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Making New York Dominican

Making New York Dominican: Small Business, Politics, and Everyday Life

Christian Krohn-Hansen
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Making New York Dominican
    Book Description:

    Large-scale emigration from the Dominican Republic began in the early 1960s, with most Dominicans settling in New York City. Since then the growth of the city's Dominican population has been staggering, now accounting for around 7 percent of the total populace. How have Dominicans influenced New York City? And, conversely, how has the move to New York affected their lives? In Making New York Dominican, Christian Krohn-Hansen considers these questions through an exploration of Dominican immigrants' economic and political practices and through their constructions of identity and belonging. Krohn-Hansen focuses especially on Dominicans in the small business sector, in particular the bodega and supermarket and taxi and black car industries. While studies of immigrant business and entrepreneurship have been predominantly quantitative, using survey data or public statistics, this work employs business ethnography to demonstrate how Dominican enterprises work, how people find economic openings, and how Dominicans who own small commercial ventures have formed political associations to promote and defend their interests. The study shows convincingly how Dominican businesses over the past three decades have made a substantial mark on New York neighborhoods and the city's political economy. Making New York Dominican is not about a Dominican enclave or a parallel sociocultural universe. It is instead about connections-between Dominican New Yorkers' economic and political practices and ways of thinking and the much larger historical, political, economic, and cultural field within which they operate. Throughout, Krohn-Hansen underscores that it is crucial to analyze four sets of processes: the immigrants' forms of work, their everyday life, their modes of participation in political life, and their negotiation and building of identities. Making New York Dominican offers an original and significant contribution to the scholarship on immigration, the Latinization of New York, and contemporary forms of globalization.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0754-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. [Illustrations]
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-28)

    It was a hot Tuesday afternoon in late August 2002, and I was in La Nueva España, a small restaurant on 207th Street in Inwood, at the northernmost point of Manhattan. The restaurant, owned and run by a Dominican, served mainly Dominican food, and most of the guests were first- and second-generation Dominican immigrants. The man sitting with me at the table was the reason I had come. These days La Nueva España functioned as his regular café. He was a friend of the owner and lived with a sister in a tenement around the corner. José Delio Marte was...

  5. PART I

    • CHAPTER 1 From Quisqueya to New York City
      (pp. 31-46)

      “Quisqueya” is the indigenous name for the Caribbean island of Hispaniola (or, in Spanish, Española), which lies between Cuba and Puerto Rico. Hispaniola is divided into two nations—the Dominican Republic (which occupies the eastern two-thirds of the island) and Haiti (which occupies the remaining western third of the island). Nowadays, Manhattan north of Harlem is often referred to as “Quisqueya on the Hudson” or “Quisqueya Heights”—Washington Heights being New York City’s name for Manhattan north of Harlem (see, for example, Duany’s title from 1994).¹

      The history of emigration from the Dominican Republic differs markedly from the pattern characteristic...

    • CHAPTER 2 Origin Stories
      (pp. 47-90)

      In 1991, Dominican immigrants owned around 80 percent of the approximately 9,000 bodegas and independent groceries controlled by Latinos in New York City (Martinez Alequin 1991; Silverman 1991). By the late 1980s, one researcher counted an average of twelve Dominican businesses per block between 157th and 191st Streets in Washington Heights (Mahler 1989); 90 percent of the cabs in Upper Manhattan in the early 1990s were owned by Dominican immigrants (Portes and Guarnizo 1991: 61). Until the early 1980s the number of economic enterprises in the city owned by Dominicans was still not very large (Guarnizo 1992: 110). Most have...

  6. PART II

    • CHAPTER 3 From Bodegas to Supermarkets
      (pp. 93-133)

      So far I have described how informants accounted for the emergence of Dominican-owned businesses in New York City and how they emphasized that Dominican immigrants had used ties with kin and friends to raise the capital needed and to develop their own economic enterprises. In this chapter and the next, I look more closely at Dominican-owned businesses’ characteristics, examining Dominican immigrants’ enterprises as configurations of practices and relations. While this chapter looks at those businesses that are typically owned by a single man or woman, or by two or three or four individuals together (such as bodegas, restaurants, and supermarkets),...

    • CHAPTER 4 From Livery Cabs to Black Cars
      (pp. 134-170)

      The basic entity in the livery industry is la base or the base, the livery-car service operation that includes a certain number of drivers.¹ The bases have mainly been a means of survival. Groups of men have pooled resources and cooperated to secure a livelihood. A large part of the process has been network driven. Groups of friends have joined forces to create a car service. In turn, the bases have functioned as meeting places, helping sustain forms of friendship. A collectively owned base includes socios and choferes particulares. The socios or partners are the drivers who own the base....


    • CHAPTER 5 Dominicans and Hispanics
      (pp. 173-200)

      As we have seen, a significant number of the Dominican immigrants in Washington Heights and elsewhere in New York are involved in forms of political activism, which is an important field. It acts as an intermediary between the everyday life of the bulk of the Dominican immigrants and the city’s more formal political activities (such as the elections). New York’s most prominent Dominican-born elected officials have had and still have strong links with grass-roots activists, clubs, and industrial bodies. Toward the end of this chapter and in the two that follow, I look more closely at the Dominican New Yorkers’...

    • CHAPTER 6 Up Against the Big Money
      (pp. 201-229)

      Politically, the city’s Dominicans are still a relatively weak group. As Torres-Saillant and Hernández concluded as late as the late 1990s, the New York City Dominican community “suffers from a political invisibility that is hardly justifiable in light of the great size of the Dominican population” (1998: 96). But that does not mean that the community’s lack of political visibility has remained unaltered. On the contrary, since the mid-1980s (and particularly since the early 1990s), the Dominican immigrants have become more and more visible. Several circumstances may explain this. First, the Dominican community has continued to increase conspicuously in size....

    • CHAPTER 7 In Search of Dignity
      (pp. 230-263)

      The previous chapter examined forms of political culture and activism in a part of New York’s Dominican community. The objective of this chapter is the same, but it will focus not on the Dominican supermarket owners but on those Dominicans who belong to the city’s livery industry, examining forms of political activity and collective action among Dominican livery drivers in the years from around 1998 onward.

      In this chapter, I want first to document that Dominican livery-cab drivers have remained politically active. I have previously shown that Dominican livery drivers took part in a set of political struggles in the...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 264-268)

    The history of the Dominicanization of New York is not primarily a history of the extremes—of flagrant failures and striking successes, dramatic defeats and great victories. It is, rather, marked by many shades of gray, but also by a good deal of hope, not to speak of patience. It has above all been created through forms of work and leisure, forms of household and family life, through forms of schooling, and forms of politics.

    In the 1960s and 1970s, a significant proportion of the Dominican immigrants in the city found work in industry—but far from all were factory...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 269-284)
    (pp. 285-298)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 299-309)
    (pp. 310-312)