A collection of photos taken at the 2019 San Gennaro Festival in Little Italy.
Miscelanea NY – the now closed shop-and-eat stop in the East Village – was a cozy location to find Mexican products and an elevated street-style kitchen. Talking to the staff members in Spanish as I usually did while I ordered a torta, I noticed a lady, non-staff, stacking cans on one of the shelves. Chapulines. “Hello, I am Virydiana,” she introduced herself, “one of the founders of Merci Mercado. Have you tried my grasshoppers?”
Virydiana Velarde is one of the four founders of Merci Mercado, a business that sells dry and seasoned grasshoppers and worms, as well as these insects’ salt and grasshopper powder. She opened a can and stretched out her hand, “here, try them!” Though I grew up in Mexico and saw family members eat insects numerous times, I had never eaten an insect voluntarily before.
The very first time I tried chapulines was at a friend’s kitchen in New York’s West Village. Writhing half of the time, it wasn’t as bad as I expected. I’d seen basketfuls of crickets and worms when I was growing up in Mexico. One of my grandfathers used to love them and he’d order guacamole with gusanos de maguey, or mezcal worms as they’re known in English. You could find an array of ants and other bugs in marketplaces in Oaxaca and Veracruz, as if they were any other “regular” product.
Six days after my not-so-terrible experience with grasshoppers, I then found myself standing in front of Velarde in the East Village. Why am I eating bugs in Manhattan when I never ate them in Mexico? I braced myself for the second time and took the insect off Velarde’s hand. Surprisingly, I enjoyed Velarde’s grasshoppers. They had no fishy aftertaste, were perfectly crisp and the three different seasonings she sells – natural, adobo, or chipotle – had a delightful smokiness to them, just like the one you feel after a sip of mezcal and a bite of an orange slice, but much dryer, sans the boozy kick.
Edible insects are a dietary staple in some areas of Mexico and other countries around the world, but why did it take me so long to find a liking in insects? Why did I have to opt-into eating them in Manhattan and not in my home country where they can be found almost nation-wide? At least two-billion people practice entomophagy – the practice of eating bugs – regularly, reported the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Have the other five-billion become interested all of a sudden?
The following images illustrate Velarde’s work and how chapulines can be incorporated in different culinary spaces.
The images were taken throughout December 2018. An article written on Velarde, grasshoppers and entomophagy can be found here.
David Solovyov has been fixing clocks and watches in Lower Manhattan for 37 years. David is one of the few repairmen left in the city since smartphones took over the watch industry. David’s shop is like a time machine to the Manhattan of the 1900s.
Yoga with no poses, stretching or exercise? Laughter yoga is a relatively new concept of yoga where participants go to a class to laugh. No jokes are told, no one performs comedy, the goal is to simply laugh. As weird as it sounds, many yoga studios and groups in New York City are offering classes on this unusual new trend.
Take a look inside one of the classes.
Same-sex acts between two consenting adults are illegal in 70 UN member states. In other countries, laws prohibit discussion of LGBTQ+ rights or leave LGBTQ+ people unprotected from discrimination and violence.
It is difficult to gauge just how many LGBTQ+ identifying people live in these areas (note: a 2016 Gallup poll found that 4.1% of Americans identify as LGBTQ+). Their lives are covered up by the law and societal codes, but they are not invisible. Here are four stories of LGBTQ+ lives in four different countries: Russia, Kuwait, Jamaica, and Nigeria.
In 2013, Russia passed a law “For the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating for a Denial of Traditional Family Values”, or as it is more widely known in Western media, the Gay Propaganda Law. The law outlawed any positive discussion of homosexuality on the internet or in public spaces.
In 2017, a report broke that gay and bisexual men were being rounded up, beaten, and in some cases killed by authorities in Chechnya, a federal subject of Russia.
Anna (she/they) is a student from Moscow, Russia, currently studying in the United States. Anna asked not to include her last name.
Homosexuality and transgenderism are outlawed in Kuwait under the country’s “Debauchery” law, with up to six years jail time.
Sarah (she/her) is a student from Kuwait, currently studying at NYU’s Shanghai and New York campuses. Sarah asked not to include her last name.
Sodomy is illegal in Jamaica, under the Buggery Laws inherited from British colonial rule. While the law specifically targets cisgender men and transgender women, lesbians, bi women, and other transgender people face social discrimination and abuse.
