‘Down These Mean Streets’ at El Museo del Barrio

In Down These Mean Streets: Community and Place in Urban Photography, Latino photographers capture the street life in their own neighborhoods at El Museo del Barrio in East Harlem, Manhattan from September 13, 2018 through January 6, 2019.

Down These Mean Streets: Community and Place in Urban Photography

The exhibition is organized by E. Carmen Ramos, deputy chief curator and curator of Latino art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The power of the exhibition comes from the fact that the photographers were not outsiders looking in. We were documenting ourselves. That makes it real. You cannot completely understand Latino culture by just looking through the window.

The photographers worked in the South Bronx and East Los Angeles (I’m from there).

The photographers in the exhibition are:

  • Manuel Acevedo
  • Oscar Castillo
  • Frank Espada (Puerto Rican)
  • Anthony Hernandez
  • Perla de Leon
  • Hiram Maristany
  • Ruben Ochoa
  • John Valadez
  • Winston Vargas (Dominican)

Many of the photographers are American-born with a Puerto Rican or Mexican heritage.

I’ll share a story about my own ignorance. Growing up in and around Los Angeles, including East LA, the hard days of The Bronx were the stuff of cinema.

When New York Latin Culture Magazine was in print from 2012-2016, we used to print in The Bronx. One day when picking up the magazine, I asked the printer, “where are all those bombed out buildings that I used to see on TV.” He just looked at me.

Those days are gone. The Bronx is Beautiful. Latin jazz, salsa and hip-hop all came from there. But if you want to see how it was, once upon a time in New York City, you can see it at El Museo del Barrio.

I love Hiram Maristany’s iconic image of the open hydrant. He provides an almost Renaissance perspective. You still see that in the summer in the barrios. And the kids still love it.


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