Eight Ethnic Enclaves You Oughta Know 


Sure there have been stories written about the Greeks, films made in Little Italy and arias devoted to the Chinese in America. But what of those immigrant groups whose numbers or cultural isolation has precluded New York mytholgizing?  We here at The L hope to take a small step in redressing that imbalance as we pay tribute to those under-the-radar immigrant groups. Here’s to you, Gjèrgji!


The Filipinos


Stomping  Grounds
The biggest concentration of Filipinos is in Woodside, Queens, but other nabes include Flushing, Hollis, Queens Village and the area around 14th Street and First Avenue in Manhattan — probably because of its proximity to large area hospitals (turns out a disproportionate number of immigrant Filipinos are qualified nurses — who knew?).  

Back Story
Not many Filipinos came to New York until the 1960s when the booming American economy thirsted for skilled workers. Many who came were doctors, engineers, accountants and nurses. The reign of dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda in the 70s led to a whole new wave of immigrants fleeing their homeland. They are considered the “invisible minority” because of their ease at assimilating into the culture of their former colonial rulers (1898-1946), English fluency and often Spanish-sounding surnames. Filipinos — whose native language is Tagalog — currently number about 45,000.

Cultural Claims to Fame
The Philippines was a region dominated by foreign powers — first the Spanish then the Americans — and has remained economically dependent on First World nations. Probably its most famous image is of a country in the grips of Mr. Crazypants and his footwear-coveting wife. A modern day Marie Antoinette in stilettos, Imelda’s ideas of governance were as woefully out of touch as her bouffant hairstyle. An already poor country was bankrupted by their criminally free-spending ways and unfortunately the image of a dysfunctional banana republic in the tropics has clung to them like a sweat-soaked undershirt. Also the 1975 Ali/Frazier “Thrilla in Manila” fight helped put the country on the Western radar — but sadly during the Marcos era.

Cornershop
The Phil-Am Foodmart (70-02 Roosevelt Ave) which sells Filipino-themed groceries, baked goods, and fresh sausages.


A Taste of the Old Country
Filipinos love their meat. I remember going to a Fillipino buffet once and asking what each dish consisted of — after hearing the word “pork” uttered like a carnivore’s mantra I gave up and just chowed down. It was delicious by the way. Top notch Filipino BBQ can be had at Ihawan, (40-06 70th St) around the corner from Phil-Am Foodmart, right near Roosevelt Avenue.

Famous Sons and Daughters
Perhaps less well known than the evil Marcoses, Corazon Aquino is way more inspiring. The widow of murdered political exile Benigno Aquino, Corazon led the movement to oust Ferdinand and Imelda from power, leading to their eventual conviction on charges of bilking the country out of hundreds of millions of dollars. On a lighter note there’s Pedro Flores, known as the father of the yo-yo.

Jason Bogdaneris


The Trinidadians and Tobagonians

Stomping Grounds
On Brooklyn’s Flatbush Avenue (between Beverly Road and Empire Blvd., depending on who you talk to) is one of the epicenters of Afro-Caribbean culture in NYC, and you can find plenty of Trinidad and Tobago establishments amid shops and restaurants from all over the West Indies.

Back Story
Trinidadians and Tobagonians first started showing up in New York at the turn of the last century, in search of economic betterment and opportunity. Most settled in Harlem and Bed-Stuy, and by the 1930s, Trinidadians had founded the largest black insurance company in the city and were playing major roles in the Afro-Caribbean immigrant community. Immigration spiked in the 1970s and began to include more Indo-Trinidadians, most of whom settled in the Richmond Hill area of Queens. Afro-Trinidadians have since moved to the area around Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, which is home to a large Caribbean community.

Cultural Claim to Fame
Calypso! It’s true, from Harry Belafonte’s mainstream renderings to the lively steel drum excitement of the West Indian Carnival, calypso is a T and T tradition. And New York City had a large part to play in its growth, as a number of legendary “chantwells” (calypso singers) like Mighty Sparrow and the Duke of Iron made names for themselves recording and playing at venues like the Village Vanguard in the 1940s and 50s. The tradition carries on every year in West Indian Labor Day parade. 

