NYC 'Gathering of Nations': Hustle, Bustle, Tainos and No Buses
Just east of the Manhattan skyline, in an open field brimming with moccasins and iPhones and fry bread and Brooklyn brogues, Jose Quijano lugs a large drum to his sedan parked behind a cluster of trees. “I’m selling it,” he says. “$500.”
It’s late Sunday, the final day of the 20th annual Gateway to Nations New York City Native American Heritage Celebration and Pow Wow. Quijano is packing up his grass dancing regalia. He said he spent the weekend competing in the men’s grass dance category, but he knew that he wasn’t going to place going up against the burgeoning, limber young 20-somethings dipping and stretching and bopping to the deep rhythm of the drum groups encircling the dirt-grass arena.
Congregated around his car is Quijano’s family, his brother and sister – each one born in Puerto Rico and clad in red, white and blue. A pair of Puerto Rican flags on a nearby SUV whip in the breeze. In honor of Puerto Rican Heritage Day in New York – which was also Sunday – Quijano has tied a small Puerto Rican flag to the top of his roach in recognition of his people, he said.
Quijano is not only Puerto Rican. “We have Taino heritage,” he said. Quijano, of Brooklyn, said his parents moved his family to New York City in 1956. Soon after they settled, Quijano enrolled in the Boy Scouts, and it was there that he learned about Native America, about dancing and singing – it intrigued him.
“We used to get a regalia in the boy scouts (and dance), then after years boy scouts was not that cool anymore, so we started off-shooting from the boy scouts and (we’d) just go to the pow wows. Then we used to go sing and dance, compete – hoop dance, fancy dance.”
Quijano said no one in particular taught him or his siblings how to dance or to sing in the Native American way; they taught themselves by observation, he said.
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