Mirror Manifesto

On the future of El Museo del Barrio and who it belongs to. A working document.


The recent events unfolding at El Museo del Barrio has stirred up furious debates about the direction the museum has taken. A direction that attempts to morph the museum, founded by Puerto Rican teachers, artists, parents and community organizers, from a museum reflective of the community who founded it, to an elitist institution for Latin American art. A market driven endeavor. While a cursory glance at this maneuver might not find cause for alarm, and might even be seen as an impetus to celebrate “latinidad,” unpacking the intersections of this dilemma is necessary.

It requires us to first contend with “El Barrio’s” identity. While Puerto Ricans were instrumental in the foundation of the museum, it is not strictly a Puerto Rican museum. It is a museo “del Barrio.” Further, demographic changes in East Harlem and the overall growth of the Latinx diaspora in the last 50 years render the nationalist led push to make El Barrio mean “Puerto Rican” null. If El Museo is to be resuscitated, we must lay these claims to rest and set about addressing who we mean when we say El Barrio.

If El Barrio means neighborhood, or enclave, and we are defining the institution as encompassing a diasporic latinidad, then what we are contending with is what is now being called “Latinx.” Loosely defined, this is the Nuyorican, the Dominiyorker, the first, second, and third generations of Mexicans, Colombians, Ecuadorians, and Hondurans that make up a barrio in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and New Jersey. It is the El Salvadorian and Guatemalteco kids in Silver Springs, Maryland, the Cubans in New Jersey, the Tejanos, the Chicanos. It is the dreamers and the migrants who identify with a U.S. lived experience. It is the children of immigrants at the border and the children of recently arrived Puerto Ricans in Orlando and Pennsylvania Post- Maria, that have and will grow up here.

This is distinct from Latin America and should not be confused. For too long, this ambiguity has rendered Latinx artists invisible. Latinx artists continue to be marginalized, underrepresented, and erased. El Museo has shamelessly latched on to this ambiguity and forfeited its original mission. It has done very little as an institution to foster and cultivate Latinx Art.

The museum has failed to launch a studio residency program, it has failed to create an environment where intellectual work for us, by us, can be incubated. It has failed to cultivate diverse board members that represent the Latinx community. It has failed to expand board members beyond funding/development needs, or made sure to its boards’ institutional actions, partnerships, and programs correspond with its mission. Instead, it has responded to shallow market trends forcing Latinx artists who are struggling for visibility to try to function under the blanketed term Latin American art by virtue of their last names.

Given the continued failure of El Museo del Barrio to fully embrace its responsibility to the many diasporas that make up the Latinx communities in NYC and across North America, generations of Latinx artists pouring out of BFA, MFA, & PhD programs have come to see the El Museo as irrelevant.

Recent calls to steer the institution back towards its intended mission therefore have remained unanswered. In order to reinvigorate working and emerging Latinx artists to invest their energy in an institution that has gone out of its way to communicate that it cares nothing for their cultural production, the institution must take radical steps to more clearly define what it is. EL MUSEO DEL BARRIO MUST BE EL MUSEO DE LOS BARRIOS. It must fulfill its original mission or relinquish control to the community of Latinx scholars and artists to steer it back on course. It must DECOLONIZE.

Latinx artists, cultural workers, scholars and concerned residents reject the elitism, white washing, LGTBQIA exclusion and anti-blackness perpetrated in the museum against its own museum goers and community of artists.

-We reject the old-fashioned cultural nationalism that wants to mimic colonial hierarchical structures placing all other Latinx diasporic communities in second-class stakeholder roles ( i.e., Puerto Ricans vs. the rest ). We also call El Museo to respect and expand its collection of Puerto Rican art, and ensure this history and collection is not erased as it expands its mission and collection.

-We reject the institution’s fetishization, classist, and hollowed oversimplification of Latin American art for branding and funding purposes, particularly when these market-driven dynamics result in the systemic exclusion of Latinx art, artists and cultural workers.

-We demand the museum dedicate substantial resources to implement a residency program for emerging contemporary Latinx artists.

-We demand that the Chief Curator should be a Latinx art historian and Latinx curator, (whether this expertise is gained from an academic program, or from direct experience and recognition in the field), and that all curatorial staff at El Museo be equipped to mount exhibitions that speak to the Latinx experience.

