Life on the Block
       
     
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Life on the Block
       
     
Life on the Block

The American society is a mosaic of cultures that share a land, a flag and a language as symbols of an identity.

But beneath the illusions of national unity in parts of America, another country exists. Today 13% of the population of this country is Hispanic American. Within that demographic, one third are Puerto Rican families searching for a prosperous life.

Life on the Block portrays the physical and mental boundaries of young Puerto Rican women living in Spanish Harlem (Manhattan, NY).
The women of these families provide an inner compass to explore the challenges of life and their quest for empowerment as well as their desire and inability to break a cycle of mere survival.

From 2002 to 2007 I documented the lives of young Puerto Rican women and their families living on 103rd Street in Spanish Harlem.

This neighborhood, only a few blocks away from the affluent Upper East Side, seems like another country. There is a hardness that characterizes these streets, and innocence dies young. This community has a high rate of unemployment-three times the New York City average-and the family income is based on public assistance and often supplemented by the underground economy of the street the sale of drugs and other illegal activities that commonly lead to detention, prison, and death.


Fathers and brothers are often absent from the family unit. Girls reaffirm their existence through maternity and drop out of high school to become mothers at an early age. Women are the pillars of the community, and often the main source of vitality in family life. These strong young women of the block represent the potential elements of change in this society.
For the past five years (2002-2007) I have been observing the inner landscapes of these young women. During this time I have seen their desire to stretch their own boundaries and their inability to do so. The cycle of survival and apathy eradicates any long-term vision for their own lives. These women often choose to be somebody in their block rather than nobody in a promising new horizon. To break that lifestyle is almost a betrayal to their community. Many families in these communities live under the same values and circumstances, a pattern of existence they jokingly call the ghetto life.

This piece is an intense look at their roles as women in a machista culture, as latinas in a white society, and as mothers of the upcoming American generations.

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La sociedad norteamericana es un mosaico de culturas conviviendo bajo un mismo cielo.

El 13% de este país es hispanoamericano. Un tercio son familias puertorriqueñas que llegaron a la metrópoli en busca de un futuro mejor; muchas han recorrido un largo camino sin llegar a lograr la prosperidad tan deseada.

Las mujeres de estas familias son los pilares del círculo de la supervivencia.

Del año 2002 al 2007 exploré los paisajes internos de las jóvenes madres puertorriqueñas que viven en Spanish Harlem, Manhattan, Nueva York.

Un barrio de 100.000 habitantes, con uno de los índices más altos de desempleo y delincuencia de la ciudad, en el que el hombre se ausenta del núcleo familiar y la mujer se aferra a la vida a través de la maternidad. Ellas son los potenciales motores de cambio en esta sociedad.

Durante este tiempo he podido ver su apego incondicional a un barrio, una calle (la 103) que se convierte en frontera física y mental (muralla invisible) que les impide alcanzar nuevos horizontes.

He constatado el deseo de estas mujeres de ampliar sus fronteras y su incapacidad para lograrlo: sus vidas reflejan la frustración del sueño americano.

Este trabajo es un testimonio del papel de la mujer en una cultura machista, su posición como latina en una sociedad de blancos y su rol como madres de las nuevas generaciones de América.

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