Striking Portraits of 1980s Spanish Harlem

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Photo: From Spanish Harlem by Joseph Rodriguez; published by powerHouse Books

Brooklyn-raised photographer Joseph Rodriguez captured everyday life in Spanish Harlem in the 1980s: children romping through playgrounds, residents performing Bomba Plena, traditional Puerto Rican music, and more somber scenes of drug addiction and children suffering from AIDS. Because Rodriguez spent so much time with the neighborhood’s residents without his camera, building their trust, some images are deeply intimate. His vibrant portraits of the era are featured in the book Spanish Harlem: El Barrio in the ’80s, released this week by PowerHouse Books.

Spanish Harlem was first known as East Harlem, a refuge for African-American farmers and German and Irish immigrants. After World War II, Puerto Rican immigrants settled into the neighborhood and it became Spanish Harlem, or El Barrio.

Click ahead to preview the book. Rodriguez will give an artist talk next Saturday, December 2, at the Bronx Documentary Center and host a book launch at the Museum of the City of New York on December 12.

Spanish Harlem: El Barrio in the ‘80s

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Striking Portraits of 1980s Spanish Harlem