Nuyorican Poets Café

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The Nuyorican Poets Cafe building on East 3rd Street in Alphabet City
The exterior walls are painted by a local artist "Chico" who has done neighborhood murals for decades. Above the entry doorway hangs Diana Gitesha Hernandez's acrylic painting.

The Nuyorican Poets Cafe is a nonprofit organization in Alphabet City in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It is a bastion of the Nuyorican art movement in New York City, and has become a forum for poetry, music, hip hop, video, visual arts, comedy and theatre.[1]


Founded c. 1973, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe began operating in the East Village apartment of writer, poet, and Rutgers University professor Miguel Algarín with assistance from co-founders Miguel Piñero, Bimbo Rivas, and Lucky Cienfuegos.[1]

By 1975, the number of poets involved with the venture outgrew that space, so Algarín rented an Irish pub, the Sunshine Café on East 6th Street, and they christened it "The Nuyorican Poets Cafe". Some of the featured poets at this time included founders Miguel Algarín, Miguel Piñero and Lucky Cienfuegos. Jorge Brandon aka El Coco que Habla, Sandra María Esteves, Pedro Pietri, Bimbo Rivas, Victor Hernández Cruz, Tato Laviera, Piri Thomas, Jesús Papoleto Meléndez, and José Angel Figueroa were some of the poets featured during the mid to late 1970s. By 1980, the overflow of audiences led them to purchase their current building at 236 East 3rd Street so as to expand their activities and programs.[1] During this time the second wave of Nuyorican Poets, featured at the cafe, emerged including Nancy Mercado and Martín Espada.

In explaining the philosophy of the venture, co-founder Algarín said: "We must listen to one another. We must respect one another's habits and we must share the truth and the integrity that the voice of the poet so generously provides.[1]

In the 1990s a new group of Nuyorican poets and performing artists emerged to read at the cafe. in 2008, Daniel Gallant was appointed executive director.

In 2015, Carmen was the first full-length opera shown at the cafe, produced by IconoClassic Opera.[2]

Poets, performers, and artists[edit]

Some performing artists include Willie Perdomo, Maggie Estep, Carl Hancock Rux, Tracie Morris, Dana Bryant, Reg. E. Gaines, Paul Beatty, Edwin Torres, Raul Maldonado, Emanuel Xavier, Caridad de la Luz aka La Bruja, Mariposa (María Teresa Fernández), and Shaggy Flores.[1] Others who at one time or another have performed at the cafe include, musician, poet, playwright Mwalim (Morgan James Peters), Esmeralda Santiago, Amiri Baraka, Ishmael Reed, Ntozake Shange, 'Big Brother Wayne' Williams, Tantra Zawadi, Giannina Braschi, Zoraida Santiago, Keven Powell, Cheryl B and Daniel Dumile. The Nuyorican Poets Cafe counts poetry activists such as Bob Holman, Saul Williams, Sarah Jones, and Beau Sia as former slammasters and was the original home to the now mobile New York freestyle battle program Braggin' Rites.

Some Nuyorican poets who continue to read and perform at the cafe include Sandra María Esteves, Tato Laviera, Jesús Papoleto Melendez, Nancy Mercado, Edwin Torres, Lemon Andersen, Bonafide Rojas, Caridad de la Luz aka La Bruja, Mariposa, Jack Castillo and Diana Gitesha Hernandez . In June 2002, Nuevo Flamenco guitarists Val Ramos opened for three-time Puerto Rican Grammy nominee Danny Rivera at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.[1] Algarin, now retired from Rutgers, remains (as of 2007) a board member of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.

Visual artists which exhibited their work at the cafe include Peter Horn Sarabella, James Gross Alvarez, Andrew Castrucci, Mari Di Pedro, Maria Dominguez, Lisa Fromartz, Adrian Garcia, Maria Elena Gonzalez, Peter Horn Sarabella, Pedro Isztin, Lower East Side Girls Club, Kevork Mourad, Lloyd Oxendine, Gamaliel Ramirez, Christopher Wade Robinson, Jose Rosario, Juan Sanchez, Studio in a School Association Students, Miguel Trelles, Miguelangel Ruiz, David Troncoso, Rafael Tufino Jr, Fernando Salicrup, Marcos Dimas, The Creative Fem Exhibit with Sandra Maria Esteves, Diana Gitesha Hernandez, Shelia Prevost, Marlis Momber, Clare Ultimo, Esperanza Cortez, international documentary photographer Manuel Rivera-Ortiz, and Rob Rodriguez.


In 1994, Nuyorican Poets Cafe was the subject of a 14-minute documentary entitled Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Directed, produced and edited by Ray Santisteban, the documentary features founder Miguel Algarin along with Willie Perdomo, Ed Morales, Pedro Pietri, and Carmen Bardeguez Brown. Nuyorican Poets Cafe won "Best Documentary" at the 1995 New Latino Filmmaker's Festival in Los Angeles.[3]

In 1996, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe Poetry Slam Team was the subject of a feature-length documentary entitled SlamNation.[citation needed] Directed by Paul Devlin, the documentary follows Nuyorican poetry slam founder Bob Holman and the poets of the 1996 Nuyorican team (Saul Williams, Beau Sia, Jessica Care Moore and muMs da Schemer) as they compete in the 1996 National Poetry Slam held in Portland, Oregon. The documentary also features performances by Marc Smith, Taylor Mali, and Patricia Smith among others.


  1. ^ a b c d e f About the Nuyorican Poets Cafe
  2. ^ ""Carmen: A Drinking Opera"". The Village Voice. Retrieved 9 October 2015. 
  3. ^ "Ray Santisteban", profile at

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°43′19″N 73°58′54″W / 40.721951°N 73.9817816°W / 40.721951; -73.9817816