Kadeem Robinson (they/he) grew up in Jamaica and is currently working in the US.
Homosexuality is outlawed in Nigeria, with sentences ranging from up to 14 years in prison to death. While the law tends to focus on male same-sex relations, some states have enacted specific laws outlawing lesbianism.
Activism is not limited to the US. LGBTQ+ rights organizations have emerged throughout the world, even where legal systems are played against them. There are currently no known LGBTQ+ organizations in Kuwait.
Created in 2006,Russian LGBT Network works to fight the Gay Propaganda law and disseminate media information regarding the state of LGBTQ+ life in Russia.
Children-404 is an online forum for LGBTQ+ teens, following the enactment of the Gay Propaganda law.
INCRESE advocates for sexual and reproductive rights in Nigeria. This includes rights for sexual minorities and HIV/AIDS prevention.
JFLAG (also known as Equality Jamaica) advocates for LGBTQ+ visibility and education in Jamaican society.
New York City’s homeless population has been growing exponentially in the last five years. The city has reached its highest levels of homelessness since the Great Depression. Many government agencies and nonprofit organizations work tirelessly to provide adequate shelter, healthcare, and nourishment to those in need. The system is not perfect. Yet it’s only through these bodies that we are able to track the growing number of homeless in the city. Although New York City has one of the lowest rates of unsheltered homelessness in the country, this way of estimating the population excludes the five percent of the homeless that never enter shelters. Recent studies have shown that surveys significantly underestimate the number of unsheltered homeless New Yorkers.
Mark, profiled here, is a painter and father of five who doesn’t frequent shelters. On rainy days, he relies on scaffolding on the corner of Broadway near Union Square Park. Through a toothy grin, he says that he is “grateful for the people that let him stay there” when he has nowhere to go.
African-American and Latino New Yorkers are disproportionately affected by homelessness. New York City’s homeless shelter residents are approximately 58 percent African-American and 31 percent Latino. Juda, profiled below, is originally from Cuba and is attempting to fulfill his dream of becoming a performer in the city. He is an avid dancer, actor, and rollerblader. He is hoping to get scouted sometime soon.
The state of homelessness in New York City might seem hopeless at times, but in their “State of Homeless 2018” report the Coalition For The Homeless proposes a plan that would reduce New York City’s shelter population per night from 60,1717 in 2017 to 38,913 in 2021. Their projection is far lower than the one Mayor Bill De Blasio, who proposes 57,990 individuals per night. The Coalition advocates for several policy recommendations that will reduce the number of those seeking shelter every night. If the overall homeless population decreases then it might be possible to offer better and more adequate care for those, like Eddy, Mark, and Juda, who are unsheltered.
By Jing Feng
Nearly 1,000 people marched through Downtown Brooklyn Against increased police brutality and surveillance in the subway system on November 1, 2019.
Chasing a Ghost: A Profile on the Elusive Carlos Alvarez Nazareno and the Invisibilized Afro Community in Buenos Aires
A conductor of sorts, Carlos Álvarez Nazareno in action is a sight to see. The manner in which he draws attention from a crowd is so skillful it can only be likened to that of a professional performer, yet so dispositional, the attention can’t help but be followed by respect. His way of speaking is in no way cacophonous, a conductor knows just how to control their instruments. On the contrary, Carlos has a very smooth manner of speaking, his cadence incorporating a water-like lull, so that his voice carries the listener up and down to the rhythmic beat of his bobbing intonation. At this particular meeting for Agrupacion Xango, an organization made for and by Afro-descendants in Argentina (including Afro-Argentines, African Americans, and Afro-Latin@s living in Argentina), the respect he elicited from the members would have had any unbeknownst guest assume him the president instead of the general coordinator.
Halfway through the meeting a man — dark, wide shouldered, and soft smiled — came through the door. Carlos introduced this man to the attendees and prompted him to speak on the precarious state of the Senegalese community in Buenos Aires. He informed the room of that local police are making it more and more difficult for them to work, most usually street vending, and with their lack of lawyers, there is a widespread yearning within their community to move to Chile. This policial abuse is just one of the many facets of discrimination against black faces within the country. The various forms of racism are both implicit and explicit, micro and macro, whispered and shouted. Alongside institutional racism they manifest in fear, hypersexualization of black women, and invisibilization.