-We demand the implementation of a decolonizing commission to independently review the collection and to make recommendations on the necessary structural changes that must be made to carry the institution into the future.

-We demand that the staff mirrors and represents the diverse Latinx communities, and that it is racially diverse. The Board of Trustees’ willful disregard of the mission of El Museo del Barrio is self-evident by their decision to hire a Director and a Chief Curator from Latin America who have no experience living in the United States and little knowledge of the art and social struggles of Puerto Ricans and Latin Americans in the United States.

-We demand that the board of Directors also mirrors the community and is racially diverse. If after 50 years, The Board of El Museo del Barrio only has 1 member that lives in East Harlem and no members of Dominican or Mexican- American descent, no members from the African American community is because this Board of Trustees does not want Latinx and people of color at the table and on the staff.

-We demand this public institution either be held accountable to its public mission, or else call the city to stop the public funding of a board practicing exclusion.

The current board must be restructured with members that are committed to the mission of El Museo del Barrio and reflect the Latinx population in New York and the United States.

The future belongs to the generations of Latinx artists emerging in more disparate pockets throughout the US, poised to shape U.S. culture and to present a vision not yet materialized. El Museo Del Barrio must comply or be rendered irrelevant.

Finally — Decades ago one could make the case that El Museo Del Barrio had a responsibility to exhibit art from Latin America because no other museums in New York were doing so. However, thanks to the patronage of wealthy Latin American collectors, Latin American art has generous institutional support in New York’s most prestigious museums. The Museum of Modern Art is home to the Cisneros Research Institute for the Study of Latin American Art; the director of the institute serves as MOMA’s curator of Latin American art and there are endowed curatorial positions at The Metropolitan Museum. Given that art from Latin America is well represented and supported in New York, it is timely and necessary for El Museo del Barrio to re-dedicate itself to its unique mission of exhibiting and collecting art by Puerto Ricans and Latin Americans living in the United States—in other words, that it focuses on Latinx art and artists.

Our children, young artists, and arts professionals want and need to see a future for themselves at El Museo del Barrio. That will not happen if El Museo del Barrio is demonstrating that only upper class people from Latin America will gain employment there, and that art made in Latin America is more important to exhibit than art made by Latinx peoples in the United States. Monthly entertainment programs such as Super Sábado are not substantive community engagement strategies. Unlike other major museums in the city and beyond, El Museo del Barrio does not offer artists residencies or have professional development programs for young curators and scholars.

How can we abide the absurdity that El Museo del Barrio was the first Puerto Rican/Latinx museum in the USA and after 50 years lags behind other museums that are increasing their collections of Latinx art and employing Latinx arts professionals?

We need change now.


Signatures in alphabetical order as of 11:00am, Tuesday, March 28, 2019.

The list of signatures will be updated throughout the day.

Adrián Rivas Owner Form Follows and Twin Palms Exhibitions Los Angeles, CA
Adrián Román Latinx Visual Artist Viajero New York, NY
Adriana M Garriga-López Associate Professor of Anthropology Kalamazoo College Kalamazoo, Michigan
Adriana Zavala Associate Professor Tufts University Medford, MA
Alan Aja Associate Professor, Department of Puerto Rican & Latino Studies Brooklyn College (CUNY) Brooklyn, NY
Aldo A. Lauria Santiago Profesor Rutgers University New York, NY
Alejandra Estrada Student New York University New York City
Alejandro Gonzalez y Zurbano  Creative Director 
New York, NY
Alex D. Fernández Artist/Educator/Activist/Scholar Fdezart Bronx, NY
Alex Gil Digital Scholarship Librarian Columbia University New York, NY
Alexis Duque Artist
New York, NY
Alicia Grullón Artist
New York, NY
Amalia Mesa-Bains Mac Arthur Fellow and Professor Emerita California State University Monterey Bay San Juan Bautista, CA
Amy Crum Graduate Student/Independent Curator Tulane University New Orleans, LA
Ana De Orbegoso Visual Artist
New York, NY
Anabelle Rodríguez Artist-Curator The ~curARTorial Lab Philadelphia 
Ananda Cohen-Aponte Associate Professor of Art History Cornell University Ithaca, NY
Andrea Gordillo

