News from the Mott Haven History Keepers

March 14, 2024. Amy and Patti attended the launch of The Book of Beans, the final volume in the Las hermanas de la pilpa/Sisters of the milpa cookbook series from La Morada’s Chef Natalia Mendez (and many collaborators). This fully bilingual event left us full of ideas about food, memory, and language justice.

March 9, 2024. As part of sharing his knowledge, History Keeper Walter Bosque has started teaching low-cost weekly Tai Chi and auricular (ear) acupressure classes on Saturday mornings at the offices of South Bronx Unite. In this class, we learned how to apply ear seeds and some basic Tai Chi moves. History Keeper Les-lie Lopez is working with Walter to record his stories!

March 8, 2024. Oscar, Willie, Olivia, Sonyi, and Les-lie visited with Bronx high school students in a video documentary class at the Bronx Documentary Center. The teenagers are planning to document the food cultures of the South Bronx, and we had lots of tips for them!

March 8, 2024. In our fourth monthly meeting, we took turns showing each other places in Mott Haven that hold important memories and knowledge for us. Nieves Ayress kicked us off with a speech in honor of International Women’s Day, and then Nieves and Amy Starecheski shared some of the history of Casa del Sol, a formerly homesteaded building on 136th and Cypress. Oscar Rivera showed us his old stomping grounds in the Millbrook Houses, and we had fun lining up his photos from the 1970s with the current landscape. Olivia Glover showed us the building in Millbrook where she grew up, and the Millbrook Garden. It took us a while to walk up to St. Mary’s Park, because we kept running into people one of us knew, but when we made it there Willie Estrada told us some amazing stories about how his gang provided security in the park at night in the 1970s. Conversation continued over lunch at Venice, a classic neighborhood Italian place on 149th Street.

February 28, 2024. History Keeper Sonyi Lopez and archivist Pastor Crespo dug up some rare documentation of the South Bronx Football Conference, which Oscar Rivera is working on documenting, in the Bronx County Historical Society archives.

March 1, 2024. Amy and Willie attended Centro’s panel on historiographies of Puerto Rican radicalism. This sparked ongoing conversations about how to balance long-term preservation and community access when working with collections from communities that have been systematically denied access to the resources needed to take care of their archives.

February 25, 2024. Patti and Sonyi attended and recorded the Bronx County Historical Society‘s event “Paul Robeson: A Song of Freedom.” You can see the event here.

February 20, 2024. History Keeper Sonyi Lopez has begun work with Nieves Ayress to organize and preserve her archive and document her stories.

February 10, 2024. On Saturday mornings, we have been gathering at History Keeper DJ Charlie Hustle’s table at the South Bronx Swap Meet outside Maria Sola Garden. Charlie is there every Saturday, and the vintage items often spark conversations about local history. Charlie is always ready to share old photos to keep the memories flowing and he’s been building an archive of these images as part of his history keeping work.

February 9, 2024. For our third monthly meeting, we gathered at the office of UpBeat NYC to share oral history skills. We talked a lot about why and how to do oral history, and History Keepers paired off to start interviewing each other. We shared plans over burritos from our neighbors at La Morada – Willie showed us the trailer he is working on for his documentary!

February 4, 2024. Amy, Patti and Les-lie saw 48 Hours in El Bronx at Pregones Theater – six ten-minute long plays all inspired by classic Bronx hip hop arists!

January 19, 2024. We gathered for our second monthly meeting – Pastor Crespo led us on a tour of the Bronx County Historical Society and introduced us to DIY archiving. Full reportback here.

January 16, 2024. History keepers Oscar Rivera and Willie Estrada were interviewed about their books for A Slice of New York. Full reportback from Willie here.

December 5, 2023 – History keeper Willie Estrada co-hosted an event at Hostos College on Puerto Rican Contributions to Hip Hop, where he shared some dance moves and a teaser for his documentary on the Latin Hutle.