The Senegalese story sparked a dialogue about the abuse the community is facing by the police which mirrored a very similar conversation witnessed by New York University student in attendance, Michelle Jones. She expressed that Carlos “favors a more forward approach to activism,” which is exactly what she saw when she attended a march on El Día Internacional de Lucha contra el Racismo, or the International Day of the Fight Against Racism. Carlos, as well as the Xango collective and other members of the Afro-Argentine community, made an act of denouncement in front of El Congreso Buenos Aires. She bore witness as Nazareno informed the crowd about the case of Massar Ba, a local Senegalese activist murdered on March 7th 2016. Ba was found by a neighbor with multiple injuries to the head, hip, and lower abdomen, screaming “they want to kill me”. Despite the gravity of his injuries the police arrived late, and only to call an ambulance. There was virtually no investigation and no records were taken of the crime scene. “The speech was so powerful,” Michelle recounted, “as an activist myself, he executes exactly what the community needs and what I hope to eventually be doing too.”
Back at the meeting, the dialogue was followed by plans for a group field trip to the United States and a discussion on Xango’s possible collaboration with New York University to teach its members English. He managed to pass the floor back and forth between members and himself seamlessly, like a game of tennis. As the match came to its end, Carlos gathered his coat and bag, his next stop the March for Marijuana.
After this meeting, I found out just how difficult it is to track Nazareno down. From council to march, meeting to protest, he keeps himself busy with activism. Between this and his job in the government, little is more difficult than setting up a meeting with him. Sunday he was busy. Monday he was so busy he couldn’t make the scheduled meeting. Tuesday, he had no free time until 7.30 pm, and still couldn’t make it until 8:00. He entered the restaurant in a calm but brisk manner, with his dreadlocks tied neatly so as to fall as one raven wave down the small of his back, managing to elicit interest from the entirety of the café. Yet, the steady stares he received could not solely be attributed to his poise. A common occurrence in Argentina for those with black skin, Carlos knows firsthand, as a human rights leader and a black man himself, the struggle of being Afro in Buenos Aires. This case in point, is one of invisibilization, or erasure, of those of African descent, resulting in the starring, as the black presence is underestimated, and thus over-examined.
Carlos’s niceties were warm, but brief, as he chose to immediately delve into the topic of police brutality before even settling into a seat. He had spent the entirety of his weekend petitioning for the freedom of 18 Senegalese immigrants that had been wrongfully handcuffed and detained by the police for over 36 hours without food or water, solely for street vending. His passion in recounting the story made it very clear that his involvement in the community took precedence over any other facet of our meeting. Before he even opened his menu, Carlos spent many minutes describing the case of the detained Senegalese, and after opening it, many minutes discussing the current racial political climate.“There is a large level of violence and mistreatment from the police” he asserted, before ordering a cafecito and muffin.
Nazareno is a native to bordering Uruguay. Born in Ansina, a “traditional” afro-uruguayan barrio in the capital city of Montevideo, his family changed locations to another neighborhood in 1976 due to displacement by dictator Juan María Bordaberry Arocena. In 1983, he moved to Palermo, Uruguay to begin school. At the age of 18, he met a young activist that introduced him to a group of black youth working to better their community. And with this moment, he began to familiarize himself with the fight against racism.
“My blackness was never a conversation point during my childhood,” he said. “There is a higher density of black people in Uruguay, the population is 10% black. Therefore we more of a visibilization. We have created such important things, such as candombe music. Racism and discrimination are much more explicit here in Argentina”.
Fast forward from that initial moment to the age of 41, he has two daughters and resides in Buenos Aires. While he maintains a strong link to Uruguay and his family, most members now having converted to activists himself, he shows no qualms about being here in Argentina. “I started a life here, have two daughters here, I have no regrets about working for the freedom of marginalized people from Argentina,” he asserts.
This is, of course, in addition to his day job . He works in the nation’s human rights secretariat, focusing on the Afro perspective. While this description aligns perfectly with his personal objectives, some tension does arrive. Nazareno works under the office of Mauricio Macri, the current president of Argentina. A right wing post-neoliberal, Macri backs policies that many Argentines feel do not benefit them, usually Argentines that are not white. This other side of Carlos professional life, fairly adverse to his progressive sentiments, seem to be the only open criticism of Carlos’s within the community.
