Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dominican Heritage Month, Day 15

Those of you NOT from New York City may have seen the neighborhood Washington Heights referenced on this blog often, and I apologize if I took for granted that a lot of you don't know about this dynamic place. We call it Little Dominican Republic or Quisqueya Heights because some 95% of the population in that upper Manhattan neighborhood is from the motherland.

Covering the areas from West 155th Street to Dyckman Street (or West 200th...even though it's not numbered it comes after West 199th Street), Washington Heights was always this wild and crazy place to me. It had tall buildings that housed enormous apartments (pre-War GORGEOUSNESS!), all the foods I loved right on every street corner, and the relatives that I hardly saw. Coming from a quiet (well, relatively quiet for Bed-Stuy) Brooklyn block, Washington Heights was like a 24-hour party place to Little Girl Jaded, and whenever we got to go I considered it a treat from heaven.

Great bit of history: the area was first inhabited by the Irish (there are still pubs all over the place up there), then European Jews, then Greeks and finally, Dominicans. Don't ask me WHY Dominicans chose this hilly enclave of the city to call home when they came to NYC en masse, but they did. The main strip on St. Nicholas has everything you could possibly need: food, liquor, hair salons and clothing boutiques. Last time I hung around there was a movie theater, but I'm not sure if it still stands. There's a concert hall on Broadway near the George Washington Bridge Bus Depot (connecting Manhattan to Fort Lee, New Jersey) where I saw Fernandito perform a while back. And the Malecon off of West 175th Street has some of the most delicious roasted chicken you will ever eat in your life. My old stylist's shop is up there (I miss you, Josie!!) and a lot of my pre-natal doctor visits (with Thug Boogie) were up there at Columbia-Presbyterian Children's Hospital- THE BEST PLACE to have your baby in NYC.

Next time you come to New York while on vacation, skip all the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Little Italy bullshit sightseeing, and hop the A or 1 trains to West 168th street. Have a pastelillo from a street vendor then go get your hair done. Hang out in Fort Tryon Park. Just immerse yourself in the beauty and craziness of the neighborhood. It might give you a small taste of what it was like to have grown up like me.

Wonderful, beautiful, Dominican me.

*besos...with a healthy dose of love and hate for Da Heights*
that area unnerves me and yet when I go there something just feels "right"