This past Sunday, MTV aired a new episode of their popular True Life series entitled "I'm a Nuyorican." Unfortunately, MTV chose to highlight three young people who embrace and embody the most negative and damaging stereotypes of the Nuyorican community.
The term "Nuyorican" commonly refers to many Puerto Ricans born and bred in NYC, constituting 9% of the population. The term was originally coined by poet Miguel Algarín. In 1980, Algarín, along with Miguel Piñero and Pedro Pietri established the Nuyorican Poets Café on Manhattan's Lower East Side, now a NYC landmark. They helped to artistically and culturally define the Nuyorican movement for following generations of New York Puerto Ricans.
It is sad that MTV chose to define Nuyoricans using three teenagers who represent those in our community in the direst of circumstances. Yes, there are Nuyoricans who live in low-income, cramped housing like Naizsha, looking to join the airforce to escape. Yes, there are neighborhoods in the Bronx that are dangerous as in the case of aspiring boxer Jose. And yes, there are families that would not embrace their children's interest in different cultures like Rose who wants to be a belly dancer instead of a salsa dancer.
But to showcase Nuyoricans only as a struggling, victimized and ignorant community is a huge mistake on MTV's part. There are also successful, affluent, educated and influential Nuyoricans. The episode has caused an outrage among Nuyoricans and has sparked an online petition calling on MTV to cease airing the episode and hundreds of critical comments on their message boards. MTV has yet to respond to the criticism.
Did you watch the MTV True Life: "I'm A Nuyorican" episode? Tell us: What did you think about it?