Cornershop
Visiting Trinidad and Tobago Country Foods (1173 Nostrand Ave) is like traveling to Port of Spain by subway (P.O.S. is the capital of T and T btw, fyi). You can pick up all kinds of T and T delicacies in this welcoming little grocery, including taro leaves, from which you can make a savor sahina fritter that you drizzle with hot sauce.

A Taste of the Old Country
Never had a roti? You poor soul. Somewhere between Indian nan and a French crepe, the roti is filled with delicious curries. Varieties ranging from pumpkin to lamb to the King Crab Roti are the specialty at Nio’s Trinidad Roti Shop
(2702 Church Ave). You can’t really call yourself a New Yorker until you’ve made the trip down to Nio’s.


Famous Sons
As mentioned above, the Duke of Iron, aka the King of Calypso, aka Wilmouth Houdini, moved to New York in the 1920s and established himself as a calypso giant, touring Europe with his band and eventually taking a residency at the Jamaica Room. More recently, T and T immigrant Roger Toussaint has achieved a good deal of notoriety as the aggressive leader of the Transit Workers Union, and may continue to make frontpage headlines as another agreement is sought with the MTA.

Jason Bogdaneris


The Albanians

Stomping Grounds
Initially, three separate communities settled in neighborhoods based on religious affiliation: Catholics on South Fordham Road in the Bronx, Muslims in Central Brooklyn and Eastern Orthodox in Jamaica, Queens. The biggest concentration of Albanians  resides along Lydig Avenue in the Bronx.

Back Story
Unskilled workers and peasants made their way here and found work in factories making shoes, glass and textiles. After WWI, another wave of refugees and exiles came to the city and in the 1950s. They probably number only about 25,000 these days.

Cultural Claim to Fame
Long shrouded behind the cloak of totalitarian rule, they have since become synonymous with cultural inscrutability. Ruled by Stalinist Party Boss Enver Hoxha for four decades until his death in 1985, Albania was transformed from a semi-feudal regime into an industrialized, literate basket case. Choosing to isolate itself completely from all foreign influences has meant that Albanians are an eccentric lot and probably won’t get your references to Ed Koch or Starsky & Hutch.


A Taste of the Old Country
Albanians of all religious affiliations love that flakey, oven-baked confection the Burek — found at Burektorja Dukagjini (758 Lydig Ave) in the heart of A-Town (ok, no one really calls it that) or House of Pizza in Astoria (42-20 30th Ave).

Cornershop
Try the Albania supermarket (770 Hunts Point Ave, Bronx) and gather the ingredients for Fergesa, aka “grease soup,” or pick up some Kos, Balkan-style yogurt — good for sick bellies that have ingested too much grease.

Famous Son
John Belushi, the buffoonish genius of Saturday Night Live and Animal House fame, was of Albanian ancestry. His dad came to Chicago in 1934 from the village of Qytezë. And no, Jim Belushi, does not count.

Amy Sather


The Peruvians

Stomping Grounds

Roosevelt Avenue (especially at 82nd Street) is the main pipeline that serves the Peruvian community of Jackson Heights. And while it certainly is not strictly Peruvian, there are many shops and services catering to the South American populations who live there.

Back Story
The first significant recorded migration of Peruvians in New York City came in the 1970s and continued to grow, especially during the political crisis that befell the country through the late 1980s and early 90s in the form of armed conflict between the Maoist guerilla movement, Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), and the Peruvian government. Once settled in America (mainly in the outer boroughs), however, the most serious conflicts have been about where to find the best Peruvian chicken.

Cultural Claim to Fame
The Peruvian town of Arequipa is credited with the creation of Yaravi, a type of a capella singing. The song “El Condor Pasa”(an example of this style of music) was made popular by Simon and Garfunkel and made famous when it was featured in the movie The Graduate.

A Taste of the Old Country
As mentioned above, the debate about who really has the best Peruvian chicken in New York is a hot one. But while the other restaurants get their panties in a twist perfecting their precious chicken, New York’s oldest Peruvian restaurant Inti Raymi (86-14 37th Ave) opened in 1976, stands quietly by, offering up great dishes like Choclo Peruano con Queso (Peruvian corn with white cheese and sliced potatoes) and Papa Rellena — a crispy mashed potato stuffed with meat. And yes, they have chicken, too.

