Puerto Rican Culture

Asynchronous Assignment on Raza Interrupted (Pages 123-132)

Ed Morales argues that Nuyoricans were/are equipped to engage in a project of multiculturalism while preserving their local, human, and urban culture and traditions. These traditions come mostly from the Taino, African and Spanish heritage as well as the many hybridizations of US society. Morales defends that more than assimilating to Hispanic (in its original European sense) or US American culture, Nuyoricans responded and at times contested and added complexity to these identity formations. (Pages 131-132)

The questions that follow address some instances in which Nuyoricans have become central influencers in the development of NYC’s arts and communities at the end of the twentieth century.



In the comment section down below, write a (200-word minimum) response based on ONE of the following prompts (due on 4/12 before class):


Discuss the involvement of Nuyoricans in the creation of Hip Hop. (Pages 122-123; 128-130)


Morales argues that Benjy Meléndez’s story illustrates the multicultural intersections at the core of Hip Hop. Why? Expand. (Pages 124-128)


Describe the input of Puerto Rican artists to avant-garde visual arts scenes in New York. (Pages 130-131)


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their points and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about “Raza Interrupted” do you want to bring into the discussion?

17 thoughts on “Asynchronous Assignment on Raza Interrupted (Pages 123-132)”

  1. Option One
    Throughout the 60’s and 70’s, many national movements that included Latinx were thriving and were also flourishing. With these movements, many Latinos such as Nuyoricans took these movements as encouragement and influence to have a voice, to be creative, and to feel proud of their identity. This is one of the elements that encouraged Nuyoricans to create Hip hop music. Many Nuyoricans including Afrika Bambaataa decided to create music in this genre to denounce the use of the political issues such as gang violence, discrimination and vandalism that occurred in New York City. This enabled other people to see that their voice and freedom of speech can be exercised in a better and safer manner. Many of these Puerto Ricans used such issues as previously stated before as well as poverty and hunger and homelessness to influence their music. These artists created a platform that enabled education and change. Such Nuyorican artists came upon certain obstacles and issues along the way. Certain artists such as Carlos Mandes had to change their name and almost hide their identity as well as create a new stage name so that they wouldn’t interfere with the representation that African Americans held over Hip Hop music. With the development of this genre of music from the influence of Nuyoricans, many other Puerto Ricans around the world were able to look up to these artists and grow a large community in the music industry and will have soon developed the creation of Reggaeton.

  2. Option one

    Nuyoricans in the Bronx played a huge role in the formation of hip hop in its early years by influencing other artists with their lyrical and rhythmic talents. Nuyoricans started to create their own political and social voice through art forms throughout the 60’s and 70’s, therefore using poetry and salsa in order to showcase their opinions and honor their origins. Hip hop formed largely influenced by Nuyorican poets that mirrored modern day rap. The performances by those poets helped in the creative expression and vision of artists, in order for them to articulate their own expressions of New York culture. While hip hop became kind of a multicultural kind of music enjoyed and created by people from all ethnic backgrounds, it embodied an Afrocentric character even though that wasn’t that much representative of its roots. This is similar to the influence that chicanos had on the involvement in the evolution of punk rock in Los Angeles. In order to remove the idea that hip hop was only identifiable through African American individuals, many Puerto Rican hip hop artists changed their stage name. Nuyoricans were also largely involved in some of the different elements of hip hop, including DJ-ing and breakdancing. Even though this art form can be seen through a variety of different ethnic backgrounds, and has a large focus on Afrocentric individuals, there is no denying the influence it took from many Nuyorican artists and poets.

