Nueva York Exhibit

New-York Historical Society and El Museo del Barrio Join Forces for
Nueva York (1613 – 1945): the First Exhibition to Explore Centuries of
Interaction Between New York City and the Spanish-Speaking World

Multimedia Exhibition Will Open September 17, 2010, Organized with the
Collaboration of Pulitzer Prize-Winning Historian Mike Wallace

NEW YORK, NY, September 14, 2010 – In an unprecedented collaboration,
the New-York Historical Society and El Museo del Barrio will present
Nueva York (1613-1945), the first museum exhibition to explore how New
York’s long and deep involvement with Spain and Latin America has
affected virtually every aspect of the city’s development, from
commerce, manufacturing and transportation to communications,
entertainment and the arts.

Organized by the two institutions, Nueva York will be on view from
September 17, 2010, through January 9, 2011, at El Museo del Barrio,
1230 Fifth Avenue (at 104th Street), while the New-York Historical
Society’s landmark building on Central Park West undergoes a $60
million architectural renovation. The project team has been directed
by chief curator Marci Reaven of City Lore and chief historian Mike
Wallace, Distinguished Professor of History at the City University of
New York and Pulitzer Prize-winning co-author of Gotham.

Bringing together the resources of New York’s oldest museum and its
leading Latino cultural institution, this exhibition will span more
than three centuries of history: from the founding of New Amsterdam in
the 1600s as a foothold against the Spanish empire to the present day,
as represented by a specially commissioned documentary by
award-winning filmmaker Ric Burns. Nueva York will bring this story to
life with hands-on interactive displays, listening stations, video
experiences and some 200 rare and historic maps, letters, broadsides,
paintings, drawings and other objects drawn from the collections of
the two museums, as well as from many other distinguished institutions
and private collections.

Among the experiences offered in the exhibition’s galleries will be:

• maps and interactives showing the vast networks of the Atlantic
world in the 17th century, with its competing Spanish, Dutch, English
and French shipping routes and colonial harbors;
• tools and artifacts of the trade between New York and South
America, including a clipper ship model, navigation instruments,
silverware, powder horns and slave shackles;
• paintings and books by New York artists and writers such as
Washington Irving, Frederic Church and William Merritt Chase, who were
deeply affected by their travels in Spain and South America;
• Spanish-language newspapers and books published in New York in
the 19th century, and Spanish-language guidebooks to the New York of
that period;
• military uniforms, political documents, paintings including a
portrait of McKinley by Puerto Rican artist Francisco Oller, and
propaganda posters reflecting years of Latin American political
struggles and U.S. interventions;
• an interactive listening station, allowing visitors to sample the
Latin music of New York;
• artworks by modern Latin American artists including Diego Rivera,
José Clemente Orozco and Joaquín Torres-García, reflecting their
images of New York;
• and From here to there / De aquí pa’llá (La guagua aérea), an art
installation by Antonio Martorell (based on La guaga aérea / The Air
Bus, by Luis Rafael Sánchez) showing Ric Burns’s specially
commissioned documentary that tells the stories of Latino New Yorkers
from 1945 to the present.

Voces y Visiones: Four Decades Through El Museo del Barrio’s Permanent
Collection, will be on view concurrently, giving visitors a deeper
understanding of Latino presence in American culture. The exhibition
traces the institution’s history from its founding in 1969 and the
artistic contributions and milestones by Latino, Caribbean and Latin
American artists that have been part of El Museo’s forty-year

According to Dr. Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New-York
Historical Society, “The topic we address in Nueva York is so
vast—spanning centuries and continents—and has so much to tell us
about present-day national issues such as immigration, education and
language, that it has taken nothing less than two major New York City
institutions and an award-winning historian to tell the story. In
Nueva York, museumgoers will experience how New York City went from
being a decidedly hostile harbor for Spanish-speaking people in the
17th century to being a principal meeting ground, and home, for
Latinos from every corner of today’s world—an evolution that has been
critical to the growth of the city’s prosperity and its cultural

Julián Zugazagoitia, outgoing Director and CEO of El Museo del Barrio,
stated, “The tremendous impact of Sonia Sotomayor’s appointment to the
Supreme Court has helped awaken people around the country to the
integral, complex and powerful presence of Latinos in New York. But
most people, including Latinos themselves, still do not appreciate how
deeply our roots are sunk into this city, or how widely the branches
of Latino cultures’ influence have spread. We are thrilled to be
telling this story at last, and telling it with all the depth and
expertise at our command.”

Mike Wallace commented, “By laying out the myriad ties that have bound
together the American continents, for better and for worse, we offer a
way of seeing that can help us assess where we stand, as a city and a
country, as we embark on the twenty-first century. We hope that Nueva
York will help change the way New Yorkers think about their city, and
the way the world—particularly the Spanish-speaking world—thinks about
New York.”

