Vast Trove of Photographs Tells the Story of Latinos in New York City

New York’s oldest and largest Spanish-language daily newspaper, El Diario La Prensa is celebrating its 100th birthday by exhibiting its collection of archival photographs at various locations throughout the city. The images, taken over several decades, capture news events, sports and Latino culture as well as everyday life in the city’s Hispanic neighborhoods.

Even though many of the photographs were originally published in El Diario, they offer perspectives that are unfamiliar to many non-Spanish speaking New Yorkers.

“Despite the substantial and transformative presence of Latinos in New York since the 19th century, they remain largely ignored by English-language news; and when recognized, mostly confined to crime and illegal immigration stories,” said Frances Negrón-Muntaner, director of Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race.

Panel from centennial exhibition currently on display at the Columbia University Medical Center
 in Washington Heights; photo: Von Diaz

Negrón-Muntaner is the curator of one of the exhibitions based on the collection, titled “The Raging 70s: Latino New York as Seen by El Diario’s Bolívar Arellano.”

El Dario is partnering with the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race (CSER) and Columbia University’s Rare Books and Manuscripts Library to preserve more than 5,000 photographs taken since the newspaper’s inception.

The collection will be studied by archivists and historians at Colombia University, who say the images provide an unprecedented wealth of information and chart the evolution of New York’s Latino community over the past century.

According to the centennial project’s manager, Javier Gómez, there were some unexpected finds in the newspaper’s archives.

“We discovered the presence of images from Washington Heights and Bronx was overwhelming,” Gómez says, “And these images deserve to be seen.”

Four exhibitions will open across the city starting this month, beginning at the Columbia Medical Center, and then at the King Juan Carlos III Center at New York University, Hostos Community College, and the Center for Race and Ethnicity at Columbia University. Visit the El Diario Centennial website to learn more about upcoming exhibitions.

Fi2W is supported by the David and Katherine Moore Family Foundation and the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation.

AboutVon Diaz
Von Diaz is a writer and radio producer based in New York City. She is a self-taught cook who explores Puerto Rican food, culture, and identity through memoir and multimedia. Her work has been featured on NPR, American Public Media, StoryCorps, WNYC, PRI’s The World, BuzzFeed, Colorlines, and Feet in 2 Worlds. Von has an M.A. in journalism and Latin American and Caribbean studies from New York University. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, she earned a B.A. in Women’s Studies and focused her research on women in Latin America. She is a currently a producer at StoryCorps, and previously worked in community advocacy and communications for nonprofits focused on women, children, art, and Latino culture.