June is Caribbean American Heritage Month!
June 3, 2013

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum is happy to celebrate National Caribbean American Heritage Month!

A Colorful Marcher in the West Indian Parade in Crown Heights, Brooklyn

New York is a city of many different peoples and languages, and along with these different ways of speaking come different names – Nieuw Amsterdam, Neuvo York, or simply The City. New York’s neighborhoods receive the same treatment; for example, the Lower East Side is sometimes called Loisaida, a riff off of the Puerto Rican pronunciation of ‘Lower East Side.’ A melting pot since the 19th century when German,  Southern and Eastern European immigrants lived in close proximity, the Loisada is now home to Chinese, Puerto Rican and Caribbean, most notably Dominican, immigrants. June is National Caribbean American Heritage Month, and we want to take a minute to celebrate just one group of people that make New York the most vibrant city on earth.

Flags at the Dominican Parade on 5th Avenue

Caribbean Americans have been immigrating to New York City as free persons since the end of the Civil War, but their population boomed around the early 20th century. In the first years of the 20th century, Caribbean Americans made up about 1.3 percent of the New York City population, but by 1923, they made up 12.7 percent. Facing extreme prejudice, most Caribbean men took low paying jobs as porters, doormen, or laborers while the women worked as maids, cooks or nannies.

The Caribbean American community of New York City has settled all across New York City – from Washington Heights to Crown Heights – but a large population of Dominican Americans reside here on the Lower East Side. Here at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, we celebrate the Dominican population through our Foods of the Lower East Side Tour, where visitors can sample tostones, or fried plantains, a treat that some of us (including me!) had never tried before coming to New York.  Our source for the best tostones is El Castillo de Jagua, a Caribbean and Dominican restaurant close to the Museum on Rivington Street.

El Castillo de Jagua – the Museum’s source for delicious tostones!

Just as Lower East Side immigrant populations have been doing for over one hundred years, the Caribbean Americans have adapted to life in New York City, and adding their own flavor to the melting pot.

– Posted by Lib Tietjen