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Photographer, Community Organizer
ABOUT: “When I was growing up here, East Harlem was like West Side Story…” Cabán’s 68-year history with El Barrio shines through as he dances around his apartment, humming Leonard Bernstein’s hits and reminiscing about his infamous one-day stint as a gang member and his childhood home “down the street from Tito Puente.” As a board member of local community development corporation Hope Community Inc. and a founding member of En Foco, a Latino photographers' organization, Caban uses the arts to build community in El Barrio in as many ways as he can. On summer evenings, he can be found hosting Poetas Con Café, a series of public poetry readings held in the neighborhood's gardens and casitas. The sound of poetry, music, and laughter ringing out from the gardens transforms them into hubs of El Barrio culture-- just the way Roger Cabán likes it.
COMMUNITY VISONS: Recalling his upbringing during El Barrio’s artistic renaissance, Cabán regrets that the neighborhood can no longer boast many small-scale galleries, movie houses, or bookstores. He also notes that the community lacks an accessible public space that can hold over 200 people. Finally, Cabán hopes for improved relations between El Museo del Barrio and the artists who live and work in the neighborhood.
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