Posted by: victortlb | August 6, 2009

Fast forward to 1970 Bronx New York.

 

 

"Abandon all hope! Ye who enter here"
“Abandon all hope! Ye who enter here”

 

 
 

By the time my parents moved to the Bronx in 1970 they had themselves three boys. Myself, Jesus, and Ricardo accompanied our mother and father to follow some whacked out dream they where sold on by other family members who had left beautiful PuertoRico. We landed at Kennedy Airport, at which time I got my Pan Am wings from the pilot. A life long love affair with flying had been born. I am not sure what the hell kinda story got my parents to leave a tropical paradise for the Bronx. It must have been on hell of a pack of bullshit creatively spun by several of aunts and uncles.

Map of the 1970's cesspool / "promised land" called the Bronx.

Map of the 1970's cesspool / "promised land" called the Bronx.

The mighty Bronx New York. In 1970 is was falling apart due to several reasons. First of which was the mandatory busing laws to integrate the school system. Second, and it goes hand in hand with the first reason, was because of racial tensions in the area. Riots and protests where rampant due to police brutality and unfair treatment of minorities. Here is an article that I found that can tell you the situation our simple “campesino” family where plunged into. Here is an article I found that can better explain what was going on in the south Bronx. I collected the pictures from other sources.
 
 

General Background: The 1970s were a disastrous time for the city of New York. The city experienced its greatest loss of population, from its 1970 peak of 7,896,000 to 7,092,000, a loss equal to the population of San Francisco. The city itself came close to virtual bankruptcy. The area of the city most distressed during this period was the south Bronx, located just to the north of Manhattan Island (Manhattan houses the city’s business core, second largest in the world after central Tokyo).

 

The South Bronx: By 1975, the South Bronx was the most devastated urban landscape in the United States. The three community districts that comprise the core of the South Bronx had fallen 57 percent in population from 383,000 in 1970 to 166,000 in 1980, which has to rival the greatest short term population loss in any urban setting with the possible exception of war’s devastation.

 
The Puerto Rican American dream in the Bronx, New York!

The Puerto Rican American dream in the Bronx, New York!

 Further, apartment owners, facing financial ruin, arranged for their buildings to be burned (arson) so that they could recover some of their investment through insurance. As Robert Worth notes:… the Bronx began to burn in about 1970. Some of the fires were accidents, the inevitable result of decaying electrical systems. Many were set by landlords who would then collect the insurance money. Often they would sell the building–whether it was still inhabited or not–to “finishers” who would strip out the electrical wiring, plumbing fixtures, and anything else that could be sold for a profit before torching it. “Sometimes there’d be a note delivered telling you the place would burn that night,” one man who lived through the period told me. “Sometimes not.” People got used to sleeping with their shoes on, so that they could escape if the building began to burn.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 The Bronx was being burned down or left to rot by indifference and racial blight.

The Bronx was being burned down or left to rot by indifference and racial blight.

 A virtual War on the City: At the same time, during the late 1960s, many American cities experienced civil disorders, which included rioting and arson. Further, the nation was experiencing an explosion in the crime rate, with the greatest increases occurring in the inner cities. These factors combined with the government policies noted above to produce a landscape in the South Bronx that could be accurately described as similar to that of German cities after Allied bombing at the end of World War II or London after the Blitz. But there had been no war — this Blitz had been the unwitting result of government policies that had all been justified by what were perceived as high ideals — aid to the poor, affordable housing and improved education for minority students.Some of the same factors and government policies contributed to urban decline in other communities around the nation. Central city population losses during the 1970s were the greatest of any decade since World War II, both in terms of real numbers and percentages.For the South Bronx, the result was a virtual leveling of large tracts of land, with a loss of 40 percent of its housing stock. What emerged was a landscape that has accurately compared to that of bombed out German cities after World War II. Dreams just as shattered as the buildings.
                                                                                                                                                                                                 
As a small child,4 yrs old. This would have been my perspective of the "New World".. 

As a small child,4 yrs old. This would have been my perspective of the "New World"..

 
A view of the "Burning Bronx" from a subway train.
A view of the “Burning Bronx” from a subway train.

Well, that is some story about the fairytale land overflowing with milk and honey that was our (new?)  home. When I started to gather the pictures and info I felt and intense repressed resentment that I had forgotten over the years. I loved my lush green mountain birthplace. Then, at the tender age of  four yrs old I was exposed to a war zone! Miles and miles of buildings destroyed in one form or another. Crime, rioting, drug dealing and God knows what else, was the nature of things there in the 1970′s. My heart was broken. I know can say where it was in my life when Victor became scared of the world. I must have cried for months after we landed in the hellhole you see before you. I do recall the building we lived in. It sadly stood was all by itself in the middle of a sea of crumbled bricks. Roaches the size of mice. It had to be a shock to my system when all I knew up to that point was freedom and fearlessness. in a perfect tropical island.  That perfection was traded for stench and rot. What the hell where my parents thinking???? When they saw how bad it was in New york why didn’t they just go back to what was peaceful and safe? I am in a great deal of pain over the flood of un-resolved traumas that these images have brought back to the surface. I can understand why I chose to block those times out of my mind for so long. (PRINCESS>>>Thank you!!! I am profoundly grateful to you).  I was a free spirit that could roam my red clay land without fear of any kind. Once, my grandmother came to visit and I yelled and screamed for her to take me with her. It wasn’t that I wanted to be with Grandma. I wanted to go back home to my bright sunny and happy life! I can see this now in hindsight. I sit here writing and feeling overwhelming emotions of injustice and resentment towards my parents. I was told often that I was rebellious and had a tendency of act out. I understand that “I was raging against the dying of the light”. Even as young as I was, I could tell what was good for me from what was frightful and horrifying. I resisted, for what seemed like ages, against the ugliness we found ourselves living in.

My personality of unlimited innocence and pure love was slowly being eroded by the dispair surrounding me.

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Responses

  1. Remembering can be very painful. Sometimes you don’t even realize you’ve forgotten and all of a sudden it comes flooding back in and it’s overwhelming.

    We can’t control our lives as children and we can’t change what’s already happened – and we may never understand why we weren’t taken care of the way we should expect to be taken care of as children. But once we realize that, we can take care of ourselves. I don’t want to use a cliche that’s been mocked without mercy – but we do all have an inner child that still longs to be taken care. As adults, we can do that for ouselves.

    I know you already do that for yourself when you’re searching for soft serve. :-)

    You’ve shared so much of yourself in such a short time. I hope you don’t burn out.

    I’m looking forward to more, Victor.


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