New York, NY
Andrew Viñales PhD Student 
New York, NY
Anima Correa Artist 
New York, NY
Arlene Dávila Professor, Anthropology and SCA NYU New York, NY
Arnaldo Cruz-Malavé  Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature  Fordham University New York, NY
Asere Bello CHE De Mundo Crystal HoUse New York, NY
Bertie Ferdman Associate Professor  CUNY New York, NY
Bettina Pérez Curator and artist
Montréal, Qc
Blanka Amezkua Artist AAA3A Bronx, NY
Bonafide Rojas Poet & Musician Grand Concourse Press Bronx, NY
Brenda Cruz Díaz Artist
Madrid, Spain
Brooke Edgecombe English Learner Teacher/Department Chair District of Columbia Public Schools Washington, D.C.
Carina del Valle Schorske Writer & Doctoral Candidate  Columbia University  New York, NY
Carla España Bilingual Education Clinical Doctoral Lecturer Hunter College, CUNY New York, NY
Carlos D. Nazario Jr Partner  Consultants White Plains, NY 
Carlos Jesús Martínez Dominguez  Artist Edicator  Various including El Museo del BARRIO New York, NY
Carlos Manuel Rivera Professor and Performance Artist Bronx Community College, City University of New York Bronx, NY
Carol Correa  Associate Director Muliticultural Affairs  Trinity College  Hartford
Catherine Gund Filmmaker Aubin Pictures New York City
César Ortiz Manager CCNY  New York, NY
Charlene Villaseñor Black Professor UCLA Los Angeles, CA
Chelsea Ramirez Artist
Cheryl Finley Associate Professor of African American Art Cornell University Ithaca, NY
Chris Yong-Garcia Founder LatinLover Food & Travel Magazine New York, NY
Christina Fernández  Artist/Professor  Cerritos College Norwalk, CA
Cindy Bautista-Thomas  Associate Director 
New York, NY
Coco López Artist
New York, NY
Constance Cortez Professor & Director School of Art, UTRGV Edinberg, TX
David Antonio Cruz  Artist/ Assistant Professor of Painting  SMFA at Tufts University  Brooklyn, NY
Deborah Quiñones Founder Friends of Art Park New York, NY
Devin Kenny Artist
Houston, TX
Dr. Ariana Hernández-Reguant

Miami, FL
Dr. Marta Moreno Vega President Creative Justice Initiative New York, NY
Dr. Vanessa K. Valdés Director, Black Studies Program The City College of New York-CUNY New York, NY
Ed García Conde Editor / Founder  Welcome2TheBronx  Bronx 
Eddie Marrero Actor
New York, NY
Edgardo Miranda-Rodríguez Creative Director Somos Arte Brooklyn, NY
Elena Machado Sáez Professor of English Bucknell University Lewisburg, PA
Elisa Istueta Consultant 
New York
Eliud Martínez Artist & writer  En Foco New York, NY
Elizabeth Ferrer Curator and author
Brooklyn, NY
Emilia Quiñones Assistant professor University of Puerto Rico Rincón, PR
Emmanuel García Co-founder Vives Q Chicago
Eugenia Vargas Pereira Artist Independent Santiago, Chile / Miami, Florida, USA.
Eva Mayhabal Davis Curator, Advocate, Cultural Producer 
New York, NY
Felix Peres Small Business Owner
New York, NY
Firelei Báez LatinX Artist
New York
Francisco Casablanca  Architect 
New York, NY
Francisco Esteva MD, PhD
New York, NY
Frank Romagosa

