One of the distinct characteristics of Puerto Rican, and other Latino groups, in the United States are the strong ties forged between generations. Even amongst some of our youngest cohorts, Millennials, connecting to other generations is incredibly important. This desire to connect intergenerationally informs the places we frequent, the activities we engage in, and the programming our Puerto Rican-led spaces offer. In this episode of Puerto Rican Voices, we bring you three unique stories about intergenerational exchanges (and the people that make them happen).
In our first segment we share with you the story of how the humble paper kite is connecting generations of Puerto Ricans in the neighborhood of El Barrio. Artivist Miguel Luciano, who was born in the plastic kite generation, packs art, history, and intergenerational bonding into his paper kite-making workshops. His workshops are grounded not only in this tradition that Puerto Ricans brought to New York City from the island, but in the history of the neighborhood itself. Yesterday’s Puerto Rican children flew their kites high on the rooftops of New York City. Through Miguel’s workshops, today’s children are breathing new life into this old-age practice. Traditions, culture, and generations connect in a living history. He’ll introduce you to his workshop, the impetus behind it, and the real reason the workshops exist.
From El Barrio we travel all the way to the South of New York City, and more specifically to Brooklyn, where one of the last bastions of the Puerto Rican community, a real life vecindad, in Williamsburg lives. Generations of Puerto Ricans, newcomers and well-settled, flock to Toñita’s Caribbean Social Club—where everybody knows your name. Founded in 1973 as a food and music hangout for baseball teams in the area, today the Caribbean Social Club is a gathering place for generations and generations of Puerto Ricans. Scratch that. Generations and generations of people, regardless of where they come from, have found a home in Toñita’s space. Learn the story of the place, of the ring-wearing gran dama behind it, and how her little space gives back to the community. You will want to visit the club and won’t want to leave.
We close this new episode of Puerto Rican Voices with a visit to the Clemente Soto Velez, or the Clemente. A hub of creativity and art, the Clemente shines light on all manifestations of arts from Puerto Rico and Latin America. This Lower East Side space houses other Puerto Rican icons such as children’s theater Teatro Sea, the annual Borimix, and Latea theater, amongst many other artists and workshops. It’s no surprise, then, than on any given day, diverse generations of Puerto Ricans meet at Clemente. Join us in this tour of the Clemente Soto Velez and its offerings. In the process, learn what makes Clemente not a Puerto Rican Arts Center but a Puerto Rican Center for the Arts.
While traditions come and go, the bonds we establish across generations keep our culture, people, and stories alive. These segments are testament to that. Check them out. Invite the parents, abuelos, aunts, and uncles to join in the viewing. We’ll catch you online, boricuasonline.
© Center for Puerto Rican Studies. Published in Centro Voices on 23 October 2015.