The Writer’s Block:
El Barrio – derived in the 1950s from the Spanish term for neighborhood – encompasses much of the 11th District of Manhattan, also referred to as Spanish Harlem. While historically, the neighborhood has hosted a diversity of cultures – Jewish-American, Italian-American, and African-American, the inter-war years saw the influx of Latinx populations. These days, Spanish Harlem is at the crossroads of gentrification being experienced by many New York City neighborhoods. As abandoned lots and neglected buildings are purchased and then converted to high-priced rental units or condominiums, the cultural dynamics of its population is shifting. Those residents who were born to El Barrio find that they can no longer afford the escalating rents or living costs amongst brand name and boutique stores and restaurants. People wanting to live in proximity to the more affluent sections of Manhattan have flocked here (admittedly, so has my family and I!) which escalates housing prices for those wishing to remain close to their families. As we continue into the 21st century, time will tell how El Barrio will change.
As my landlord, Frank, said:
“I’m Italian. When I was a kid, this whole block was nothin’ but Italians. Now, we have everybody up in here. I’ve seen the neighborhood go from bad to worse, but it’s getting better now. Still, with all the money that’s coming in, the city won’t leave me alone on our regulations. Say, you turned in the rent yet?”