Walker Leader: Elena Martinez
Text by: Elena Martinez
After World War II this area where we walked in the Bronx was settled primarily by Puerto Ricans who had left the island due to economic hardship. Many musicians who were important (and still are) in the music we now call salsa, grew up in this neigborhood: Eddie Palmieri, Manny Oquendo, Willie Colón and Ray Barretto, as well as the Cuban tres player, Arsenio Rodriguez, who many call the Louis Armstrong of Latin music as he was a transitional figure, who came to live here when he came here from Cuba. The neighborhood even boasts a street named after Rodriguez.
This area was also a hotbed of community and social activism which helped to turn the Bronx around. There are murals of individuals who gave back to the community such as famed Puerto Rican activist, Evelina Antonetty Lopez, who used music and culture to bring people together around political issues. We also walked to the neighborhood of Morrisania or Crotona Park East. Historically this area was settled by African-Americans and people of West Indian descent and the music of jazz, doo wop, gospel, and hip hop are represented.
As you walk through the streets you will pass the house jazz vocalist Maxine Sullivan bought with her husband, the street where Thelonius Monk lived for a few years, and the school attended by NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Owens. We passed the site of the Dixie Club which was featured in Charlie Ahearn’s groundbreaking movie on hip hop, Wild Style, and where Grandmaster Flash performed after moving up from park jams.