By now most people that care have already heard about the new "automated convenience" store called, of all things, Bodega. The term bodega has been part of the New York Puerto Rican lexicon for generations. Because of its place in New York history even TV shows like Law and Order often use it when referring to a mom and pop store in the hood. So what does a company come out of no where and not only decide to use the term, but use the term to automate the corner store? The excuse for using the term is deplorable and actually an insult to our intelligence.

This new automated "Bodega" will offer the same type of products that the local bodega now carries so how can they even fix their face to same it is not intended to replace "the Bodega?" If they automated things were selling computer parts, or say Mobile Phones then I would buy the notion that it is not intended to replace "the bodega." But that is not the case, it is an automated grocery store selling the same products that the local mom and pop stores currently sell except that they will be located, get this, inside apartment building lobbies, in college dorms, and other locations where local bodegas are not located.

It's the same old argument made when "they" decided to build big box stores in urban neighborhoods, like the Pathmark in East Harlem. I was a member of the community planning board when that monstrosity was proposed, I was even against it but the vote passed and it was built. Of course there are always to two sides to every debate and on the one side was the community concern. Members of the community, usually local leaders, ministers, block association presidents, etc. that were highly motivated (cha ching) would argue in favor of the Pathmark. They'd cite things like lower prices, fresher vegetables, yada, yada, yada. On the opposition side we cite things like breaking up neighborhoods, destroying local mom and pops stores, disrupting traffic, and causing congestion. But the Pathmark was built, it served or disservice the community for about 15 years and now we have a beautiful empty store on a piece of prime real estate in East Harlem.

So this "Bodega" thing that is not meant to replace the bodega is just another way to rip off the small guy. Think about this one. East Harlem and neighborhoods like it, where the concept of La Bodega was born and has flourished, just happens to be a poor community. During the early 1970's when there was much "white flight" East Harlem's demographics shifted. Whereas prior to the 1970's East Harlem was a predominantly white neighborhood. It boosted Italians (the majority population), Irish, Eastern Europeans and Jews. As an aside, the East Harlem Community has historically been a community of immigrants going back to the time period as depicted in Martin Scorsese' film, "Gangs of New York." But in the late 1940 and 50's America experienced a great migration of Puerto Rican's from the Island to New York City. The very first wave of this mass migration arrived into the Brooklyn Navy Yard on a ship named the "Marine Tiger." There were several other ships used as well but most notable is this one. Thereafter, Puerto Rican's migrated on airplanes. Because of the airplane and its lower cost Puerto Rican's migrated enmasse. Forming their own communities, as all immigrants entering the US do, they established grocery stores where Puerto Rican's could get the products they are used to, thus the bodega was born.

Now an automated system called bodega has been brought to market, yey for progress, phooey for the poor bastards that get left behind. But hey, this is the American Way.

To The Victor Go The Spoils

Dateline September 14, 2017



While some say it's to early to call it a victory, the results are in and Diana Ayala seems to have won the election in this, the 8th Councilmanic District, to be the new City Council Member. But the opposition camp is not ready to make any concession speech just yet, and they may be justified in not doing so. According to the City & State website "the outcome was unclear with just a 122-vote margin for Ayala over Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez".

This race is far too close to call right now, and it is premature for anyone to declare a victory,” he said. “There are still ballots left to be counted, and we want to make sure each voter has their voice heard.

Assemblyman, Robert Rodriquez, who mounted a formidable campaign challenge is not ready to call it quits. He stands his ground and states that there are still to many ballots left to be counted for anyone to be making any victory speech.

While this local election is still uncertain, what is certain is the devastation being wreaked upon this nation, especially as it affects this mostly Latino community here in El Barrio/East Harlem and other similar communities, i.e. Washington Heights, South Bronx, etc. Donald Trumps latest attack on President Obama's legacy is relentless. With his move to undo DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) he will unsettle many families in our community. What will the new Councilman do to ameliorate this situation given that many are already facing a myriad of issues.


Rampant Gentrification

And speaking of issues, what about this rampant Gentrification? How did that happen and why is it not being slowed down?

In 1994 I got married and in 2000 left El Barrio. We moved to Washington, DC. then to Virginia, to Princeton, NJ, to Trenton, to York, PA and finally this year in April I got back home to El Barrio. While certain things remained the same, one thing that was blatant was the gentrification. I'm all for progress, but not at the expense of the poor and helpless. I remember when this community was inundated with drugs and ravished by crime. I remember when the community fought back to get a grip on itself. I also remember when the "gentry" did not dare to cross north of 96th street, when the media painted this community as crime infested, gang ridden and all but hopeless. Now back home after 17 years in absentia I see beautifully built or renovated buildings with rental prices way beyond what the lifelong residents of this community could ever hope to afford.

The problem with elected officials is that they make promises they know they can not keep. In my way of thinking it would be better if they were honest and said they would try their best to do XYZ or that they would do their best to ensure that XYZ was ..., instead they say things like I will... and things like when I'm your elected official you can always come to me with your issues. They can not do everything for everyone. It's humanly impossible but they continue to say those things and then when they can not deliver and the constituents get upset they wonder why.

Well to the victor go the spoils. Whatever mess the 8th Councilmanic District is in the newly elected Councilman, er Councilperson, will have to deal with it. Just like any new projects that where left in the pipeline they will get credit for.

