The dy­namic Lati­nos and their un­questin­able hold on the cul­ture of New York

Red Magazine - - Contents - WORDS: BAMBINA OLIVARES WISE

The Lati­nos sus­tain­ing New York’s cre­ative spirit

One of the more out­ra­geous prom­ises re­peated by Don­ald Trump dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign sea­son was that he would build a wall to keep Mex­i­cans out of Amer­ica, claim­ing they were rapists, mur­der­ers, and drug­gies. While he did sin­gle out Mex­i­cans, most Amer­i­cans of Latino ori­gin felt in­sulted and tar­geted by as­so­ci­a­tion.

With what could only be termed ex­quis­ite tim­ing, a friend of mine in New York, Gabriel Rivera-Bar­raza, launched just be­fore the elec­tions a hand­some new book called Nuevo New York, cel­e­brat­ing, quite fit­tingly, the city’s most in­flu­en­tial Lati­nos in the artis­tic, fash­ion, me­dia, and cul­tural spheres. It’s a 100 per­cent Latino col­lab­o­ra­tion. Rivera-Bar­raza, who con­ducted the in­ter­views, is a na­tive of Du­rango, Mex­ico, who is now liv­ing and work­ing in New York as a dy­namic PR ex­traor­di­naire, while Hans Neu­mann, the pho­tog­ra­pher who shot the por­traits, hails from Lima, Peru, but has been based in the Big Ap­ple since 2004. The peo­ple they chose to in­clude in the book are some of the most ex­cit­ing and en­dur­ing cre­ative tal­ents in New York to­day, from es­tab­lished de­sign­ers such as Carolina Her­rera, Fran­cisco Costa, and Nar­ciso Ro­driguez to cur­rent dar­lings Ale­jan­dro In­gelmo and Fer­nando Gar­cia. There are artists such as Aldo Cha­parro, Jose Parla, Tere­sita Fernandez, and Alexis Zam­brano. And then there are the pil­lars of New York so­ci­ety like Yaz Her­nan­dez, Emila Fan­jul Pfei­fler, and Fabi­ola Ber­a­casa Beck­man. There are names that sound more An­gloSaxon and Teu­tonic than Latino, but then any­one who knows a bit of South Amer­i­can his­tory would know about the waves of German and English mi­gra­tion in the con­ti­nent, par­tic­u­larly af­ter World War II—does the name Gisele Bünd­chen ring a bell? In fact, when leaf­ing through the book, there are many “aha!” mo­ments when one re­al­izes that some­one as­sumed to be, well, corn­bread white is ac­tu­ally from Brazil! Or Uruguay! Or El Sal­vador! Or Colom­bia! Or Mex­ico! And yet with that re­al­iza­tion, it all makes per­fect sense. “The Latino com­mu­nity is a vi­brant cul­ture but it also brings a fun and en­er­getic essence to New York­ers in ev­ery as­pect that we can rep­re­sent, and that makes us strong and unique,” re­marks Rivera-Bar­raza. “And we are known for our cul­tural artis­tic back­ground.” Not that it’s all that ho­mo­ge­neous. “There are dif­fer­ences be­tween Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries, of course. But in the end, we unite with very sim­i­lar lan­guage, re­li­gion, and so­cial cus­toms, par­tic­u­larly in New York where we have be­come one com­mu­nity.” And, clearly, a force to reckon with, Trump be damned. The book also very sub­tly presents a dif­fer­ent nar­ra­tive about the Latino ex­pe­ri­ence in Amer­ica. These are not your or­di­nary clean­ing ladies, truck driv­ers, or restau­rant work­ers who have moved to New York in search of a bet­ter life. This is, by and large, a com­fort­able, ed­u­cated, priv­i­leged, and of­ten glam­orous group whose rea­sons for com­ing to New York have less to do with es­cap­ing a life of eco­nomic hard­ship and more with chas­ing af­ter cre­ative free­dom and per­sonal ful­fill­ment; in find­ing that, they found them­selves. “I feel that New York helps you find your iden­tity in many ways,” River­aBar­raza says, “such as hav­ing you fo­cus and in­spir­ing you to show your best.” I know ex­actly what he means. I al­ways feel most “me” when I’m in New York City. I love the en­ergy that swathes the place, where rev­elry and reclu­sive­ness can be com­pat­i­ble bed­fel­lows, where the ex­cesses of one night at the Boom Boom Room are tem­pered the next day by med­i­ta­tive con­tem­pla­tion of Rothko at the MoMA, where sleek segues just as seam­lessly into seedy, where love and lust thrillingly col­lide, where the air is in­tox­i­cat­ing and pos­si­bil­ity is the drug. It’s an addiction I never want to be cured of. Be­cause New York got me like…

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