As tens of thousands crossed into the Spanish Harlem stretch of the New York City Marathon in 2009, runners and onlookers alike witnessed for the first time a new canyon of heroes. Images of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Rosa Parks, Pedro Albizu Campos, Julia de Burgos, Malcolm X, Vito Marcantonio and Emiliano Zapata were seen on banners measuring 8 feet high by 3 feet across hung across dozens of lamp poles.
The mounting of those banners in October of 2008 marked the first campaign and products out of the Uptown Works program, founded earlier that year by Rafael Merino Cortés under a joint development agreement with EHBCC to create tourism, arts, cultural education campaigns, and marketing & advertisement for the organization, its clients, cultural centers and other charity institutions, and special events. As executive director, Nelson Garcia, Jr. was able to allocate funds for development with the help of Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, one of the first advocates for the program.
“This bold program speaks to both the old and new generations of our community, as well as to vistors with a positive voice. We could have created a ‘safe,’ bland and generic campaign. But we wanted to get people to take notice, to talk. This is an audacious visual testament of what this community is about,” said Mr. Merino. “What makes New York City the greatest city in the world is its cultural tapestry, entrepreneurial spirit, fortitude and cosmopolitan flair. This city is the epitome of the immigrant experience; it is the ‘gold standard’ of what a global community means. And this is not the result of some absurd ‘melting pot’ idea, but rather the preservation and nurturing of different cultures, different histories and different aspirations co-existing in one place. You have Little Italy, Chinatown, Harlem and the South Bronx, among others. North of 96 Street and East of Fifth Avenue, you have East Harlem, better known as Spanish Harlem and, also known as El Barrio.”
“El Barrio Means…” invites people to explore what moves us, what powers us, what inspires us and what we look forward to. But this campaign is just the beginning. The marketing and media development initiative will embrace other campaigns and other initiatives that will be open to the community. This initiative represents an engaging opportunity to display the spirit, aspirations, assets and opportunities of this wonderfully diverse neighborhood.
The Banner Program is part of EHBCC’s portfolio of marketing, tourism and media development products and services focusing on the El Barrio/ East Harlem section of New York City – the “Hub of the America.