During the month of March, StoryCorps Door-to-Door traveled uptown in New York City to record interviews for the Historias Initiative at El Museo del Barrio, one of the City’s leading Latino cultural institutions.
El Museo, located on Fifth Avenue and 105th Street, has been a fixture of El Barrio since 1969, thanks to founder Raphael Montañez Ortiz. Our first participant of the day, a very lively Nolia Lozano, 90, who came with her daughter Sonia, remembered vividly the beginnings of El Museo.
“I came here with my children all the time,” Nolia reminisced in Spanish, “I always brought my kids here, and we’d sell empanadas and pasteles. They were in all the programs.”
Nolia was born in Puerto Rico and moved to the United States in her 20′s. While talking with Sonia, Nolia fondly remembered El Barrio of her youth: a neighborhood where everyone knew each other, and where families freely used fire escapes as a balcony extension of their living rooms.
“People slept with their doors open, didn’t they Mami?” Sonia asked
“Yes. It was beautiful! That’s why I’ve never wanted to leave this neighborhood.” And at 90, Nolia is still an active member of her community, still going to El Museo as often as possible. After having raised her four children in Spanish Harlem, Nolia likes to watch her neighbors play dominoes on the weekends and just have a good time with her friends.
“This is like my backyard,” Nolia said while jauntily walking out of the newly renovated Museo, “and it’s still beautiful.”