Bronxites look back beyond the burning


The most insulting aspect of the media’s coverage of the South Bronx in the 1970s and 1980s is that it portrayed Bronxites as helpless.

So says David Gonzalez, who grew up on Beck Street in Longwood and currently lives in Riverdale. 

 “The borough got this reputation for almost being beyond salvation, being beyond hope,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “In our worst moments of our history, you know, the seeds for the borough’s comeback were there. The seeds were there.”

Mr. Gonzalez is one of six Puerto Rican photographers — dubbed Seis del Sur for the exhibit running through Friday, March 8 at the Bronx Documentary Center in Melrose — who took pictures of the Bronx during the borough’s most infamous era and who offer a different thesis for the Bronx.

Though they didn’t know each other then, they have come together as adults to show their photos of life in the late 1970s and early 1980s. From notorious scenes of rubble and devastation to rarely seen shots of citizens working to get by and communities fighting back, Seis del Sur offers a rare look at the life, not just the destruction, of the South Bronx. 

The show’s opening on Saturday at the Bronx Documentary Center was a Who’s Who of Bronx artists and writers. Even former Bronx Borough President Freddy Ferrer stopped by to check out the black and white images hanging from the small gallery’s ceiling.

The place was so packed, the crowd overflowed onto the street, where officers from the 40th Precinct stood to monitor the scene, or in one officer’s case, sneak a peek at the photographs for himself.

“The genius of this exhibit was that they were able to create an important historic document,” said Bill Aguado, Riverdalian and longtime advocate for Bronx artists. “It’s a real celebration of South Bronx culture, Puerto Rican culture, Latino culture and it really demonstrates the elegance and the level of artistry of the professional photographer.”

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