Saturday, April 28, 2007

Immigrants write NYC`s history

New York City celebrates its immigrant history, the names coming into Ellis Island in the early 1900s included many Hispanic names. DP

EDITORIAL They were men and women with surnames like Rodriguez, Gonzalez and Rivera, and they came from cities like Puerto Plata, Guayaquil and La Habana, many to settle in New York.

These hispanic surnames are among the thousands that appear in the Ellis Island database. While people who entered through Ellis Island are typically presented as only European, a closer glance reveals a significant immigration of Latinos in the early 1900`s, even of Puerto Ricans, who were made U.S. citizens in 1917.

This week, as the city celebrates immigrant history, we contemplate the footprints of those Latino pioneers and honor generations of immigrants who have made New York a global capital.

In the early 20th century, Caribbean tabaqueros, for example, brought traditions of empowering workers. They would pay lectores to read novels and political literature to them as they worked. Leaders and organizers emerged out of these traditions to serve in labor movements in New York City.

El Barrio Latino, which would later be simply known as "El Barrio," became an early center for political organizing and the arts. Pioneers there broke ground for the waves of Latino immigrants and migrants that would arrive in subsequent decades.

Those waves sustained the manufacturing sector in the city. Caribbean and Latin American immigrants also sustained neighborhoods throughout a city dealing with the outflight of native residents.

These are just a couple of examples of how immigrants have made the Big Apple great. And that`s why New York loves immigrants.

Also, anyone who believes that Immigrant History Week is about how nifty it is that you hear different languages on the No. 7 train is missing a bigger point.

That point is that New York`s history continues to be written by immigrants.

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