116th Street Festival
A Photo Essay
by Manolo Guzmán-Estavillo
(Marymount Manhattan College)
The 116th Street Festival in New York City is held the Saturday before the Puerto Rican Day Parade (second Saturday of June), and takes place in El Barrio considered by many the geographical focus of Puerto Rico in NYC, despite Puerto Rican relocation across the city and the influx of new populations, such as Mexicans from Puebla and whites who can no longer afford to live below 96th Street. The people, the merchants, and the musicians, men, women, and couples are all beautiful. However, the gratuitous presence of a militarized police force and their display of the potential for state sanctioned violence is overwhelming. Pushed out of the streets, crammed into railings meant to secure them under the guise of safety, and under the vigilant eye of the state, Puerto Ricans thrive, find joy, and a place to breathe in spite of the heavy toll of political odds stacked against us. I dedicate this essay to all those who are wrongfully imprisoned, pacing elsewhere, and otherwise unable to join the festival.
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Manolo Guzmán-Estavillo is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Marymount Manhattan College. His research has focused on the intersection of race and sexuality in the Puerto Rican diaspora. More recently, he has been exploring the use of photography to document the intimate relationship between social identity and the claims made over space as groups of people make a place for themselves in the world. More of Manolo’s photographic work may be seen here.