“How can I trust someone that works for such a, oppressive government?” questions Gabrielle Pita at a meeting for DIAFAR, another local Afro-Argentine group. During conversation about local race relations, I brought up the steps Carlos had been taking to better them, causing him to express his displeasure with Carlos’s seemingly “double” position, stating how no-one who opposed the presidency could work in such proximity to it.
“He helps them plan events, implement policy, do you think Malcolm X would have done something like that?” he exclaims with a tight tone of mistrust and betrayal. Pita closes his argument with a note of apprehension, informing me to take Carlos’s words with a grain of salt. “He’s influenced by money, wherever it goes he will”.
Carlos voices his disdain for his job himself. “I don’t believe in this government,” he said. In fact, during the election of 2015, he was in support of Daniel Scioli, Mauricio Macri’s Justicialist opponent. “The government has the responsibility to work for the Afro-community,” he stated, but feels as though it doesn’t, labelling it a “contradictory” state. At the same time, he holds no shame or bashfulness about his position within it. “I believe that it is my job to help the state remain mindful of public policies for the Afro community and to ensure that they create spaces for Afro-descendant inclusion,” he said. Nazareno does not limit his activism to respectability parameters for his place of work either. Carlos spends much of his time calling out the state directly. “Being a part of the secretariat doesn’t stop me from denouncing the government’s wrongdoings.”
The tension doesn’t stop on a professional level for Carlos. A gay man, he often times finds himself working alongside communities that might not be receptive to his orientation. “Especially with the Muslim African Immigrants, the men might have a homophobic perspective”, he explained sans an ounce of self pity, “but once working with me, they think nothing of it and respect who I am because they understand the different contexts.” He highlights the tendencies between these two communities to undermine one another. “The white gay community can be racist, xenophobic, and classist while the Afro community can be homophobic,” he said. Yet, Nazareno maintains the ideals of intersectionality, a term he continually became excited to use, and of different marginalized communities coming together in order to achieve an overarching freedom. “My identities are nothing more than things that strengthen me” he asserted. By this time, he had just unwrapped his muffin.
Nicolás Parodi speaks in a manner of brisk assurance, his voice bursting through the phone in a succession of crisp quips, despite the torrent of honks and footsteps emanating from the city he paces through. The clarity of his speech, a Castellano that is deep, smooth, and patient, in contrast to the city noise, is no surprise considering his stature. Parodi stands at about 6’3″, and with a rounded out frame and light brown complexion that would contextually be described as “cafe con leche”, there would be no easier feat than to pick him out from a crowd. What is most notable about the photographer sits atop his head. A nest of thick black hair protrudes from his scalp for about two inches before morphing into a streamline of rope-like raven tresses. The ebony branches fall haphazardly around him, some reaching a callus beard just as dark, and others dusting against the small of his back. His dreadlocks, tokened las rastas in Spanish, are formulated in a simultaneous two step process, during which one teases a crochet needle through a section of hair until it is matted, then twisting the resulting tangles. Once completed, the individual partitions dangle like course vines stemming from the wearer’s head.
In Argentina, this process of locking is mostly conducted in an informal manner at neighborhood fairs by groups of hippies. There are not many places to get them done professionally in Buenos Aires. Most sought out by the younger generations of Argentina; the girl with a spiked lip piercing at the bar or that college grad at the park with a skateboard and skinned knee cap, las rastas are a commonality in Buenos Aires, and have been for a substantial amount of time. “They started to get popular around 10 years ago”, Nicolás shoots through the receiver, “but only with certain groups, not everyone.”
One of the more notable groups within this demographic is the Rastafarian, a practitioner of the Rastafari religion from which their famously sacred hairstyle assumes its Spanish moniker. The movement began in Jamaica during the 1930s. Its followers believe in a black God (Jah), that members of the African diaspora (now exiled and lost as a result of the colonialist slave trade) are destined to return to their ancestral lands on the continent, and that the is messiah incarnated in Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974.
