In a recent article posted by Feet in 2 Worlds, Von Diaz writes (during Caribbean Heritage Month) about the man from Hispaniola who preceded the Europeans.
NEW YORK, NY — Scholars have long believed the Dutch were the first to settle in New York City, about 400 years ago. But there’s enough consensus now to rethink that.
Anthony Stevens-Acevedo, at the Dominican Studies Institute at City College of New York, dusted off the research that confirmed the existence of Juan Rodriguez.
“We know he spent about a year here. We know he was a pretty independent guy. And he seems to be a fellow with a very strong sense of his own dignity and independence,” he says.
We also know he was a free black man who came aboard a Dutch merchant ship in 1613, and insisted on remaining in New York—even threatening to jump overboard should he be forced back on the ship.
Stevens-Acevedo then gave a tour of the Institute’s archives.
“On this particular line that I’m pointing to you here…this is the letter s, a very convoluted s, and the t, for Saint. And I’m sure you will be able to figure out this one here that is D-o-m-i-n-g-o, so this refers to Santo Domingo, the island,” he says.
He’s pointing out letters in documents that gave clues to Rodriguez’s existence. They are scans of 16th and 17th century papers, stained yellowed by age.
The Dominican Institute’s Director, Ramona Hernandez, says she’s excited to see artists like Batista and Garcia bring Rodriguez’s story to life.
“I think that people are taking ownership of the story because it resembles who they are, it represents who they are, it resonates with who they are,” she says.
For the complete story, visit Feet in 2 Worlds.