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Jesús-Papoleto Meléndez
Original Nuyorican Poet
212.828.5812/ 347.601.2540 

ABOUT: “I believe that poetry is the first form of communication...because it cuts to the chase,” says Jesus-Papoleto Melendez, better known as "Papoleto" or simply "Papo." Short in stature with a big, booming laugh, Papo is well-known in the community as an original Nuyorican poet who helped to found the famous Nuyorican Poets' Club (on the Lower East Side) with his friend Pedro Pietri. He is devoted to preserving the area's Nuyorican culture. "I don't like when people refer to El Barrio as 'SpaHa,'" he states. "It's like forced gentrification... it [deprives the neighborhood] of all its flavor and juices." 

COMMUNITY VISIONS: Papo is optimistic about the arts community in El Barrio: “There is an artistic air in the neighborhood... there’s always something to look at.” However, that doesn't mean that art should be taken for granted. Papo points out that public art only exists "by the grace of a grant," and that the problem with East Harlem is that it always loses programs because of a lack of funding, not a lack of demand or an unwillingness of artists to supply programming. In addition to securing funding for the arts, Papo wants more housing options geared specifically toward artists. "Artists need affordable housing," he insists. Finally, as an educator, he hopes that El Barrio will improve its after-school arts programming for youth, so that society can better prepare its youth "for the challenges of tomorrow." The neighborhood needs a "cadre" of programs that will "foster critical thinking." 

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