Feb 29, 2024 - World

Old photos used to preserve NYC Latino and Caribbean stories

Illustration of the Statue of Liberty wearing a vintage camera around her neck.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

NuevaYorkinos, a project to preserve New York's Latino and Caribbean American history through community-submitted photos and videos, is celebrating its fifth anniversary.

Why it matters: Latinos in historically Hispanic neighborhoods like Bushwick, Sunset Park and Washington Heights who have been increasingly pushed out by gentrification and may face cultural erasure are finding creative ways to preserve their stories.

  • "Being able to use this page and our little corner of the internet to further educate folks about where we come from and where we still are has been so important," NuevaYorkinos co-founder Djali Brown-Cepeda tells Axios.

Zoom in: In the last five years, NuevaYorkinos has garnered nearly 90,000 users on Instagram who have interacted with over 1,500 submissions from families across all five boroughs and various Latin diasporas.

  • The digital archive has transcended the web, leading to over a dozen in-person events and 10 exhibits and installations.
  • The latest was Objects of Permanence, a New York Fashion Week collaboration with creative director Mellány Sánchez that highlighted the historical contributions of immigrants in the garment industry.

Context: In 2019, Brown-Cepeda and co-founder Ricardo Castañeda, both of whom are New York natives, identified a gap in authentic, non-stereotypical Latino representation in media.

  • The duo looked to create an ode to old-school New York City based entirely on submissions from the community. People who submit maintain the rights to their images.
  • "So much of archiving, whether it be in museum spaces or collections, can be rooted in stealing, which is colonialism in action," Brown-Cepeda says. "People are choosing to share their families' stories and histories everyday with us."

Between the lines: NuevaYorkinos highlights the niche experience of Latinos in New York.

  • "It's such a unique location in that it's rooted with the immigrant experience," says Castañeda.
  • "New York City is a very segregated city, but in certain ways it is not," says Brown-Cepeda, adding that New Yorkers celebrate each other's cultures and identities.
  • "Perhaps having a mass transit system helps in that we're forced to all be together and coexist."

Driving the news: To celebrate its anniversary, NuevaYorkinos held two in-person events as a part of Buchanan's Whisky 'We Are The Spirit of the 200%' campaign, which honors those who identify as 100% Hispanic and 100% American.

  • "Our mission is to also have people meet in real life," says Castañeda. "Our culture is being around each other, laughing, dancing and passing on stories from your elders like your abuela."

What's next: NuevaYorkinos hopes to continue expanding the reach of the project and grow their submissions, particularly from often forgotten boroughs.

  • "Staten Island, we see you," says Brown-Cepeda.
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