Lead sponsorship of Nueva York is provided by Cablevision.
“Cablevision is proud to support a one-of-a-kind exhibition like Nueva
York, and to bring a deeper appreciation of more than three centuries
of our Latino cultural legacy to students across the tri-state area
through our educational initiative, Power To Learn. In addition to
educational programs, such as the partnership with Nueva York, Power
to Learn provides free Optimum Internet, video, and voice technology
to schools to enhance learning,” said Trent Anderson, Vice President,
Education for Cablevision.

Public programs for Nueva York are made possible through the support
of American Express. “Nueva York builds on American Express’s rich
history of celebrating our diverse cultural heritage,” said Timothy J.
McClimon, president of American Express Foundation. “In addition to
supporting Voces y Visiones at El Museo del Barrio, we’re pleased to
support Nueva York for audiences to rediscover and enjoy an important
part of our cultural heritage.”

Plan of the Exhibition

Visitors to Nueva York will trace the exhibition’s story through a
series of five galleries, each dedicated to a particular theme and
time period.

The first gallery, on the theme of Empires and Revolutions, begins in
the 1620s, when New York (as first a Dutch and then an English town)
exhibited extreme animosity toward Spaniards and Catholics and made it
a point to exclude them (with certain notable exceptions, such as
Sephardic Jews). Displays of these early years will include baptismal
and court documents newly discovered by the CUNY Dominican Studies
Institute on Juan Rodriguez, a black or mulatto Spanish-speaking
sailor from Santo Domingo who is the first non-Native ever recorded as
residing in the area of New York Harbor, and thus the first immigrant
in New York’s history. The gallery then shows how the situation
changed with the American Revolution, when Spain became an ally and
the first small Spanish colony was established in New York, along with
the first above-ground Catholic church, St. Peter’s (built with aid
from Spain and Mexico). Displays will testify to the wealth of the
Spanish empire and to the taste for luxury goods in New York’s rising
middle class. This gallery concludes in 1825, by which time New York
had established a booming trade with Cuba, Puerto Rico and the newly
independent countries of South America (whose liberation struggles
were occasionally helped by Gotham). New York was now a critical link
between the U.S. and Spain on the one hand, and between the U.S. and
Spain’s former empire (and its remaining Caribbean possessions) on the

The second gallery, focusing on Trade, shows how the Port of New York
in the years 1825-1898 was the place where U.S. flour and manufactured
goods flowed south to Latin America, and Latin American and Caribbean
products such as sugar, coffee, hides and silver flowed north into the
U.S. The flourishing of this trade was the source of the economic and
political fortunes of some of New York City’s most famous names, such
as Havemeyer and Grace, as well as the basis of the development of
Spanish and Cuban and Puerto Rican communities. One display in the
gallery will explore the involvement of both New Yorkers and Cubans in
sugar refining in New York. (Cuba sold some 80 percent of its annual
sugar production to the United States through New York City.) Another
will tell the story of William R. Grace, who founded his merchant
steamship line in Peru, subsequently relocated the headquarters of his
international trading company to New York and eventually was elected
Mayor for two terms.

The third gallery, on Cultural Encounters, shows how New York, as the
principal U.S. hub of communications and shipping, fostered not only
commercial and political connections but also new cultural
interactions. The old, negative views of New Yorkers and other North
Americans about “the Spanish character” began to change, as Washington
Irving made Christopher Columbus and the Spanish crown into central
figures in the story of America’s origins, and William Merritt Chase
turned Diego Velázquez into a model for American painters. New views
developed during these years also led to stereotypes: Spain became
picturesque, quaint and exotic; whereas South America began to appear
in North American eyes as a lush, open opportunity for the dynamic
U.S. The highly popular landscape paintings of Frederic Edwin Church
thrilled New Yorkers, who began to take a great interest in the vast
unknown lands to the South. North American voyagers, taking advantage
of the new ease of steamship travel, returned to New York with exotic
products—birds of paradise and beetle carapaces became sought-after
fashion accessories—and with souvenirs of ancient indigenous cultures.
Meanwhile, political turmoil and economic interests were pushing more
and more Latinos into New York City. Cubans especially flowed into New
York as exiles during the long battle for independence from Spain; but
poets, educators and politicians from Mexico to Argentina also came to
do business, publish or get an education without crossing the
Atlantic. They sent their impressions of New York’s social life and
U.S. institutions to their compatriots, influencing their views; and
they also exerted an influence of their own on New York, in sports,
religion, architecture, engineering, business and the arts. As a
special case study in cultural encounters, this gallery will include a
display about Esteban Bellán, a Cuban who came to New York in the
1860s to study at Fordham University, became the first Latin American
to play major league baseball and then helped to establish baseball in
Cuba following his return in 1874.

