Making New York Dominican: Small Business, Politics, and Everyday Life

By Christian Krohn-Hansen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
Origin Stories

In 1991, Dominican immigrants owned around 80 percent of the approximately 9,000 bodegas and independent groceries controlled by Latinos in New York City (Martinez Alequin 1991; Silverman 1991). By the late 1980s, one researcher counted an average of twelve Dominican businesses per block between 157th and 191st Streets in Washington Heights (Mahler 1989); 90 percent of the cabs in Upper Manhattan in the early 1990s were owned by Dominican immigrants (Portes and Guarnizo 1991: 61). Until the early 1980s the number of economic enterprises in the city owned by Dominicans was still not very large (Guarnizo 1992: 110). Most have therefore been bought or opened during the past three decades.

But there is no doubt that Dominican New Yorkers have been solidly creating small economic ventures for quite a long time. In the 1960s and 1970s, Dominicans ran small enterprises in Queens, particularly in Corona, and Dominican- owned businesses were found in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and Upper West Side and in parts of the Bronx and Brooklyn (Guarnizo 1992: 113–14). In a 1976 New York Daily News article about Upper Manhattan, “Washington Heights and Changing Times,” journalist John Lewis claimed, “Evidence of the changes can be seen everywhere. Irish grocery stores are now Spanish [sic] bodegas. Along the central shopping district on W. 181st St. several older, well- known stores have closed because the merchants said that they could not compete with Hispanic merchants who cater to the needs of the growing Hispanic population” (Lewis 1976).

Although we already have a sizable scholarly literature on Dominicans in New York, we have little oral history of the emergence of a broad field of Dominican- owned small businesses in the city. The literature contains little ethnographically shaped narration of this part of the history of how immigrants from the Dominican Republic entered, and were incorporated into,

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Making New York Dominican: Small Business, Politics, and Everyday Life
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction 1
  • Part - I 29
  • Chapter 1 - From Quisqueya to New York City 31
  • Chapter 2 - Origin Stories 47
  • Part II 91
  • Chapter 3 - From Bodegas to Supermarkets 93
  • Chapter 4 - From Livery Cabs to Black Cars 134
  • Part III 171
  • Chapter 5 - Dominicans and Hispanics 173
  • Chapter 6 - Up against the Big Money 201
  • Chapter 7 - In Search of Dignity 230
  • Conclusion 264
  • Notes 269
  • References 285
  • Index 299
  • Acknowledgments 310
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