Cornershop
The  place to pick up every kind of South American specialty food you could ever need is Casa Rivera Grocery (40-17 82nd St) They have a huge selection of marbled cuts of meat and a deli that serves everything from chorizo con arepa (sausage with corn cake) to papaya juice.

Famous Son
Mario Vargas Llosa is Peru’s most notable novelist, having published such acclaimed works as The Green House, which beat out Garcia Marquez in competition for the Romulo Gallegos International Novel Prize in 1967, and Conversations in the Cathedral — a four-volume work set in Peru in the 1950s.

Amy Sather


The Senegalese

Stomping Grounds
116th Street between Nicholas and Eighth Avenues in Harlem is home to a vibrant French-West African community, which also includes natives of the Ivory Coast.

Back Story
The late 1970s and early 80s saw a larger influx of immigrants from Senegal to New York than ever before — due mostly to severe drought and a subsequent economic crisis that left the former French colony reeling.

Cornershop
This generically titled African Grocery (84 E 116th St) carries a nice assortment of foodstuffs useful for making traditional Senegalese dishes, not to mention a wide variety of exotic veggies that are hard to find in Manhattan. So swing by, get some yams and go nuts!

Cultural Claim to Fame
The Senegalese helped introduce the Jembe to the Western world. For those of you who don’t know, the Jembe is an instrument that looks a lot like a bongo drum, but with a more intense sound. If you really want to experience this sound, but can’t afford the airfare to Africa, don’t fret — on a sunny day you can hear them played on politically correct quads everywhere. Maybe you’ll get lucky and catch some live, honest-to-goodness Jembe as Senegalese Afro-jazz master Abdou M’Boup takes the stage April 12 at Sweet Rhythm (88 Seventh Ave South). Jump up!

A Taste of the Old Country
Although the decor might make you feel more like you’re in the Urban Jungle than in the African bush, the food at Le Baobab (126 W 116th St) more than makes up for the lack of aesthetic authenticity. With their scrumptious national dish tiebou djenne, otherwise known as cheb (which is a delicious cousin to paella) and their chicken and seafood yaasas, you’ll think you’re in Dakar.

Famous Son
Ousmane Sembene is called the Father of African Film. He was the first sub-Saharan African director to produce and release his own film called La Noire de... which won the Jean Vigo Prize.

Amy Sather


The Turkish

Stomping Grounds
The Turkish community in New York is fairly diffuse, with concentrations in Brighton Beach (Brooklyn), Sunnyside and Richmond Hill (Queens). But one of the central meeting points is in Bay Ridge-Borough Park, at the Fatih Mosque, a former movie palace with “Oriental” architectural stylings that have since been reconstituted as part of the holy edifice — how convenient.

Back Story
There are nearly 100,000 Turks in New York, after more than a hundred years of immigration, beginning with those leaving the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th century. Some of them are Anatolian (the mainland), some of them are Cypriot (the island), but as long as you can say “merhaba,” you’ll probably be fine. (That’s “hello,” dumbass.)

Cultural Claim to Fame
Some might contest that 80s camp classic Turkish Star Wars, in which the George Lucas film is re-shot entirely in Turkish, is the greatest thing to ever come out of Turkey; some might find that suggestion offensive. We’re going to play it safe and declare our hearty enjoyment of both Turkish Delight and Turkish kebab.

A Taste of the Old Country
Speaking of Turkish delicacies, Tacis Beyti in Gravesend (1955 Coney Island Ave) is an unassuming little restaurant more concerned with quality than ambiance — but that’s a good thing. The sigara boregi — cigar-shaped, feta-filled phyllo fried to a golden brown — are even better than they sound.

Cornershop
It’s hard to nail down just one, but if you’re interested in a little tour of Turkish groceries, you can head to Ocean Avenue in the northern part of Brighton Beach and stock up on sweet delights at Sultan Market (2732), Black Sea Specialty Market (2734), Efe Imported Foods (2741), and a few blocks to the west there’s Anatolia Pastanesi (2678 Coney Island Ave).

