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  • This assignment was looking pretty dismal. I got sent to cover an art exhibit in the East Village about Puerto Rican migration to New York City. It looked promising, but I got there to discover a decrepit former public school-cum-theater space with one room on the ground floor with about seven pieces of mediocre art, and one very nice little old lady from New Jersey who gave me a couple bland quotes.

    The upstairs wasn't much better--an old classroom with a few wall displays, some knick-knacks scattered around...and not a soul there.

    I faced the fact that my story wasn't going to amount to much. I walked to each display, took a picture or two, and tried to write down as many details as possible.

    But then, one of those remarkable things happened...two middle-aged ladies, who looked like everyone's moms, came into the room and started oooh-ing and aah-ing...but not at the exhibit, but the room itself.

    Being a naturally curious reporter, I learned that these two women grew up in this neighborhood...and, what is more, one of them, Blanche, went to kindergarten in this very room!

    It didn't stop there, though. The other woman, Paulita Rivas, had a very special reason to come to this exhibit...to see if there was any mention of her brother, Bimbo Rivas, a legendary figure in the Puerto Rican community of Lower Manhattan.

    I talked to these ladies for quite a while. They both left the neighborhood years ago, and lost touch, but recently came back together. Talking to them in that dreary little room really brought the whole neighborhood to life for me--to a time when the Lower East Side was teaming with immigrants and working people, artists and activists. A little piece of New York history came to life for me.
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