlem (a bar and a bakery) that proudly use the name Spaha(!!!) and fit right in perfecto with the new and "unstoppable" gentrification (and displacement of Nuyoricans) that is running more than amuck on the streets of El Barrio (and El bronx and Loisaida etc too) right now as we speak/write.As the article points out, for poor/disenfranchised/colonized communities who have no real "ownership" of the land, sometimes all you really got is them names/symbols/words that show that you were, and still are, here/hear (and the stories and his and her-stories that's tied to them). We may not "own" the title to the land (on THEIR paper), but we do run the streets (en las calles, where it counts!) and declare the right to give the streets a title/name of our own choosing. So if we really wanna hold on to (at least) that small bit of psychological/cultural/physical turf, then we need to take it (back) to the streets, like we puro NuyoRicans used to do(!!!).they say gentrification, we say gente-fication!!! en lucha y palante y hasta la victoria y ya tu sabes, (N4)