How Bodegas Became Cultural Centers for Beauty — See Photos

One common thing everyone can agree on is this: It can’t be a bodega without “regulars”. And by that, I don’t mean the regular patrons who drop in every day to silently exchange money for cat food or coffee. No. I’m talking about people who stop at bodega as part of their day. It’s a place to meet their neighbours, to talk politics or even just spread the word with the bodeguero behind the counter. A true bodega is, at least during certain times of the day, a local social hub. Community is part of its DNA.

Although the bodega is now a part of New York like the Yankees or MetroCard, few realize its origins are uniquely Nuyorican, the distinct transformation to Puerto Rican culture that has evolved as a part of the mass migration from the island to New York City. Puerto Ricans have moved to New York since they became US citizens during World War I. widely expanded. As did
The proliferation of bodegas stockpiles familiar tropical foods not easily found in American supermarkets.

Small in size, bodega is for newcomers, a supermarket for the soul. The snack bar offers shredded meats, but sometimes, “home-made” dishes. The aisles are stocked with groceries, in addition to votive candles, Agua de Florida, medicine cabinet staples, toiletries, and even, sometimes, Latin music recordings. In short, bodega doesn’t carry everything, but
it carried everything needed to keep a good Puerto Rican home in this new place. And it provides community. According to Caribbean history scholar Carlos Sanabria in his book Bodega: A Foundation of Puerto Rican Barrios, bodega becomes the place where recent arrivals can find news about available rental apartments or jobs. And, because they are largely family-run, owner-run businesses, many bodegueros will allow customers to shop on credit. But what makes bodega so special and unique, and still alive today, is that it was more than just a place for commerce. It’s a place where you know your neighbor and your neighbor’s children matter. It’s a place vibrant with life, just like the island of Puerto Rico itself. How Bodegas Became Cultural Centers for Beauty — See Photos

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