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New York: The failed melting pot project

Carla Fiorina | United States

The connection between the people living in Washington Heights and Spanish Harlem and their neighborhood is very strong. These districts provide them with a full ecosystem that allows them to cater to all their needs without ever having to resort to the English-speaking districts of Manhattan. Whether it is a voluntary choice or a necessity is debatable.

New York City is the most populous city in the U.S., with almost 9 million people living in its five boroughs. But who are they? Are they New Yorkers, Americans, or ‘hyphenated Americans’ = Italian-Americans, Irish-Americans? Black Americans, Hispanic Americans? Over the last 50 years of immigration have they been absorbed into some kind of homogeneous ecosystem, the so-called ‘melting pot’ which advocated that immigrants would slowly and eventually merge into a society speaking a common language, English, and sharing common values of guaranteed freedom(s), entrepreneurialism, capitalism and the hope of achieving the ‘American Dream’. It hasn’t worked out that way. New Yorkers have created their own separate ecosystems based on ethnicity, language, culture, religion, social class, and income. The only interactions between these ecosystems take place in the workplace and in commuting transportation. The concept of assimilation has been replaced by the determination to preserve and enhance the different cultural and ethnic roots.


My photographic project explores two mainly Hispanic Manhattan neighborhoods: Washington Heights and East Harlem (El Barrio) where the cultural amalgamation advocated by the ‘melting pot’ metaphor clearly has not happened.


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