Tenement Museum: The Immigration Reminder We All Need

Sometimes we need a reminder that America is a country of immigrants, because apparently a lot of people have forgotten. Forgotten that the only people, originally on this land were the indigenous ones. Everybody who came after, is an immigrant, even Christopher Columbus. Oh and please don’t wave your 23 and Me results in my face. I don’t care if it says you are .00003 percent Native American. It just most likely means, that some where, way way way down the line there was some mixing going on. But its so diluted now they have to scan your DNA to even get a hint of it. So lets be realistic, you either immigrated here or you arrived in chains. Either way your an immigrant.

For so many families who now call this country home, their American story began in New York City. Millions immigrated and lived in the crowded segregated neighborhoods inside the five boroughs. The Tenement Museum tells the story of those people, their families, and how they helped shape this city and how the city shaped them.   

The Museum has recreated the apartments and businesses that occupied the premises of the iconic Lower East Side, and tells the real life stories of the people who resided and worked there.

In 2017 the museum expanded and added a new building and a new exhibit, UNDER ONE ROOF. Since 1888, 103 Orchard st. has housed the ever changing population of the area. Initially referred to as The Lower East Side in the 1900s and predominantly Jewish, It became know as Loisaida in the 1960s and was mostly hispanic. Then it finally became, Chinatown in the 1980s. These communities overlapped, and the exhibit offers a glimpse into the families and cultures that defined the neighborhood.

One of the journeys documented in UNDER ONE ROOF, is Puerto Rican immigrant Ramonita Rivera Saez. The mother of two was part of the more than half a million people who left the Caribbean Island and came to New York in between 1940 and 1960.

The exhibit follows Ramonita and her two boys lives in building 103 and beyond. It also hilites how they held on to their traditions and beliefs, while adapting to their new home land.

Its a fascinating look at how New York has not only changed but also how immigration continues to evolve. When Fred Trump arrived in America from Germany building 103 was still part of the Lower East Side. Hopefully his son will stop by the Tenement Museum one day so he can get a reminder that when families arrived in NYC back then, they could always find a place to call home… together.

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