Famous Son
Ahmet Ertegun was one of the founders of a little company called Atlantic Records; he also owned the soccer team the New York Cosmos for 15 years.

Nora Lynch


The Ecuadorians

Stomping Grounds
Queens is home to the majority of the city’s Ecuadorian immigrants. They’re part of the large group of immigrants who have settled along the 7 train, an area known as the “International Express,” and includes Flushing, Astoria, Jackson Heights, Corona, Woodside and Sunnyside.

Back Story
Ecuadorians didn’t start arriving in the city in any significant numbers until the early 1960s. But it was the Latin debt crisis of the 1980s that led to its immigrant population nearly doubling — from 39,000 at the start of the decade to about 72,000 at the end of it. High estimates place the current number (including high numbers of undocumented workers) at 150,000.

Cultural Claim to Fame
Thank the Ecuadorians for the famous Panama hat. Rumored to have been named the Panama due to the development of the Panama Canal, genuine Panamas are an exclusive product of Ecuador. They are made by hand-weaving straw found in a plant called the carludovica palmata. The brimmed hats are great for blocking the sun but Panamas are also part of a classic cool look — think Hemingway, Bogey and Django Reinhardt. An ecological wonderland, Galapagos Islands, part of Ecuador, is known for its unique species of animals and plants and the inspiration behind Darwin’s theory of evolution.  Galapagos’  animals have no fear of people, allowing visitors to do things like swim beside the sea lions.

A Taste of the Old Country
Ecuadorian food trucks on Jackson Height’s Warren Street bring new meaning to grabbing food on the go. The parked trucks sell everything from grilled corn to delicacies such as beef tongue (ew!). For a sit-down meal, there’s La Picada Azuaya (8419 37th Ave) also in Jackson Heights, which serves soups, ceviche, and llapingachos (potato and cheese pancakes).

Cornershop
If it tastes like chicken it’s probably chicken. But not in the case of Cuy, or roasted guinea pig, a delicacy in Ecuador. You can find frozen Cuy as well as other Latin imported foods at Los Paisanos (79-16 Roosevelt Avenue) in Jackson Heights.

Famous Daughter
The notorious Mouseketeer turned pop mega-sensation Christina Aguilera owes her biracial appeal to her father, Ecuadorian born Fausto. In 2000, Aguilera (of Genie In A Bottle and Dirrty fame) had released a Spanish language album Mi Reflejo even though she was far from fluent and had the aid of a language tutor.

Helen Matatov


The Brazilians

Stomping  Grounds
Although the highest concentration of Brazilians in New York is probably in Astoria, there’s an interesting little stronghold of Brazilian commerce on West 46th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.

Back Story
For decades, up until the 1970s, a troubled economy made travel difficult for Brazilians. But, with a stronger currency they were able to move around a bit more, in search of (you guessed it) more money to send back home.

Cultural Claim to Fame
Beautiful people. Though there are tons of famous Brazilian models, there is one who stands out among them all. At the age of 14, while buying a Big Mac in a Sao Paulo McDonald’s, Gisele Bündchen was snatched up by an agent at Elite Modeling, and whisked off to our fair city. Thankfully, many more of her comely compatriots followed.

Cornershop
Right across the street from Ipanema (see right) on the second floor, is a bathing suit shop that boasts “Swimwear 365 Days A Year.” But if you’re looking for some conceptual Calvin Klein cover-up, you better keep walking north to Buzios Boutique  (20 W 46th St) These swimsuits are not for skinny, pasty-faced fashionistas, think bright colors, revealing cuts. You gotta have a tan, you gotta have some curves, you gotta be Brazil.

A Taste of the Old Country
Feijoada. You may not be able to pronounce it, but if you want to know what Brazil tastes like, you’ve got to try it. What is it? A super-thick stew made with black beans and different kinds of delicious dried and smoked meats. It’s Brazil’s national dish and can be found at Ipanema (13 W 46th St)

Famous Daughter
Tall and thin and young and lovely, Astrud Gilberto’s marriage to the “father of Bossa Nova” Joao Gilberto brought her to New York City in 1964, where she was invited by her then-husband to sing (The Girl From Ipanema) on his album with Stan Getz. Makeout sessions were vastly
improved thereafter.

Amy Sather

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