El Museo del Barrio: Latin America in NYC

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New York’s always been more of a salad bowl than a melting pot, with each ethnic group maintaining its traditions while interacting with others to create a place that’s creative, eclectic, and never boring. While initially led by immigrants from Puerto Rico, the city’s Latin American population now includes people from dozens of Spanish speaking countries, and the best place to learn about their history, culture, and art is by paying a visit to El Museo del Barrio. This fascinating museum in Spanish Harlem makes a great family day activity, because you never know what you’re going to see next. Let your first exhibit be the aptly-named Museum Starter Kit: Open With Care, which chronicles how artist Raphael Montañez Ortiz founded the museum in 1969 as a place to show the work of Latin American artists at a time when they were underrepresented in larger museums and galleries. His sculpture, Find #21: The Aftermath (1961), will elicit more than a few gasps from your kids: it’s a destroyed sofa, with springs and stuffing sticking out like so much chaos. Then check out Presencia: Works from El Museo’s Permanent Collection, with the exotic figurine sculptures and masks of Luis Mendez and the interpretations of “lucha libre” wrestlers by Shaun El C. Leonardo. And see the schedule for special events. The kids will go mad for Mad About Libros, where stories come to life through art, storytelling, and workshops. Before you leave, pop into La Tienda, the museum gift shop, where you can buy yourself some one-of-a-kind jewelry or colorful prints to decorate your bedroom while the kids scare each other with authentic masks.

Related: Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s Favorite Places in Harlem

El Museo del Barrio

1230 5th Ave New York NY 10029

(212) 831-7272

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