San Francisco, CA
Fred Myers Professor of Anthropology  New York University  New York, NY
Gabriel Fantauzzi CEO Ngozy.com Mount Vernon
Gerardo Cotto
FEMA New York, NY
Gi Gaskin Retired nyc public school teacher blackandwanderlust.com brooklyn ny
Gina Goico Artist, Educator, Activist
Bronx, NY
Giselle Mercier Deputy Director Department of Culture and Citizen Education ofbthe Mayor’s Office in Panama Mayor’s Office, Panama, Republic of Panamá  Panamá
Gloria E. Rivera MA Bronx, New York
Glorya F. Cabrera Chicana/Latina/Indigenous Entreprenuer Gloryalicious HandCrafts New York, NY
Grant Aumell
Mott Haven
Guillermo Rodríguez  Artist
San Juan, PR
Hatuey Ramos-Fermín Artist
Bronx, NY
Iliana Emilia García Artist Brooklyn, NY
Ivan Sikic Artist
Brooklyn, NY
Ivelyse Andino CEO Radical Health Bronx, NY
Jaclyn I. Torres Artist and Organizer Palante NYC New York, NY
James Barbosa Student
New York
Jan Calloway New Yorker
New York, NY
Javier Bosques Artist Artista Independiente /director Produce Model Gallery Chicago, IL
Jerry Philogene Associate Professor Dickinson College Carlisle
Jessica Enriquez NYU Undergraduate Student
Jesús-Papoleto Meléndez Poet Laureate of El Barrio
El Barrio, New York
Joevenelly Peralta

Bronx, NY
John Jota Leaños  Artist/Professor University of California, Santa Cruz San Francisco, CA
Jorge Irizarry 
Bronx, NY
José Coello Sr. President  NYSAMC Brooklyn, NY
José Ortiz Cultural Educator
New York, NY
Juan Antonio Casañas  Systems Engineer and Maker 
Colmar Manor, MD 
Juan Pinon Associate Professor New York University New York
Juan Sánchez Visual Artist:/ Professor of Art Hunter College, CUNY New York, NY
Julissa Santiago  Artist
Brooklyn, NY
Kahlila Chaar-Pérez PhD
Karen Abraham Historian
Brooklyn, NY
Karen Jaime Assistant Professor Cornell University New York, NY
Karen Mary Davalos Professor and Chair, Chicano and Latino Studies University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Minneapolis
Karen Taylor

New York, NY
Kevin Santos Artist
Kevin Taylor

Kiara Ventura  Independent Curator Artsywindow  Bronx, NY
Laura Bristol  Retired educator 
Leon Anthony James Photographer
Baltimore, MD 
Lesley A. Wolff Postdoctoral Fellow Norton Museum of Art West Palm Beach 
Lillian Jiménez Executive Director  Latino Educational Media Center  New York, NY
Lina Puerta Artist
New York, NY
Linda Fernández Founding member Amber Art and Design Philadelphia, PA 
Lisa C Soto visual artist
New York, NY
Lisette Nieves Organizer MUEVETE! Bronx, New York
Lizette Garza Program Manager & Activist
Chicago, IL
Luis Carle Photographer Artist Arts New York, NY
Luis Fernando Coss Professor University of Puerto Rico San Juan, PR
Luz Marquez Benbow Founder #IamNegrx Grew up in El Barrio live in Troy, NY
María Alexandra  Garcia Former El Museo worker
New York, NY
Maria Berrio  Artist  Maria Berrio studio  New York, NY
Maria Dominguez Artist
New York, NY
Maria Nieto Writer
Brooklyn, New York
Maria Osorio Deputy Chief Operating Officer NYC DYCD Bronx, NY
María Patricia Slee Sound Designer
Brooklyn, NY
Mariel Rolwing Montes

Brooklyn, NY
Marilisa Jiménez  Assistant professor  Lehigh University  Bethlehem, PA
Marina Ortiz Founder Virtual Boricua  New York, NY
Marina Reyes Franco Curator
San Juan, PR
Mary K. Coffey Associate Professor of Art History Dartmouth College Hanover,
Mary Valverde Commissioner ( Sculpture Seat ) Public design Commission of the City of New York New York, NY
Melissa Castillo Planas Assistant Professor of English Lehman College  New York, NY
Melody Capote Director CCCADI New York, NY
Mercedes Estrada 

New York, NY
Mikhaile Solomon Director PRIZM Miami
Mireya Loza Assistant Professor  NYU New York, NY
Miriam Jiménez Román Executive Director, AfroLatin@ Forum
New York, NY
Monxo López Assistant Adj. Professor Hunter College – South Bronx Unite Bronx, NY
Myrta Cuadra Lash Retired Executive Director Sinergia, Inc Non profit for assistance and advocacy for people with disabilities New York, NY