The fourth gallery, on Political Encounters, details how New York’s
ties to the Caribbean gave the city a special role in the colonial
rebellions against Spain throughout the 1800s. The city offered
economic and political refuge to thousands escaping repression and
turmoil, and provided a staging ground for Caribbean activists to form
governments in exile, publish their newspapers and direct insurrection
at home. The gallery follows this story from May 1850, when The Sun
newspaper hoisted a Cuban flag from its building at Nassau and Fulton
Streets to hail Narciso López’s attempted liberation of Cuba from
Spain, through the decisive intervention of the U.S. in the Cuban
Spanish-American War of 1898: a conflict sold to the American public
by New York newspaper publishers including Joseph Pulitzer and William
Randolph Hearst, and fought most famously on the American side by New
Yorker Theodore Roosevelt. In the aftermath of the war, which made
Puerto Rico a U.S. territory and established a legalized U.S. role in
Cuba’s internal affairs, New York City became the capital of a new
American empire, and a magnet for millions of immigrants who arrived
in the early decades of the 20th century.

The fifth and final gallery, Landscape of Nueva York, maps the
neighborhoods, factories, dance halls, clubs, museums, churches and
political offices that provided the sites for encounters among Latinos
and with non-Latinos in the 20th century, as New York City filled with
people from the Spanish-speaking world. Displays will illustrate the
development of Little Spain around 14th Street (circa 1910) and then
of El Barrio in East Harlem; the entry of Latinos into New York’s
garment industry and its unions; the role of New York’s
Spanish-speaking community in supporting the Loyalists during the
Spanish Civil War and bonding with other anti-fascist forces; and the
ever-increasing artistic and cultural exchange between Latin America
and New York, as seen in major New York institutions such as The
Museum of Modern Art (with Mexican muralists and other Latin American
artists) or the music industry (with tango, salsa and rumba).

Related Publication

The exhibition will be accompanied by a full-color catalogue titled
Nueva York: New York and the Spanish-Speaking World, edited by Edward
J. Sullivan, the Helen Gould Sheppard Professor of the History of Art,
Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. The catalogue will
feature illustrated essays by ten noted scholars: exhibition Chief
Historian Mike Wallace; Carmen Boullosa (City College of New York);
James Fernández (NYU); Juan Flores (NYU); Anna Indych-Lopez (City
College of New York); Richard Kagan (Johns Hopkins University);
Katherine Manthorne (CUNY Graduate Center); Cathy Matson (University
of Delaware); Lisandro Pérez (Florida International University); and
Virginia Sánchez Korrol (Professor Emerita, Brooklyn College).

Public Programs

An extensive series of public programs, including lectures,
conversations, film screenings, musical performances and walking tours
of the city will complement the exhibition and feature some of the
nation’s top historians, authors, and curators as well as Latino
baseball and boxing greats, Broadway performers and musical artists.
Educational programs will range from docent-led tours and a brochure
for family visits produced by El Diario La Prensa, the oldest Spanish
–language newspaper in United States, to professional development
programs for teachers and a full array of standards-based curriculum
materials. An interactive exhibition website will provide access to
exhibition themes and scholarship and a variety of links to
audiovisual materials. Nueva York public programs are generously
supported by American Express.

Peter J. Wosh
Director, Archives/Public History Program
History Department
New York University
53 Washington Square South
Room 503
New York NY 10012
Phone: (212) 998-8601
Fax: (212) 995-4017

Peter Wosh

About Peter Wosh

Professor Wosh directs the program in Archives and Public History at NYU. Professor Wosh’s research has focused primarily on American religion, American institutional cultures, and archival management issues. His background includes work as an archivist in a variety of academic and nonprofit institutions, including: Director of Archives and Library Services, American Bible Society (1989-1994); Archivist/Records Manager, American Bible Society (1984-1989); University Archivist, Seton Hall University (1978-1984). He is the author of Privacy and Confidentiality Perspectives: Archivists and Archival Records, with Menzi Behrnd-Klodt (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2005); Covenant House: Journey of a Faith-Based Charity (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005); Spreading the Word: The Bible Business in Nineteenth-Century America (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994); The Diocesan Journal of Michael Augustine Corrigan, Bishop of Newark, New Jersey, 1872-1880 (Newark: New Jersey Historical Society, 1987); as well as articles in various archival, historical, and library journals. Professor Wosh’s current research involves editing the published writings of Waldo Gifford Leland, a pioneering archival theoretician, for the Archival Classics series published by the Society of American Archivists.

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