Pieces of New York history at El Museo
“Nueva York,” a joint venture between El Museo del Barrio and the New-York Historical Society, takes the long view of the history of Spanish-speaking people in New York.
“We’re taking the story back to the 1600s,” said curator Marci Reaven.
On a recent tour of the exhibit, she highlighted the following pieces.
Dutch broadside (1620s)
“There was a very famous, at the time, heist of Spanish treasure by a Dutch captain named Piet Hein, where they captured a bunch of the Spanish ships in one of the harbors near Havana and raised something like 12 million guilders. [This was a public document] announcing to the world how successful the Dutch were.”
“Some of the young men who came up [from Latin America] and went to St. John’s College, which is now Fordham, learned to play baseball. One of those baseball players was a guy named Esteban Bellan, who … becomes the first Latin American baseball player in the major leagues. This is the team ball from the Troy Haymakers, the team from Troy, N.Y., that Bellan played with in 1871.”
Chase’s Velázquez painting (1899)
“A lot of Americans learned about Spain through the paintings of William Merritt Chase. Chase ... loved the painter Diego Velázquez so much that he often posed his friends and family just like a Velázquez painting. He named his daughter Helen Velázquez Chase. Here he’s dressing her up to look like a Spanish princess.”
Cuban flag (1849)
“The first Cuban flag was actually designed in New York and was flown by the publisher of the Sun newspaper. That flag was then taken [to Cuba] by Narciso Lopez, who was a really ambitious revolutionary who mounted several military expeditions.”
William McKinley portrait (1898)
“This is a painting by a man named Francisco Oller, who was a very famous Puerto Rican painter. And he paints President McKinley just a couple of months after the U.S. occupation of Puerto Rico. ... Oller paints this of McKinley in the hopes that McKinley and the U.S. will do right by Puerto Rico.”
If you go
• “Nueva York” is at El Museo through Jan. 9. 1230 Fifth Ave. at 104th St., elmuseo.org.