Spanish Harlem Stroll Down History Lane

Julia de Burgos: Poet, nationalist and feminist. Found unconscious and carrying no identification in 1953 on a street in El Barrio/ East Harlem, near 106th and Fifth Avenue, she was taken to the Harlem Hospital where she died. The streets of East 106th Street from Fifth Avenue to First Avenue have been renamed in her honor.

On 103rd Street and Third, were the large discount store is now, there used to be a theater called The Eagle. They showed vintage films (a $1 a pop) and held live performances. Cinematreasures.org

La Marqueta is a marketplace under the elevated Metro North railway tracks between 111th Street and 116th Street on Park Avenue. Today it’s a remnant of its “heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, where over 500 vendors operated out of La Marqueta, and it was an important social and economic venue for Hispanic New York.

The market was originally an informal gathering place for pushcart vendors and other merchants, but since 1936 it has been officially sanctioned, and vendors rent their stalls from the city. It was once possible to buy food (fresh fish & fruits), traditional medicines, recordings of Latin music, and supplies for charms and curses at La Marqueta. New York Times article about its history

Of course, I am old enough to remember the Cosmo Movie Theater that used to be on 116th Street between 3rd Avenue & Lexington (where Regine’s is now). This theater shut its doors in the late 1980s but many memories and newspapers still hold the stories of the Cosmo, where you could see a double feature ($5 in my day) and sometimes live performances. Founded in 1922, it was a one-story that had 1405 seats with art deco architecture.

Famous East/Spanish Harlem Natives include:

Tito Puente,
Former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona,
Cicely Tyson,
Henry Enrique “Erik” Estrada,
Tupac Shakur,
Felipe Luciano,
Burt Lancaster,
Oscar Hijuelos,
Marc Anthony,
Jonas Salk,
Groucho Marx
Piri Thomas,
CBS reporter Pablo Guzman,
Al Pacino,
Taye Diggs

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