El Barrio Loses a Father, a Brother & a Son

David Gonzalez writes a moving obituary in The New York Times for activist and poet Jack Agüeros, who died on Sunday at the age of 79:

Mr. Agüeros went on to earn a master’s degree in urban studies in 1970 at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Returning to New York, he went to work at a Lower East Side antipoverty program, remaining there until 1977, when he was asked to be the director of a nascent Puerto Rican museum housed in several storefronts on East 106th Street and Third Avenue.

Within months, he had the idea of moving the museum into a city-owned building on Fifth Avenue, making El Museo del Barrio the northern anchor of the city’s Museum Mile, and putting it in a better position to jockey for city funds. Expanding both the galleries and the collections, he embraced not just the local Puerto Rican community but also the larger Latin American experience.

‘We are too culturally rich to force ourselves into ghettos of narrow nationalism,’ he said in a 1978 interview. ‘El Museo now wants to embody the culture of all of Latin America.’

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