  3. Option One

    The creation of Hip Hop involved Nuyoricans which it goes back all the ways to the 60’s and 70’s. During this time period, there was a political activism where Nuyoricans and Chicanos were drawn to and began to have a better understanding and honor their existence. Entering this time period this was when creativity was beginning to spark, and this allowed poetry and salsa as a way for them to be proud of themselves and their origin. In the Bronx, the upbringing of Nuyorican poetry started spreading rapidly and that is when hip hop started blossoming. Felipe Luciano was in the performance group The Last Poets along with Pedro Pietri were the ones that really suggested rap. Hip pop focused on rapping, MCing, breakdancing, and graffiti writing. This was a multicultural movement within Blacks, Latinx, whites, and Asian Americans who were all apart of it. However, hip hop had turned this exemplar that only rappers could represent which led to this form of art being Afrocentric which wasn’t hundred percent accurate nor represented the entirety of its origin. DJing were dominated by Caribbean’s whereas Nuyoricans represent breakdancing and graffiti writing. Afrika Bambaataa would host weekly parties in the Bronx to change society. He wanted to take away the aggression and violence that brought upon gang members. Also, the poverty and school funds towards music education programs made it harder for the newer generation of Salsa such as Willie Colon. Overtime, you had artist who would change their name to hide their Puerto Rican ancestry such as Carlos Mandes who wanted to blend with the hip pop group the Cold Crush Brothers. Many artists would change their name which allowed them to pass for White and this allowed Puerto Ricans hip pop artist to avoid impeding the market force which was helping hip pop being only identified with African Americans.

  4. Option Three

    Puerto Rican artists in New York have had a great impact on avant-garde art scenes over time. The reading “Raza Interrupted” by Ed Morales explores where these influences began, in addition to how these artists left their mark in many well known institutions at the time. The reading states “Nuyorican Rafael Montanes Ortiz participated in the first Destruction in Art Symposium in the mid-1960’s” (Morales 130). After making a name for himself through his avant-garde art displays, Ortiz went on to become the director of El Museo del Barrio, which to this day is a landmark of Latino, especially Puerto Rican, art and history. The museum had a great impact in the city as it “promoted a vision of New York Latinx culture” (Morales 130) by preserving Taino objects in its displays. The reading also mentions Geno Rodriguez, whose institutions such as the Alternative Museum and the Institute of Contemporary Hispanic Art, became “a pioneer of the SoHo/Tribeca scene of the 1980s” (Morales 130). These artists paved the way for not only Latino artists to grow in New York City, but for various art forms to excel as well. Their institutions provided a place for Puerto Rican art, history, and traditions to be displayed for all to see and become influenced by.

  5. Nuyorican Rafael Montañez participated in the first Destruction in Art Symposium which focused on “Happenings”. These Happenings focused on elements of destruction that appeared in the Vietnam War.Rafael Montañez Ortiz became director of the community-based Museo del Barrio. This place was essential to preserving Taíno identity in Puerto Rico by having an exhibition of Taíno objects. Meanwhile, Marta Moreno Vega promoted New York Latinx culture while including African and indigenous traditions. She made sure to not exclude US-born Latinx artists. She did most of her work on African spirituality in the Caribbean. The Institute of Contemporary Hispanic Arts promoted pioneers of the Soho and Tribeca scene of the 1980s. Papo Colo’s gallery Exit Art in Soho showcased political art as well as art that was rapidly commercialized by Wall Street money in the middle of the decade.

  6. OPTION 3
    Various Nuyorican artists in New York in the 1960s through the 80s have influenced the avant-garde scene. Rafael Montanez Ortiz participated in the first destruction in Art Symposium. During the Vietnam War Ortiz would create art from non-art objects and proceed to destroy them. In the Symposium he would hold a piano concert for an audience and destroy the piano after, this made Ortiz known all over the world. Soon after he created an art museum in East Harlem, NY called Museo del Barrio which was essential to the preservation of the Taino identity by establishing the only permanent exhibition of Taino objects. This created a home for the Latin X and Puerto Rican Culture in New York City. When director of the museum, Marta Moreno Vega included other African and indigenous tradition to the collection, which expanded its inclusion of immigrant groups misrepresented in the culture and arts scene in New York City. Other Nuyorican artists like Geno Rodriguez co-founded the Institute of Contemporary Hispanic Arts, En Foco, and the Alternative Museum, which were all essential of Hispanic represented art all over New York City. The Alternative Museum showcased alternative political art by growing Hispanic artists. This created a major impact and footprint in New York City as well as other large cities like Los Angeles.

