Talking with the People of Washington Heights


1. Vanessia:

While walking in Washington Heights, it is hard to miss the beautiful St. Rose of Lima church, which was founded in 1901. It is located at the corner of 164th street and St. Nicholas Street, across from McKenna Square. The architecture is of ecclesiastical taste, which is typical of churches, with exquisite stain-glassed windows. We interviewed a woman named Vanessia at the church. Originally hailing from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, Vanessia immigrated to the United States 44 years ago. She has two sons, one of whom is a doctor. Her family went through many struggles in order for her sons to make something of themselves. Although she has been living here for nearly half a century, Vanessia was never able to fully learn the English language. She did not have the time or the money to attend school in order to learn the entire language. She has learned enough to get by over time and was thus able to speak with us. This happens to be the case with many immigrants coming to the United States. They are too busy working and making a living in order to support their families, that learning the language often takes a back seat to the other more pressing demands at the time.

2. Ruket Negasi:

Washington Heights has been home to various different ethnicities over the years. Each of these ethnicities shaped Washington Heights with their own unique cultures and practices.

Foreign-born Residents of Manhattan District 12

Thus, Washington Heights changed as a whole with each changing ethnic group. This is still the case today, with the Dominicans constituting a lot of the culture that is experienced in Washington Heights. Ruket Negasi, a student at City College of New York, who has lived in Washington Heights for only a few months, was even able to see the profound change that one ethnic group can have on an area. She originally decided to settle in Washington Heights, because being a student, she saw that the rent was much cheaper than in Hamilton Heights and Morningside Heights. Ruket has seen many different ethnicities in Washington Heights, among them being Dominicans, African Americans, Japanese and Chinese (very few), and other Hispanics and Latinos. Dominicans constitute the majority, however. Living in Washington Heights, Ruket has seen firsthand the many Dominican influences. For example, the majority of restaurants and bars in the area serve Hispanic or Spanish cuisines. Many of them even have Spanish names. Many of these restaurants turn into lounges at night and have Spanish performances with Spanish singers and dancers.

Language Proficiency

Furthermore, there are also a lot of Spanish banks, with the Spanish word for bank—“banco”—written to attract Spanish customers. There are various religious community centers present which have a lot of Dominicans in attendance. Many grocery, convenience, and dollar stores in the vicinity sell religious paraphernalia such as candles with Jesus on them. This makes sense since Dominican Republic is a very Christian nation. The Dominicans have also claimed influence over the various hair salons and barbershops scattered in Washington Heights. Thus, it is proven how a neighborhood can say so much about the people that live there. It is said that a picture tells a thousand words, like a neighborhood tells a thousand things about the people that reside within.

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