Welcome to the Little Dominican Republic

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Dominicans have deep ties to Washington Heights. But with their population slipping, the neighborhood around West 175th Street and Broadway is now officially being dubbed the Little Dominican Republic in an effort to boost tourism and cultural pride. Beth Fertig (WNYC) reports:

On Friday, politicians surrounded by Dominican flags cheered the new title.

“Dominican people are a people who have pushed forward this community,” said Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa. “And it is only fair that our community be put on the map officially as Little D.R.”

Juan Camilo, founder of the local Dykman Beer Company, referred to a “renaissance” in Washington Heights and said, “We look forward to just putting our culture out there.”

study by CUNY’s Dominican Studies Institute found the Dominican population is starting to slip in Washington Heights because of rising rents and gentrification. It said there were 99,193 Dominicans counted in 2014, a slight decrease since 2010 after two decades of steady growth. Meanwhile, Dominican populations have flourished in the other boroughs.

The Institute’s director, Ramona Hernández, who co-authored the study, said now is a good time for Washington Heights to promote its Dominican roots.

“What we have now that everybody wants to come here and wanted to buy apartments that are expensive and that are beautiful — [but] it’s the work of a people that have been living here for 30 or 40 years cleaning up, beautifying the space with their energy,” she said.

Angela Fernandez, executive director of the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, said she grew up in New Jersey but always loved visiting Washington Heights to connect with the Dominican side of her family. She agreed gentrification is hard to reverse. But like Little Italy or Chinatown, she said, the neighborhood can keep its history.

“We want to make sure it’s maintained and that we can all celebrate it together as part of our very, very diverse tapestry as a country,” she said.

The Little Dominican Republic branding is still in the works, with help from Shelley Worrell, the founder of CaribBEING who worked on a similar effort last fall to create Little Caribbean in Brooklyn. She said walking tours have taken off in the past year, as people come to sample Caribbean businesses.

Food and cultural tours of the Little Dominican Republic start in October, which is Hispanic American Heritage Month.

For original article, see https://www.wnyc.org/story/welcome-little-dominican-republic/

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