4. Nuyorican Poets Cafe is a forum for Puerto Rican artists in New York
The Nuyorican Poets Cafe is one of the defining features of Alphabet City, serving as a home for the Puerto Rican cultural intellectual movement in New York City. Founded in 1973, the cafe has been a crucial part of the development of the city’s hip-hop, poetry, visual arts, and theater scene. Rutgers University professor Miguel Algarín co-founded the cafe with fellow Nuyorican Movement leaders Pedro Pietri, Miguel Piñero, Bimbo Rivas, and Lucky Cienfuegos. The original location was at Algarín’s apartment. In 1975, Algarín rented an Irish pub on East 6th Street, where he brought in leading Puerto Rican voices of the time. Eventually, the cafe moved to 236 East 3rd Street where it is today, inviting leading thinkers like Nancy Mercado and Giannina Braschi.
The cafe gained fame for its slam poetry scene in the acclaimed Open Room. Famous “battles” included figures like Bob Holman and Saul Williams. Poetry, often performed orally in front of large audiences, has been a major part of the cafe’s operations since it opened. The cafe has also put on events like the Nuyorican Poets Café Theater Festival. The cafe has since expanded to include other forms of art, such as its first full-length opera Carmen in 2015. Today, it is one of the defining features of what many refer to as “Loisada,” which refers to Avenue C and its particularly Nuyorican population.