  7. Option 2
    Ed Morales described Benjy Melendez as a “secretly Jewish Puerto Rican” highlighting his unique multiculturality. His experience within the diverse melting pot of New York’s urban culture was one shared amongst many Nuyorican’s who pick and chose cultural aspects that resonated with them adapting them as their own. This was the New York experience; early migrants faced worms when sinking their teeth into the first bite of a rotting “Big Apple”. They came in search of opportunity, hopeful. They were blindsided, unaware pre-migration that they would be biting off far more than they could chew. Conditions were not that much greater than those they fled. Rags to riches promises were made with handouts for mediocre opportunities that promoted minimal progression for brown and black workers and capital growth for white business owners in a modern-day slavey. Puerto Rican people of color in New York recreated themselves in the image of a Nuyorican representing migrant children disconnected from the island physically but rooted through inheritance. Benjy Melendez’ involvement in community activism became a unifying force between Nuyorican and Black interests. Hip Hop was the birth of a shared language used to express resilience towards the poverty-stricken conditions in the ghettos of New York occupied by not just Blacks and Puerto Ricans, but a plethora of cultures forced into close proximities with the expectations of living amongst each other amicably.

    1. Short and to the point! Enjoyed reading this by the way you worded it. I think the creation of Nuyorican’s was a new identity of Puerto Rican’s who had a better understanding or who they were or who they want to be. They had the advantage of becoming more than their ancestors and a choice of intermingling cultural practices. Nuyorican’s were different from the refugees who came blindly and conforming. They were the people who would create an urban identity of Puerto Rico with as much national pride of Puerto Rico while still demanding their birth right privileges as Americans.

  8. Option One

    The influence of Nuyorican’s impacted the creation of hip hop through perfomarive poetry. New York’s Latinx subculture brought street poetry to hip hop performed by artists and groups such as Young Lord Felipe Luciano and The Last Poets. The reading elaborates on the four elements that’s make up hip hop: rapping, MCing, breakdancing, and graffiti writing. Of these four elements, Nuyoricans dominated the latter two. Breakdancing and graffiti writing were closely linked to Nuyoricans which placed this group of people as contributors to the frontline founding fathers of the emergence of hip hop culture.
    Born from a racialized community, hip hop represented those who shared discrimination and prejudice. This minority group experienced abandonment from the greater America and government. Lack of access to tuberculosis testing, exposure to lead based painting, and infrequent garbage collection were some of the social problems that Nuyoricans shared with black or Mexican groups around them. Poverty motivated musicians like Carlos Mandes to seek employment in a new form of growing art which was hip hop. Creating himself into DJ Charlie Chase gave Carlos an identity which made his Puerto Rican roots ambiguous. In hip hop he was no longer constricted to stereotypical connections or Puerto Rican’s to salsa music. Instead, he was allowed to express himself unapologetically and with resistance to discrimination. In addition, this name changed allowed such Puerto Rican’s to transition into an industry that was primarily associated with African Americans.

  9. OPTION 1:
    Nuyoricans were involved in the creation of Hip Hop as it stemmed from the poetry they created. It rapidly shifted tone in such a way that the poetry evolved into a rhythmic genre. It is classified as “street poetry”, where it is an extension of the way that many Latinx people express themselves. Nuyoricans contributed to the development of Hip Hop through several direct and indirect ways. One aspect of it was poverty, as many artists of the time had no direct access to a musical program in public school. These musical programs would involve genres such as salsa, or radio as they presumably featured a more direct path to a professional career. Another way they were involved was in the way that Hip Hop was developed is through the quelling of violence in these communities. Many people used Hip Hop as a form of reducing violence as it became an outlet for many people to instead vocalize themselves. Nuyoricans also found a niche within Hip Hop as many of them identifies more with the subculture of breakdancing and graffiti writing, as opposed to rapping or MCing.