Being a lifestyle in addition to a belief system, there are many popular elements of the culture that its followers are known to adhere to, their dreadlocks being the most visible. Additional aspects of the Rastafari movement common among Argentine loc-wearers include displays of the religion’s three representative colors: red (for blood), yellow (for mineral gold), and green (for earth), as well as a perpetual consumption of marijuana, to the Rastaman, a special gift from God.
“They are [locs] associated with people that smoke weed” Nicolás chuckles before emphasizing his refusal to partake. But, despite the demographic’s acquisition of all things deemed Rasta, it is not belief that influences the trend. Rastafarians make up a very minute percentage of the overall population of Buenos Aires (they only total a million world wide). Here in Argentina, locs do not have much of a religious significance. Rather, they serve as a fashion statement. The Rastafari lifestyle, spread through its musical counterpart of reggae, is simply viewed as an aesthetic.
Reggae is a trance inducing sound born from the slums of Jamaica. It arrived in Buenos Aires with the imported records of esteemed musician and Rastafarian prophet, Bob Marley, at the start of the 1980s. Instrumentation typically consists of a guitar, an organ, the bass guitar, drums, and an array of horns that all come together in a symphony of island passion. Due to the multitude of Rastafari practitioners utilizing the genre to decree their values of love, peace, and black unity, the music’s culture is intertwined with that of the religion, to the point that one necessitates the mention of the other. And when the sound touched base in Argentine, so did the Rastafari.
“Wherever reggae goes Rasta follows” Pablo Kalezic asserts. On the right side of his corded neck rests a thickly tattooed black ankh, an Egyptian hieroglyph that resembles a hooded cross. It is not an image associated with the Rastafari, but the symbol displayed proudly atop his skin illustrates his connection to Africa. According to him, “music is a part of righteousness” and reggae is the music of the poor, the sound of the rebel. A forty-three year old Rasta since the age of sixteen, the drummer sees that today the music’s culture “is more cool than spiritual.” Pablo does not have dreadlocks, as he states they “are not a necessity.” Yet, this does not stop him from having an acute sense of their importance. “Half of the people that have the locs don’t know the history behind them nor Rasta…” he states with a slightly heated exasperation.
Later, on the phone, Nicolás even states that most dreaded Argentines are “not usually Rastas, just people who like the culture,” himself included. The Rastafarian religion is one of inclusion, with love being its biggest requirement. But its core values, such as the black exodus from a white oppressor, prove to be a polarizing ideology for those who do not fit into the category of lost, sanctified children. Thus, reggae music serves as the non Afro-Argentine’s/ Afro-descendant’s relation to Africa and blackness.
As reggae becomes more and more popular in Buenos Aires, so will the hairstyle, though the fashionability does not seem to ensure its longevity. The trend carries with it societal connotations of filthiness, laziness, and weed (known as ganja to the Rastafari). Pablo affirms that in some places the hair is “treated like a crime,” and having the style often interferes with potential work. Many locals that once had the locs eventually cut them off as they get older. For Parodi, out of a work base of 2000 people, he was the only one with dreads. “There are not many white-haired people with las rastas” he professes.
It might seem counterintuitive, but in this digital era, the owner of a nearly 100-year-old Manhattan typewriter store says his shop is “busier than ever.”
Jay Schweitzer says that he and his team at The Gramercy Typewriter Company, founded in 1932, work seven days a week at their new West 17th Street location to meet the demand from millennials and teenagers clamoring for an old-fashioned writing machine.
“They’re so distracted when they sit in front of a computer that they get no work done,” says Schweitzer. His customers, he believes, are looking for something that will help them avoid digital interruptions.
Schweitzer also says that typewriters are increasingly purchased by parents as “learning tools” for their children to teach keyboard and spelling skills, since they aren’t equipped with the autocorrection found on a computer or smartphone.
The store stocks machines from different eras, ranging from a 1930s Underwood to a 1980s IBM, to suit individual preferences. Customers who come in for repair get to see “hands-on” what’s wrong so they can learn for themselves. Maintaining its traditional approach to business, the store does not allow for online ordering or shipping.
And according to Schweitzer, whose family has maintained the shop for three generations, people come from all over the country to visit. His grandfather started the business in a small Gramercy office, before transitioning to a location near the Flatiron Building, where it stayed for 48 years. Schweitzer stated that the store’s new location gives it better visibility to passersby.
“We’re not doing this to get rich, we’re doing this because we like it,” added Schweitzer.