By Emerald Cazeau ‘15
Pictures, paintings, and sculptures reflecting the culture and history of Latin America and the Caribbean all contribute to the learning experience at El museo del Barrio.
Founded in 1969, the museum has become renowned for its collection of art from the Latino world. After being opened by a group of Puerto Rican parents, community leaders, teachers, and artists in a classroom of a public school, it is now located in East Harlem.
Dr. Rodriquez, the A.P Spanish teacher, took his class to the museum in hopes of exposing students to their heritage through art.
“I wanted them to have a live, visual, artistic representation of Latin American people,” said Dr. Rodriquez. He said that this experience would increase their appreciation of the Latino community and of the Spanish culture in New York.
As you enter the building you are greeted by the presence of two giant, green doors displaying the name of the museum. To the right there is La Tienda, the store associated with the museum, which sells cookbooks, jewelry, and other miscellaneous objects with connection to a Hispanic heritage.
Also located at the right is the source of an inviting smell, el cafe, the museum’s restaurant. This restaurant, which sells Latino inspired foods, faces opposite to the opening door of the exhibits.
El Museo is home to 10,000 paintings, paper-works, films, sculptures, and photographs. It currently features two exhibits; MUSEUM STARTER KIT: Open With Care and PRESENCIA: Works from El Museo’s Permanent Collection.
One of the most eye-capturing pieces of art was Raphael Montañez Ortiz performing Henny Penny Piano Destruction at Duncan Terrace, London, 1966. The painting by Lunar New Year and Mata Ruda depicts the founder of El Museo, Montañez Ortiz, destroying a piano with an axe.
The instrument represents the human lives and landscapes that were victim to the Vietnam War occurring in 1966. Ortiz held a series of these piano destructions, aiming to highlight the tragedies occurring as a direct result of the war.
“The painting portrays a strong message,” said Richard Palomeque ‘15. “ It shows how some people were not happy with the war and viewed it in a negative light.”
Unlike Piano Destruction, other artworks such as ‘Casita del Campo” and “Kiosko de Loiza” focus on the social aspects of the Latino culture. The two sculptures mimic the common houses of Latin American and Caribbean countries. They resonated with the students observing the pieces.
Luz Feliz ‘14 said “They were were really creative and cute.” She believed the artists accurately constructed the environment of Latin American countries.
The museum also offers a variety of entertainment options other than viewing its galleries on either guided or self-guided tours. Festivals, performances (dance and drama), musicals, workshops, and lectures are also presented. These programs, along with a book club and learning programs for children, are hosted in Spanish as well as English.
El Museo purposes itself in the education of both youth and adult groups on their Hispanic heritage, encouraging Latin American and Caribbean oriented peoples to learn about their history and embrace the accomplishments of their ancestors.
Maintaining the goals of the original founders of El Museo, the current leaders seek to aid in the understanding, appreciation, development, and conservation of Caribbean and Latin American culture and heritage through art.