Dominican Juan Rodriguez: first non-Native American settler in Manhattan


Here is a Daily News article from 2012—“Who was the first non-Native American settler in Manhattan? Dominican immigrant Juan Rodriguez in 1613” by Douglas Feiden—which highlights the history behind “Juan Rodriguez Way” in Washington Heights. As our previous post Crossing Broadway: A new History of Washington Heights, NYC’s Dominican Enclave pointed out,  in 2012, a section of upper Broadway was renamed in honor or Juan Rodriguez, reminding the heroes of Washington Heights that “the first immigrant in New York was black, a free man from the Caribbean and a Dominican.” It’s an old article, but it is always important to refresh our memories. [Many thanks to Carmen Henríquez for bringing this item to our attention.]

The first immigrant to New York City has been identified by scholars at City University — and politicians at City Hall have already named a swath of upper Broadway in his honor.

Sailor-turned-merchant Juan Rodriguez arrived downtown in 1613 from his home on the island now known as the Dominican Republic, making him the first visitor to spend a night in Manhattan, researchers say. He also became the first non-Indian to settle permanently in the city, the first Dominican resident, the first Latino and the first settler with African blood, according to the City University of New York’s Dominican Studies Institute.

“He was a very early predecessor of the large Dominican population that thrives in the city today,” said Institute Director Ramona Hernandez. “And his story belongs to the history of all New Yorkers.”

His name will soon be plastered in a mostly Dominican area along Broadway — from W. 159th St. in Washington Heights to W. 218th St. in Inwood — after Mayor Bloomberg on Tuesday signed a bill renaming the 59-block stretch “Juan Rodriguez Way.” [. . .]

For full article, see

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