October 2011

Posted by Ellen

This land is your land, this land is my land. From California, to the New York Island.

Posted by Ellen

Way back behind the beachside hotels and the downtown apartment towers, Rio's notorious favelas cling to the mountainside. The people who live up there–who have no other place to live–have long endured every kind of danger and distress, but they are currently wrestling with a new dimension of difficulty: Rio's real estate boom is spreading all the way back and up to the slopes the moradors da favela have staked out for their dwellings.

The real estate developers moving into the favelas have government backing,  as Brazil attempts to clean up the city in preparation for the 2014 soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. The people being displaced don't exactly own the land their shanties are built on, so they aren't cashing in on the redevelopment. And they have nowhere else to go.

Once the favela structures are razed, and the sewer and water and power lines are extended up the mountainside, the new homes and businesses take full advantage of something the former residents long enjoyed for free: the view.

Posted by Ellen

Clearly it was too cold for bathing suits when the sisters Strelitz posed before this mural in Rio de Janeiro, but the smiles were warm and sunny. Caroline, at left, is completing a Fullbright fellowship in Brazil; Bonnie joined her there in August for a mid-winter vacation.

Posted by Ellen

As the sun sets over New Jersey, the Milano's Italian Sausage trucks begin their nightly rounds in Manhattan.

New York City's new High Line Park repurposes an old elevated railroad track along the west side of lower Manhattan for strolling and people-watching high above the bustle of downtown streets. Trees and flowers grow out of the old track bed, blooming between the ties, while in the distance is the river, the skyscrapers, the restaurants and nightclubs, and, along this stretch of the route, the warehouses of the old meatpacking district.


Posted by Ellen

A tour guide from the Tenement Museum points out features of the neighborhood surrounding the Forward Building at 175 Broadway in New York's Lower East Side.

The Daily Forward was founded at the turn of the twentieth century as a Yiddish-language newspaper for new immigrants from Eastern Europe who were then crowding into the Lower East Side and similar neighborhoods in other American cities. Forward readers were mostly poor people struggling to get a foothold in a new, strange land; the newspaper was active politically as well as editorially in the labor union movement and on behalf of an American Socialist party, and it also promoted cultural Americanization, particularly with respect to Old World Jewish religiosity, which the editors rejected in favor of a more secular and open-minded cultural identity. Among the writers: Isaac Bashevis Singer and Leon Trotsky.

I remember seeing my grandparents reading The Forward on the front porch of their rowhouse in Baltimore in the 1950s. Yiddish was all Greek to me, but I distinctly recall how amusing it seemed that a newspaper called Forward was printed backward.

The irony doesn't stop there, however. The Forward Building in this photo, built by the Socialist publishers in 1917 when circulation exceeded a quarter of a million, was converted to condominiums in the 1990s; I've been told that units in the building start at more than $2 million. The Lower East Side of Manhattan is still a landing place for new immigrants–note the signs in Chinese on the two buildings at the right edge of the picture–but gentrification now attracts rich people to the neighborhood as well. There may still be sweatshops here, but the pushcarts are definitely gone.

The Forward survives today, though just barely, in weekly English and Yiddish editions, each with a circulation of a few thousand.