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This brief statement by Melody Capote, executive director of the Caribbean Cultural Center, explains the relevance of De La Vega’s work to the mission of the Center, which is to record the history of peoples of Caribbean descent. She ponders De La Vega’s work as having a strong connection with the Puerto Rican community in New York. Also, his murals on the streets of El Barrio (East Harlem, NYC) that incorporate religious and spiritual images as well as famous and local personalities, provide a vivid visual record of Latino life in the United States.


James De La Vega (b. 1968) graduated in 1994 with a BFA in art from Cornell University. He returned to New York City after graduation to teach, so that he guided young artists by day and during his free time, developed his own craft on the streets of East Harlem. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, his work became as much part of the neighborhood as the neighborhood was a central part of his work. Engraving the faces of Latino cultural history into the concrete fabric of the community, his murals chronicle a period when the Mexican immigration to New York’s Latino neighborhood of East Harlem crystallized. His murals witness the cultural transitions and iconography of the neighborhood’s inhabitants, its leaders, celebrities, and religious traditions.

Libertad Guerra.
Courtesy of Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI), New York, NY