Fruit vendors can be found on every corner selling Plantains, Yucca, ginger, and coconuts. Merengue plays in the distance evoking a tropical feeling. Within the blink of an eye it is easy to forget you are in Washington Heights and not Dominican Republic. Washington Heights runs from the Harlem River on the east to the Hudson River on the west.
The neighborhood continues to grow and provide a safety net and home for those newly arrived immigrants trying to establish a life. Despite trading palm trees and warm climates for apartment buildings and train stations, the residents and stores have worked hard to maintain a sense of home. It is also a taste of culture that can easily be accessed through the BX 12, which for $2.25 can transport you into a place where culture is embraced on every corner.
“I live in Connecticut and come all the way to Washington Heights to shop,” said Yessica Amparo “You can find a lot of cheap bargains and support the local businesses at the same time.”
Stores like: “La Playa fashions,” “El Viejo Jobo restaurant,” and “San Judas Tadeo” pharmacy are small-owned businesses centered on catering to the community. San Judas Tadeo was established 20 years ago intended on selling products imported from the Dominican Republic to the local community. After ten years of being open and a change in owners, the store continues to sell the same imported products the community relies on.
“I kept the name, which originates from a saint in the Dominican Republic,” says Dilip the current storeowner. “We continue to sell the same products because people in the area rely on us. We have everything from cough syrup to creams that people grew up using.”
Maintaining a sense of home and comfort is what Washington Heights is all about. “Coming to a country where no one knows you,” said Juan Gutierrez “Is one of the scariest feelings. Not knowing what to expect and not knowing the language is difficult.” Gutierrez credits the area with providing newcomers and those visiting with a warm sense of community. The community can also provide help and support with programs like the Northern Manhattan Coalition which works with over 6,000 families on issues such as: immigration, citizenship, deportation and voter participation.
“The best thing about this area is the fact that it has everything in one place,” said Jenny Cuevas, a Bronx resident “You can turn to your community leaders for help and still get your errands done.”