Nancy Raquel Mirabal Associate Professor, American Studies Department and US Latina/o Studies University of Maryland, College Park College Park
Natalia Olivares  Social worker /photographer 
Bronx, NY
Natalie Marrero Executive Director Viver Brasil Los Angeles
Natasha Acevedo Litigation Paralegal
Nayda Collazo-Llorens  Artist
Kalamazoo, MI
Nelson Maldonado-Torres Professor of Latino and Caribbean Studies and Director, Rutgers Advanced Institute for Critical Caribbean Studies Rutgers University, New Brunswick New Brunswick
Nelson Santiago  Host
Bronx, NY
Néstor David Pastor Writer/Editor/Translator
Queens, NY
Nestor Ramos Social Worker  City of NY-MICSA Brooklyn, NY
Nicholas D Mirzoeff Professor NYU NYC
Nicole Mouriño Artist 
New York, NY
Nilda Ortiz

Norma Guzmán Museum Studies graduate student
New York, NY
Pablo Delano Professor of Studio Art, Co-director, Center for Caribbean Studies Trinity College Hartford, CT
Papo Colo Director Pangea Art Republic New York, NY
Pat Zavella Professor Emerita University of California Santa Cruz
Patricia Arteaga Curatorial Assistant 
Washington, DC
Paula Sanchez-Kucukozer Manager SonJarocho.MX Bayside, NY
Pepe Coronado Artist
New York, NY
Rachell Morillo Artist and Educator 
New York, NY
Rachelle Mozman Artist Tufts University New York 
Rafael Velez Mercado Artist/instructor 
New York, NY
Randy Caban Educator DA  New York, NY
Raul Martínez Chief Creative Director  Condé Nast New York, NY
Raymond Perez Community advocate WERELBARRIO  New York, NY
Raymond Perez Founder We R El Barrio New York, NY
Rey Parla Artist
Brooklyn, NY
Rhett Lee García Figueroa MR Tranki Inc San Juan, PR
Rich Villar Poet
Pearl River, NY
Richard Morales Manager of Community Partnerships The LGBT Community Center New York, NY
Ricky Flores Photojournalist
Cortlandt Manor, New York
Ryan Mann-Hamilton Community
Sagrario Oquet Artist and art organizer Edge Zones Miami Beach, FL
Samuel Nemir Activist Queeramisu- LGBTQ Leaders of Color for Progress New York, NY
Sandra Pérez Former Executive Director AHA! Latino Arts New York, NY
Sara P. Álvarez Assistant Professor
Jackson Heights
Sarah Guillet N/a
New York, NY
Sasha Dees Curator / Writer
New York / Amsterdam 
Scherezade García-Vázquez Visual Artist and Educator
New York, NY
Shellyne Rodriguez  Artist, teacher, community organizer 
Bronx, NY
Simón Ventura Trujillo Assistant Professor New York University New York City
Sol Aramendi Artist
Queens, NY
Stephanie Mota Educator 
Bronx, NY
Stephanie Ospina

Brooklyn, NY
T. Urayoán Noel  Associate Professor, writer, and artist New York University Bronx, NY
Takara Estes Culture killer
Tanya Torres Artist
New York, NY
Teresa Basilio Director Resilient Just Technologies Brooklyn, NY
Teresita Fernández Artist 
Brooklyn, NY
Tiffany Ward Curator and Scholar
TreZure Empire Musician and Diaspora Music Educator Diaspora P.L.A.Y. Bronx, NY
Vanessa Diaz Asst. Prof.  Loyola Marymount University Los Angeles, CA
Veerle Poupeye Art Historian, Independent Curator and Writer
Kingston, Jamaica
Victoria Delaney ABD Binghamton University Binghamton
William García Medina  PhD Student  University of Kansas  Lawrence
Wilson Valentín-Escobar, Ph.D.  Associate Professor of American Studies  Hampshire College Amherst, MA
Xavier Cázares Cortéz Artist
Los Angeles, CA
Yaraní Del Valle Actor-Educator-Cultural Promoter Caicu inc. NYC
Yarimir Cabán Reyes Musician MIMA/IFE SanJuan
Yasmín Ramírez PhD Independent Curator Brooklyn, NY
Yolanda Andrade Photographer Independent Mexico
Zaire Z. Dinzey-Flores Associate Professor Rutgers University Brooklyn, NY
Zuleyka Alejandro Education Coordinator Loisaida Inc. New York, NY