A little bit of always/detail (part 3)
I am always seduced by the energy of the island of Manhattan. Every single block of the city has a distinctive personality. Every single language of the world seems to be spoken in the city. The buildings are gray, but shockingly colorful. Several visits to Ellis Island gave me some clues to this complex wonderland.
In 2005 I saw a plaque in Riverside Park that sparked my inspiration and curiosity. It was about Jan Rodrigues, born in Santo Domingo, son of a Portuguese sailor and an African woman, the first man of African descent to live in what would become New York City. He spent the winter, without the support of an anchored ship or other non-natives, at a spot in Lower Manhattan that was later set-up as a Dutch fur trading post by Christiaan Hendricksen in 1613. So while officially Captain Hendricksen is considered the founder of New Amsterdam in late 1613, actually the real founder of the city was Jan Rodrigues, who established himself in Manhattan around late 1612, the year the area was first settled by non-natives (Nick Paumgarten, Our Local Correspondents, “Useless Beauty,” The New Yorker, August 31, 2009, p. 56). This information supports my vision of the state of hybridism that is essential to Manhattan and the New World.
I also agreed with Dr. Silvio Torres-Saillant, who expounded on his admiration for the plethora of languages and cultures prevalent within Caribbean countries (Torres-Saillant, Silvio, “Knowing the Caribbean,” March 1, 2006 www.watsoninstitute.org.May 13, 2010). He dove into the historical recounting of the major colonial occupations in the area, instigated by the Spanish, Dutch, British, and the French. He concluded that the Caribbean has a lesson to share with the world, its celebration of hybridization encourages a fight against the forces of homogenization that grip our globe. According to statistical studies, persons from The Dominican Republic make up the fourth largest Latino group in the United States today, the major concentration being in New York City’s Washington Heights. By 1997, there were an estimated 632,000 Dominican-born persons in the United States and the population has been growing since then.
In his book, “The True History of the Conquest of New Spain,” Bernal Diaz del Castillo described the Spaniards’ first impression of the Aztec City, like this; “ We saw cues, and shrines in these cities that looked like gleaming white towers and castles; a marvelous site”, 1568.
All these pieces of information played in my mind for a while. I create scenarios where I wonder about the reaction of the native Indians when facing the Europeans for the first time…like people from Mars coming to their world, with those smelly ships, strange clothing, blond hair, different language, and carrying those crying idols (Jesus Christ bleeding in a cross, and a virgin mother who is never smiling). Just imagine!!