  10. We could date the popularization of Nuyorican poetics to the 1960’s and 70’s by the Puerto Rican influences Ed Morales spoke of such as the group “The Last Poets”. Nuyorican poet, scholar, and former chairman of the Young Lords; Felipe Luciano was a contributing factor to an album addressing radical social constructs within the Black community. The Last Poets expressed their socially conscious and politically challenging views in an open mic poetic style that bashed racial inequalities to the rhythm of drummed beats. Here we see early Puerto Rican influences of a spoken word with a poetic flow laid over the beats of conga drums, a style that would help further develop the Hip Hop genre.

    Hip hop was created for the streets in the streets entertaining New York’s urban youth by ways of house parties and outdoor block parties. The poetic words shared over percussionist instrumentals were words of expressed social conflicts relatable to the New York poverty stricken and drug ridden barrios forcefully occupied by people of color. The desire to make the best out of neglected inner-city conditions helped to build a bridge of commonality amongst Black and Puerto Rican cultures. This unification of social struggle made the Black experience in New York a Puerto Rican one as well. But as expressed by Ed Morales on page 108 in Raza Interrupted, the Puerto Rican fight against Black injustices and inequality was necessary and helpful to people of color but it did not propel positive change for the Puerto Rican migrants populating New York communities.

    Morales mentioned Felipe Luciano’s conversation with fellow member of the Last Poets: Guylan Kane. Morales said that poet Luciano claims that fellow Last Poet Kane stated that although Luciano’s “contributions to the black movement was appreciated, it was time for him to do something for his ‘own people’” (108). In such, Puerto Rican activists like Luciano used the platforms opened up by Black activists (like Hip Hop culture) to branch out and spearhead movements such as the Young Lords who mirrored progressive Black socialist movements like the Black Panthers. Blacks and Puerto Ricans were similar in the inequality of the American struggle but Puerto Rican’s needed personal representation and advocacy to address the issues that affected them directly.

  11. Option 3
    Nuyoricans affected and contributed to the avant-grade scene mostly through perspective. Their input on the US at the time is what pushed the art scene to open viewers mind and appreciate sub cultures created here. Some of their focuses, with the help of artist such as Montańez Ortiz, who pushed create the Museo del Barrio in the 70s. This has helped preserve the taino identity and create awareness in a safe space for other Nuyoricans(130). Not only would they have pushed the art scene but critic to a free thinking space. Challenging the social and racial binaries scene in the US, Nuyoricans not only created but inspired other latinos such as the chicanos in their own artistic movement. Nuyorican art expresses the emotions and lives experienced on a day to day, by acknowledging and teaching Nuyoricans continue to transcend the art world.

