Sunday, June 13, 2010

From Senegal to Puerto Rico

I wasn't expecting a cross-cultural experience when I left my apartment this morning to join three friends for lunch.  Silly me, I should just go ahead and expect these things. 

We met in Harlem for a simple lunch.  One of my friends lives in the heart of a neighorhood that is heavily Senegalese.  I love visiting her there-- it reminds me of my time in west Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  It was great to catch up with everyone, and afterwords I decided to walk back to the subway via 116th Avenue, which cuts right through the heart of Africa in New York.  I love seeing the women in their gorgeous African dresses, more colorful and lively than anything that's ever come out of Fashion Week in Bryant Park.  Also familiar were the men sitting outside of their stores, chatting.  The signs and posters are mostly in French, and the orderly contents of the stores are also reminiscent of what I remember in Africa.

There were some cool murals too:

As I continued to walk east, I could tell by the signage and the music coming out of the stores that I had left Little Senegal and entered Spanish Harlem.  Puerto Rican colors and flags and trinkets were everywhere.  Today is the National Puerto Rican Day Parade.  I decided to go closer to the action-- the parade was scheduled to go up 5th Avenue, from 42nd to the mid-70s.  I hopped on the subway again.  Soon I had made my way to the parade site.  I couldn't get close to it, but it was lively enough on the surrounding streets.

It was refreshing to see the vibrancy of the crowds in the most staid and placid area of NYC-- Park Avenue & 5th Avenue on the Upper East Side.  I'm not sure what the society matrons made of the many women with colorful and oh-so-tiny outfits, enthusiastic men covered with tattoos and baseball caps, people of all ages decked in red, white and blue, and loud Puerto Rican music, but here's hoping they smiled and perhaps even tapped their foot to the beat.

1 comment: