Project Mission

The Bronx Latino History Project highlights Latinos who lived or contributed to The Bronx throughout its history. Latinos are among the largest and fastest growing ethnic groups in the borough since the mid-20th century. According to the U.S. census survey from 2006-2008, of the entire nation’s counties with a population of 500,000, The Bronx comes in fourth as a county whose businesses are predominantly owned by Latinos. Although Puerto Ricans were the first major Latinos to settle in the borough, today The Bronx is home to Latinos from all over Central and South America and the Caribbean. The Society’s education department is in the process of increasing the BCHS’s collections to reflect The Bronx’s current population diversity. With the assistance of community organizations and certain devoted individuals, the BCHS will continue to fulfill its mission to preserve and share information that highlights major turning points in Bronx history.

The Bronx has been a home in the New World for many people of various backgrounds and ethnicities dating back to 1639 with the arrival of its first European settler, Jonas Bronck. Bronck’s ship anchored off the southern shores of what is now 132nd Street, just east of Lincoln Avenue. On his farm, there were indentured servants from Germany, Denmark, and Jonas himself was a Swede, sailing under the auspices of the Dutch West India Company. This early episode in Bronx History serves as a precursor to the borough’s significantly diverse population today.

At the beginning of the 20th century, The Bronx had become an urban epicenter with new affordable housing and a reliable public transit system. Various immigrant groups migrated from the overcrowded slums of lower Manhattan into The Bronx, seeking an opportunity to live and prosper in a rapidly evolving borough. Although The Society currently has an impressive archive collection of the people of The Bronx from the frontier era up until the first half of the 20th century, there is a wealth of new information to be collected on the Latino population in The Bronx today. The purpose of this project is to address and highlight the numerous achievements and contributions Latinos have given to The Bronx. A person of Latino descent may come from any of the various cultures found in Latin America and it is this explosion of culture that makes The Bronx an exceptional place.

The Bronx Latino History Project will be explained through a series of oral histories, lectures, walking and bus tours, publications, and exhibitions. Project interviewers and researchers will retrieve the information on the topic.

Information provided by participants
Project assistants would schedule interviews with project participants. Video cameras and voice recorders are welcomed during the interview, however, all interviews will be transcribed. Basically, all current and former Bronxites of Hispanic decent will be the focus group of this study. These participants will offer a first-hand view of either immigrating to or growing up in The Bronx. Interviewers are encouraged to contact celebrity, political or other notable Bronx Latinos and also to visit nursing homes and other care facilities to produce participants who may have a good view of the early days of the major Latino migration to New York during the 1940s and 1950s. If an interview cannot be conducted for any reason, participants are more than welcome to submit in writing a personal account of their experience as a Bronx Latino. Project interviewers can send in a series of questions to the participant for specific information. Once the interview process has ceased, the participant can submit their writing to the BCHS journal committee for review.

Topics of Interest
There will be four major themes that will explain the Bronx Latino experience:

This project will focus on the four most identifiable traits of a particular Latino culture: Music, food, language, customs, and the arts. Latinos are one of the most diverse ethnic groups in the world. Although there may be some similarities, such as the Spanish language, there are Latinos who still converse in various indigenous tongues. In addition, there is a wide variety of different types of music, foods, and traditions within the Latino culture that deserve recognition with a detailed catalogue and database of such findings. This project explores a unique cultural diffusion in The Bronx.

Political representation within the Latino community was always pivotal for those navigating Bronx life. As previous migrant and immigrant groups have done in the past, the borough’s Latinos sought to elect trusted individuals in their community to address their concerns during times of need and constant change. Trailblazing Latino Bronx politicians such as Assemblyman Felipe Torres and former Borough President and Congressman Herman Badillo have paved the way for Latinos in the borough’s political landscape, which is still predominately Puerto Rican and Dominican. Learning about the careers and achievements of past Latino Bronx elected officials offers another valuable resource for this wonderful project.

