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Miguel Algarín and the Nuyorican Poets Café

On September 15th began the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. This month coincides with many important dates, starting with the celebration of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua in 1821. Additional events during the month include El Día de la Raza on October 12th. Translated as “Day of the Race,” this anniversary acknowledges the Iberoamerican people, including its history of diversity and colonization. You can find events honoring Latin history and heritage throughout places like the East Village, which has a long-standing Latin American community, largely but not exclusively of Puerto Rican as well as Dominican origin. 

Beyond celebrating, however, we can visit dozens of historic sites in our neighborhoods that were the backdrop for activism around Latin culture largely in the late 20th century. Some of these historic sites are still functioning as they were in the sixties or seventies, including, the Nuyorican Poets Café, located at 236 East Third Street.

The Nuyorican Poets Café is a product of the Loisaida culture that began to emerge in the 1940s in the East Village and peaked in the late 20th century. Loisaida, and the continued growth of the Puerto Rican population, introduced Nuyorican as a term for mainland Puerto Ricans and specifically those in New York City. By the 1970s, the Nuyorican identity had become a point of pride for many Puerto Rican migrants, in part thanks to the establishment of the Nuyorican Poets Café. 
Jacob Burckhardt/Village Voice

Alongside Miguel Piñero and Pedro Pietri, Miguel Algarín quickly rose to prominence as a Nuyorican poet through the earliest years of the café. Initially known for informal gatherings of poets and artists in the living room of Algarín’s railroad flat, the café later relocated and began hosting hundreds of poets, actors, filmmakers, and musicians within its walls. This space, led by Algarín and his collaborators, became a hub for New York’s Latinx community and Puerto Rican migrants. As the years went on, Algarín continued to participate in hosting creative events, often sharing his own poetic work with the regular attendees of the café. 

Algarín continued to enrich the Puerto Rican artistic community through the late seventies. In a 1976 interview with the New York Times, Algarín stated that the café audience was drawn “by the sense of not having to let go in order to survive; […] not [being] forced to drop our language in some sort of search for American citizenship.” This theme would continue to lead the mission of the Nuyorican Poets Café until the present-day. Like many Latinx figures honored during Hispanic Heritage Month, artists like Algarín are authors of the poetry, culture, and activism that remain deeply rooted in the Loisaida community today.

Paul Hosefros/The New York Times

Learn more about Hispanic Heritage Month and other important sites of Latinx culture here. You can also view all of our documented Latinx activism locations on our Civil Rights and Social Justice Map.

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