Latino Leaders in NYC

Kaity Modesto

Who are you? And what do you do?

My name is Kaity Modesto, right now I started a project called Quisqueya Heights, where basically is me and my partner Led Black, the chief and editor of Uptown Collective, where we organize events to talk to young professionals about other young professionals that are doing amazing things uptown. We have had two events; the first one was at Word Up, a local bookstore in the heights, and we had panelist from different backgrounds including myself. I was talking about my research about Dominicans in WashingtonHeights. We also had Juan Camilo who is owner and founder of Dykeman beer, Rosanny Collo-Ventura who is co-chair of teachers uptown, and Jose Batista Yala who does theater production who also does work uptown that involves the LGBT community. That was last year, and this year we had one involving young entrepreneurs, Ava Rojas, founder and chief-in-editor for Gypsyinthecity.com, Avan Rosario, founder of uptown fashion week, Evericio de la Cruz, co-founder of Regali, and returning again Juan Camila of Dykeman beer.

You published a chapter about Dominicans in the Heights can you speak on what was it and why does it matter?

The chapter started off as my thesis for my undergraduate at Union college, and I started because I wanted to do a story on WashingtonHeights because I felt that there was not enough. Most of the authors that are famously known like Julia Alvarez and Junot Diaz are not from WashingtonHeights and for me since the largest capital of Dominicans live in WashingtonHeights but we still do not have any well-known authors. That kind of stuck with me, so when I proposed to the Latin American Caribbean Studies at Union where I can do a story about WashingtonHeights, they told I could but it had to be based on literature. So I had to write about a more historical literature way. That is what led me to do more research and I also interviewed residents in the community and do oral history around WashingtonHeights. It is important because it covers the area of 1992 up until now, I wrote until 2013 but it still covers up until now and how the neighborhood has been revitalized, in newspaper articles we used to see that Washington Heights was deemed as a bad neighborhood and today it is being sold as a gem, it also covers the riots that were happening in 1992, even myself being from Washington Heights I did not know it was so bad because I was very young, learning about that and teaching that to the millennials is very important because a lot of us do not know that those things were happening, because it is relevant to what is happening today.

Latino’s lack of a unified identity. Is that the reason why we have been cautious to support the Black Lives Matter movement?

I honestly think it is because of fear, and this idea of not wanting to proclaim one identity, some Latinos would not want to proclaim themselves as Black and some of them might identify as white. I think that also plays a role into it, other than that I am not really sure why, I think there are a lot of Latinos getting involved but in a larger scale not as much as we would like to see.

It seems that you are trying to create a network for young professionals, how did this project come about?

I started at first with my thesis and then publishing part of it, Latinos on the East Coast is a scholarly publication, I always thought this, if I was able to do a research on my community there has to be a way to present this to them. So the first event at Word Up, it was an overwhelming success, the bookstore was full up to full capacity and it was really overwhelming because we did not expect that many people to show up, are people really going to listen, so we definitely got that love, and it was because we were so passionate about it. Led said it himself, cheers to the first annual Quisqueya Heights! And I was like WHAAAT!! LED, what are you doing!!! But I was left with such a high, I was like damn, maybe we should continue having these kinds of conversations. After that I took some time off, and when I was going through work applications I noticed that my network was so small but at the same time it is so big, because I may not come from a rich family but there are many people in my community that are doing many great things and we can tap into that.

My name is David Alfredo Paulino. I graduated from SUNY Cortland with a international studies major with a concentration in Global Political Systems and my minors are Anthropology, Latin American Studies, and Asia and the Middle East.

I was born in Manhattan, NYC, but I currently live in the Bronx with my Mother, little sister, and Stepfather. Although I was born here most of my fondest memories come from my frequent visits to the Dominican Republic, and always being there. I even stayed there for a year due to my constant going back and forth, I grew to love the atmosphere there and sometimes I yearn for it more than the actual city.

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