This Cafe in New York is Home to Groundbreaking Latino Poetry

Isaac Vallenilla
 | October 14, 2022

Credit: Nuestro Stories

Welcoming you to the Nuyorican Poets Café is the enigmatic face of Pedro Pietri alongside other figures dressed in white suits, decorating the mural at East Third Street in Alphabet City.

The Nuyorican Poets Café is now an important meeting point for Latino artists in New York – and anyone looking for a place to express themselves through art.

The cafe was born as a necessity for a group of young Latinos in a tumultuous and chaotic New York in the 70s. It all started in the living room of Miguel Algarín, a native-born Puerto Rican raised on the Lower East Side, with Miguel Piñero, Pedro Pietri, and Lucky Cienfuegos, an emerging group of poets who embodied their identity and struggles in a predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood.

Miguel Algarín’s living room became too small and the group began to rent an Irish pub, until finally, in the early 80s, they settled in that East Third Street location.

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Over the decades, the Nuyorican Poets Café has established itself as an important cultural institution. It hosts poetry recitals, open mics, Latin jazz and hip-hop concerts, theatrical performances, educational programs, and visual art exhibits.

This has allowed The Nuyorican Café to collect valuable awards within the artistic community, such as the National Poetry Slam in 1998, the Zagat Awards of Distinction, and the Voice Literary Hits Book Award, among others.

  • The cafe has hosted several generations of artists of color, including writers like Nancy Mercado, Paul Beatty, and Willie Perdomo as well as singer Danny Rivera and rapper MF Doom.
  • The term “Nuyorican” is a blend of “New York Puerto Rican” or “Neo-Rican,” which was used by native Puerto Ricans to identify Puerto Ricans in New York City.
  • The Nuyorican Poets Café was the home of LGBTQ+ activist Emanuel Xavier.
  • Dominican-American poet Elizabeth Acevedo, the winner of the 2018 National Book Award for Young People’s Fiction, made her first appearance at the cafe when she was 15 years old.

Address: 236 East 3rd Street

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