Salsa and Latin disco music had people twirling and swiveling their hips on Wednesday night at “Uptown Bounce,” the first of four weekly block parties presented by El Museo del Barrio and the Museum of the City of New York, neighbors on the northern end of Museum Mile. Salsa was created by Cuban and Puerto Rican immigrants in East Harlem during a period in the 1960s of profound social change, so the organizers saw fit to focus their programming on the struggles facing Latinx people today.
A day of rain forced the festivities inside this week, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of the dancer Franck Muhel, whose dynamic footwork was on display, or of those dancing underneath an installation titled “Starlight,” by the Cooper Joseph Studio, now at the Museum of the City of New York. That museum hosted Mujeres en Movimiento, an advocacy group of Spanish-speaking mothers, who provided information on immigration programs.
Just across 104th Street, at El Museo del Barrio, the arts collective Sociedad organized a three-part exhibition that included a room set up as a Caribbean social club — with a pool table, dominoes and an area to smoke cigars. One artist’s installation was a nod to the old photo studio his grandmother used to stage photographs that she would then send to her family in Puerto Rico. In the museum’s atrium, the windows were partly covered with signs from the “Families Belong Together” protests last month.
Before settling in to D.J. the evening’s last hour, Loira Limbal, a.k.a. DJ Layla — from “A Party Called Rosie Perez,” a D.J. collective celebrating traditional Latinx club culture — and other panelists discussed the negative effects gentrification can have on Latinx communities.
As the end of the night approached, attendees reveled in the richness of the Latinx culture that preceded this one all while thrumming güiras and shaking tambourines and maracas to the merengue and salsa music that was blasting from the speakers. The festivities ended with a reminder that “Uptown Bounce” will return next Wednesday, when, weather permitting, the festivities will take place outdoors, and female empowerment will be the focus of the programming.