  12. Nuyorican is the name used to refer to Puerto Ricans who moved to the United States and their descendants. The term’s original meaning was to describe the Puerto Rican diaspora located in the New York area. It is, however, less applied to those throughout the entire Northeast. Their intermarriages with the Mexicans, American Indians, and Spaniards formed a great theme of intercultural mixing, which was one of the ways they were able to make significant contributions towards the creation of hip hop. As Nuyoricans, the New Raza, Chicanos made use of Aztlan to come up with racial and folkloric appreciations for their past, which they recognized as indigenous culture. Through the situations the involved tribes went through, there was writing of pieces such as ‘Entering into the serpent’ by Gloria Anzaldua (p. 122). The writings highlighted the stirrings of intersectionality, which were usually part of the hip hop topics that aired for the first time. Through the Raza and fighting for equality through the Mestizo, the people started writing, and the voices of women began airing. The transcriptions are part of the contributing factors towards the creation of hip hop.
    The Nuyoricans composed American pop mostly with what they could describe themselves with since their roots had American Pop. For instance, Melendez practiced Jew turned it racial as a Puerto Rican person of color in New York and grew up intensely involved in American pop culture, choosing what would best represent him. (pg.127). Despite the fact that most bands did not acknowledge people of color, Nuyoricans strived to make their way to the top. As Melendez worked for the United Bronx Parents run by Everyn working for the Puerto Rican independence, he had a strong command of Spanish that permitted his band’s music to forestall the political edge of much of the 70s Salsa. However, although Melendez was a significant force in the streets and party atmosphere that inspired, hip-hop he lacked the strong connection and comprehension of Hip Hop (p.128). there is evidence of the Nuyoricans contributing to Hip Hop’s creation where there is the rock legacy of hip-hop carefully hidden but evident in Bambaataa’s “planet rock”, one of the hip-hop classics. Also, Chaftant’s from mambo to Hip Hop, Juan Flores, and Raquel Z. Rivera, in her book New York Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone, all write about the hidden ways in which Nuyoricans contributed and were significant in the development of hip hop. During that era, most of the families hoped to emerge as the most excellent musicians and take it as a career or occupation.

  13. Option One
    The artistic culture of Nuyoricans in the 70’s and 80’s is heavily responsible for the creation of Hip-Hop. Many different underground poetry cafes in the Bronx and Manhattan were safe havens for minority artists to take the stage and showcase their reflective poetry, mostly describing the poverty stricken environments ridden with gang violence, police brutality, and discrimination. Instead of resorting to problematic activities within their communities, this circumnavigated many of these artists towards a therapeutic, creative route. This energy was infectious, drawing in many creators and fans alike to these cafes. Children and young adolescents would arrive and be inspired to create more art and keep the ball rolling. A lot of the instrumentation of drums and brass instruments rooted in Puerto Rican salsa influenced heavy lyricism. With live bands usually accompanied by a DJ, lists of artists would come in and perform. Additionally, Nuyoricans composed of many of grafiti/street artists which was one huge aspect of the Hip Hop scene. Dance forms like breakdancing, and step were also very popular and went hand in hand with the rap/hip hop forms that were being performed in these cafes. The intensity of these performances birthed legends like Big Pun, Fat Joe, DJ Disco Wiz, etc.

  14. Option 1

    The Nuyoricans played an important role in the creation of hip hop. Hip hop began to blossom in the Bronx due to the innovative Nuyorican poetry. This street poetry helped to express the Latinx culture. But due to the stigma that hip hop was only rap, an Afrocentric stereotype arises. Hip-hop was more than just rapping. MCing, breakdance and graffiti writing were all apart of this culture. Poverty was widespread amongst the community, creating massive cuts to public school’s music program making it harder for more traditional music and dances to flourish. This is where people like Carlos Mandes come into play. Changing his name to Charlie Chase to avoid disrupting the market forces that made hip-hop solely identifiable. Deriving his music from Grandmaster Flash, Chase was able to use his Latin roots when creating hip hop. Artists like Big Pun and Fat Joe are examples of this as well, both very influential Latino rappers. Hip Hop during this time, of poverty and gang affiliated problems, brought Latinx and African Americans together in a way that has affected the genre and the community in a positive way.

    1. Alexander,

      I agree with your post and appreciate your concise answer to the question! The part I think really stood out to me was the last sentence, really offering the idea that the creation of hip-hop and the entire culture around it all was contributed to by people of the Bronx, who shared similar experiences. Experiencing the harsh realities of the 1970s/80s in the Bronx specifically, pushed the creation of hip-hop, with a heavy Puerto Rican influence, perhaps more than people are privy to. In addition, this merging of different cultures experiencing the same realities into an art form is a result of the intertwining of different racial and ethnic communities in New York City. Further, this merging of cultures and realities, I believe, is essential in the identity of Nuyorican, by witnessing other cultures in New York City, while offering the Puerto Rican culture, which transpires into a creation of a distinct culture of language and the arts overall.

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