“Tia Tati’s Bronx is the Bronx I’ll always remember”, Angel Franco said in a recent interview. “She worked long hours in a Southern Boulevard sweatshop, making 10 cents a zipper, listening to radio novellas, taking 10 minute café breaks and back to the Singer sewing machine. Swoosh! ‘Nena, mira que hay!’ Chisme. No air conditioners, but huge fans that blew your breath back. This is my Bronx of Puerto Rican women working their fingers off and losing their vision in low light lofts while a whip-like voice yelled at them to sew faster.”
What Franco shared is one of many tales of a bygone era for the borough. An era where block after block was in ruin. Where landlords busting matches was the norm just to claim insurance money for buildings that weren’t bringing them enough income. At time that saw how the tactics of redlining and years of government neglect lead to widespread urban decay. So much so that President Jimmy Carter was prompted to take a walking tour of the rubble that was Charlotte Street. Looking back at the devastation one can lay claim that this all could be considered one of the first forms of domestic terrorism. This is when the term “the South Bronx” had a vile ring to it.
Stories such as these were captured by Franco and five more of the most revered and fearless photojournalists to have ever covered the Bronx. Franco along with Joe Conzo, Jr., Francisco Reyes Molina II, David Gonzalez, Ricky Flores, and Edwin Pagan captured countless images of the borough from its decline in the 1970’s to its rise in the 1990’s. The group would eventually become known as Seis del Sur which means Six from the South. The still images and video taken by the lenses operated by these six men will be on display as part of an exhibit at the Bronx Documentary Center beginning January 19th at 4:00 p.m. and is free to the public on this date. Seis del Sur: Dispatches from Home by Six Nuyorican Photographers is an event that is roughly three years in the making. It will run through March 8th and contains some of the grittiest, bold and honest images of the Bronx known to this group that will bring back a flood of memories who survived the area during those dark times.
Upon viewing this exhibit you see how people managed to live vibrant lives through the chaos and how cultural gems came to be from the wreckage at the time. In a recent press release Joe Conzo, Jr. offered, “You can’t miss anything you’ve never had. I didn’t miss backyards, the private schools and white picket fences ‘cause I never had that. But I had my St. Mary’s Park, People’s Park, the abandoned buildings to run and play in, Johnny on the Pony, the pumps, and the multiple fires to entertain me.”
A special thanks to the members of Seis del Sur for providing Being Latino with images and written materials about this long overdue event. Being Latino looks forward to providing further press coverage about it in the coming days.