There really is no need to fret, El Barrio has always had issues and will always have them. It's just as the community changes so to do those issues.

This summer when the threat to stop the music at La Placita in La Marqueta was tauted, the community was at an uproar. Next summer if the music at La Placita in La Marqueta is actuated there may be more community uproar, but this time it will not be to keep the music playing. It may be an uproar from those new arrivals to El Barrio -- the gentry, raising a ruckus because those strange sounds are disturbing their peace.

¿Que opinas?

War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America’s Colony

In 1950, after over fifty years of military occupation and colonial rule, the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico staged an unsuccessful armed insurrection against the United States. Violence swept through the island: assassins were sent to kill President Harry Truman, gunfights roared in eight towns, police stations and post offices were burned down. In order to suppress this uprising, the US Army deployed thousands of troops and bombarded two towns, marking the first time in history that the US government bombed its own citizens.

Nelson A. Denis tells this powerful story through the controversial life of Pedro Albizu Campos, who served as the president of the Nationalist Party. A lawyer, chemical engineer, and the first Puerto Rican to graduate from Harvard Law School, Albizu Campos was imprisoned for twenty-five years and died under mysterious circumstances. By tracing his life and death, Denis shows how the journey of Albizu Campos is part of a larger story of Puerto Rico and US colonialism.

Through oral histories, personal interviews, eyewitness accounts, congressional testimony, and recently declassified FBI files, War Against All Puerto Ricans tells the story of a forgotten revolution and its context in Puerto Rico’s history, from the US invasion in 1898 to the modern-day struggle for self-determination. Denis provides an unflinching account of the gunfights, prison riots, political intrigue, FBI and CIA covert activity, and mass hysteria that accompanied this tumultuous period in Puerto Rican history.

We Took the Streets: Fighting for Latino Rights with the Young Lords

In 1968 Miguel “Mickey” Melendez was a college student, developing pride in his Cuban and Puerto Rican cultural identity and becoming increasingly aware of the effects of social inequality on Latino Americans. Joining with other like-minded student activists, Melendez helped form the central committee of the New York branch of the Young Lords, one of the most provocative and misunderstood radical groups to emerge during the 1960s. Incorporating techniques of direct action and community empowerment, the Young Lords became a prominent force in the urban northeast. From their storefront offices in East Harlem, they defiantly took back the streets of El Barrio. In addition to running clothing drives, day-care centers, and food and health programs, they became known for their media-savvy tactics and bold actions, like the takeovers of the First People’s Church and Lincoln Hospital.

In this memoir, Melendez describes with the unsparing eye of an insider the idealism, anger, and vitality of the Lords as they rose to become the most respected and powerful voice of Puerto Rican empowerment in the country. He also traces the internal ideological disputes that led the group, but not the mission, to fracture in 1972. Written with passion and compelling detail, We Took the Streets tells the story of how one group took on the establishment—and won.


Palante: Young Lords Party

In 1969, a group of young Puerto Rican activists founded the Young Lords Party in New York City, taking inspiration from the Black Panthers. Palante, the first book by and about the radical organization, is brought back into print here with new introductory material. Capturing the spirit and actions of the sixties movements, Palante features political essays by members, oral histories of their lives leading into the party, and more than seventy-five photos of their vibrant membership and actions.

Michael Abramson is a photographer and publisher who lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Iris Morales is the producer of the documentary ¡Palente, Siempre Palente! The Young Lords, which aired on PBS, and is the executive director of the Union Square Awards.

The Young Lords: A Reader

The Young Lords, who originated as a Chicago street gang fighting gentrification and unfair evictions in Puerto Rican neighborhoods, burgeoned into a national political movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with headquarters in New York City and other centers in Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles, and elsewhere in the northeast and southern California. Part of the original Rainbow Coalition with the Black Panthers and Young Patriots, the politically radical Puerto Ricans who constituted the Young Lords instituted programs for political, social, and cultural change within the communities in which they operated.

The Young Lords offers readers the opportunity to learn about this vibrant organization through their own words and images, collecting an array of their essays, journalism, photographs, speeches, and pamphlets. Organized topically and thematically, this volume highlights the Young Lords’ diverse and inventive activism around issues such as education, health care, gentrification, police injustice and gender equality, as well as self-determination for Puerto Rico.

In recovering these rare written and visual materials, Darrel Enck-Wanzer has given voice to the lost chorus of the Young Lords, while providing an indispensable resource for students, scholars, activists, and others interested in learning about this influential grassroots “street political” organization.

The New York Young Lords and the Struggle for Liberation

The Young Lords was a multi-ethnic, though primarily Nuyorican, liberation organization that formed in El Barrio (Spanish Harlem) in July of 1969. Responding to oppressive approaches to the health, educational, and political needs of the Puerto Rican community, the movement’s revolutionary activism included organized protests and sit-ins targeting such concerns as trash pickups and lead paint hazards. The Young Lords advanced a thirteen-point political program that demanded community control of their institutions and land and challenged the exercise of power by the state and outsider-run institutions.
In The New York Young Lords and the Struggle for Liberation, Darrel Wanzer-Serrano details the numerous community initiatives that advanced decolonial sensibilities in El Barrio and beyond. Using archival research and interviews, he crafts an engaging account of the Young Lords’ discourse and activism. He rescues the organization from historical obscurity and makes an argument for its continued relevance, enriching and informing contemporary discussions about Latino/a politics.