As a mode of recreation, sports have played a major role in the development of the urban community. In The Bronx, popular sporting activities such as baseball, football, basketball, and boxing were the choices of play for most Latinos. This project will offer the opportunity for Latinos to share their athletic experiences in The Bronx. Whether it is a professional athlete or neighborhood stickball champion, this project will highlight Latinos who’ve made their contribution to Bronx history through sports.

Community Organization
As the major waves of Latino migration began to settle in various Bronx communities, primarily Puerto Ricans and Cubans during the 1940s-1950s, many of them started to get involved with neighborhood organizing. However, it was not until the mid 1960’s that community organizing became a common practice to address the beginning stages of the deterioration of The Bronx. This project will discuss the affects and achievements of these Latino based community organizations.

As the results from the interviews and research become available, educational programming will be implemented to express the findings of the project. The programming will consist of six components:

Lecture Series
Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month, “The Bronx Latino” lecture made its debut at The Bronx Library Center on October 4, 2010 with an audience of 75 people. The lecture, in a power point presentation with photographs from the BCHS collection, was given high praise. The images showed various Bronx connections to Latino culture. The lecture is an ongoing project as new research unearths new information. In addition, an artifact retrieval campaign has been implemented to encourage the Latino community to contribute items such as photographs and other materials that can be used by the BCHS for educational purposes.

Journal Articles
Narratives, stories, and oral histories from Bronxites of different Latino backgrounds are a great source for research. Having access to personal vignettes and accounts are an ideal way to get in- depth information. There are currently a number of Latino articles that have made their way into the BCHS Journals over the years, but this project will encompasses all Latinos, not just the Puerto Rican and Dominican populations. Articles in Spanish and other indigenous languages (such as those of the indigenous people of Mexico) are very important in reflecting the diverse populations of Latinos living in The Bronx today.

In order to make the general public aware of our newly assembled Latino collection, an exhibition will be created and showcased at the Museum of Bronx History for the annual National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15). This exhibition will also be loaned out to Latino politicians, museums and social institutions.

The BCHS is planning a publication highlighting Latinos in The Bronx. With the collection of lecture material, photographs, journal articles, and interviews, The Society will have information to produce materials for print, media, and on the web.

School Outreach
The information collected from all components will be utilized to create an educational curriculum that will involve power point presentations, neighborhood tours, and visits to the Museum of Bronx History to view The Bronx Latino History exhibition. These programs will be available for schools and the general public. School contests involving interpretive art and essay writing and oral history internships will also be featured.

Musical performances and poetry sessions
Because there are major cultural themes associated with Latinos and their experience in The Bronx, performances will be implemented to share the varieties of Latino culture. Musical and poetry concepts can be used interchangeably and the content can reflect various cultures of Latin America.

Plan of Action
Stage 1: Archive and Consolidation
 – The Bronx County Historical Society can only fulfill this first crucial part of the project with as much help as possible. Utilizing student interns, the work of sifting, identifying, and scanning collections at The Bronx County Archives can help propel the project a great deal. As a website is being created to track and showcase progress, student interns will be trained on how to upload content onto the database. Student interns will be supplied with the equipment needed for archival duties.

Stage 2: Showcase and Dissemination
 – Once the collections have been identified and catalogued, a media campaign at The Bronx County Archives should be arranged so that the public can learn of the newly catalogued items in the collection and also gain more interest in potential contributors as well. We will embark on a lecture and walking tour series, using the information collected during the internship and the BCHS can also guest lecture at educational institutions throughout.

Stage 3: Development and Fundraising
 – By this time, the project should have a complete portfolio of all the work the BCHS and collaborating schools had done during the partnership. This allows us to present to foundations, businesses, and elected officials for additional potential funding. Since this project is ongoing, we will need funds to pay for more stipends for interns, materials, equipment, and guest speakers.

A Model For Future Research on Bronx Ethnic Groups
The Bronx Latino History Project is very organic in its approach. Based on the success of the Bronx African American History Project, The Bronx County Historical Society continues to seek out information through family oral histories on the subject for many years. As The Bronx is home to dozens of major ethnic groups, The Society has the framework to study and collect the records of all such groups. All the records of the Bronx Latino History project and future research projects will be stored and catalogued in The Bronx County Archives and will be made available to the public.

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