Rafael Merino comments on “The South Bronx, and Proudly” by David Gonzalez of The New York Times.
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.
Congressman 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