ABOUT: “I see my storytelling as a bridge between two cultures,” says Gonzalez, whose personal background is as diverse as his artistic endeavors. Gonzalez, who has been a working artist for fifty-two years, derived his first artistic inspiration from the Rock'n roll movement, after seeing a live Beatles performance on TV. “I took that energy and went back to my [Taino/Puerto Rican] roots.” Through the open mics he hosts in local cafes, his Spoken Word 101 slam poetry workshops, and his involvement with ¡MUÉVETE!, a youth empowerment organization, Gonzalez encourages community members of all ages to look to El Barrio's multiculturalism for artistic drive. “The most important resources, to me, in El Barrio, are the people. The elders. We listen to their stories.” For Gonzalez, who grew up appreciating the diversity of the South Bronx housing projects, it is important to see where those stories converge and diverge. His stories show that the arts are a “channel” through which one can mix with other cultures while preserving the specificities of one’s own.
COMMUNITY RECOMMENDATIONS: Gonzalez hopes to empower El Barrio’s youth with knowledge of their cultures’ pasts; they have too often been made “victims of standardized history”. In addition, East Harlem’s arts community should take greater advantage of online communication, as "social networking has really transformed the arts” and allowed artists to collaborate in ways they never knew were possible. However, it is also pivotal that El Barrio’s concrete cultural institutions are preserved and remain fruitful resources for the people of the community. Like many others, Gonzalez fears that El Museo del Barrio has shifted its focus away from Puerto Rican history in order to attract a more broad-based audience, and in the process, has diluted its specific service to the people of East Harlem. Additionally, Gonzalez would like to see a Puerto Rican bookstore in the community, as well as a specific venue for spoken word artists and graphic artists.