Latino USA

Author Archive

#1508 – A day at the Bodega

On this week’s Latino USA, producers spend a day in a bodega in Harlem, NYC — home to one of the biggest Dominican populations in the U.S. They uncover stories about nutrition, migration, community, and the slow threat of gentrification.


Photo by Marlon Bishop

Prologue: What’s a Bodega?

Convenience stores and corner stores are staples of American life, but New York City’s bodegas take them to another level. These modern day general stores are woven into the fabric of city life, temples of necessity as integral as the subway system and bagels. So with the help of average New Yorkers and not-so-average New Yorkers Dallas Penn and The Kid Mero, we explain what a bodega is and why we decided to spend a whole day in the Red Apple Deli in Harlem.


Photo by Marlon Bishop

Chapter 1: The Morning Rush

At the start of our day in a Harlem bodega, producer Michael Simon Johnson introduces us to a colorful cast of characters including loyal customers who arrive before the store even opens, the gregarious owner Ramon Murphy and his opinionated children, plus the cat who acts as the bodega’s mascot.


Photo by Marlon Bishop

Chapter 2: Beiconeganchí for breakfast

In New York City, many bodegas are run by Dominican families and this has made them a kind of buffer between the country of the Dominican Republic and the New York-based Dominican diaspora. Producer Camilo Vargas hangs out with Juan Carlos Hiciano, aka. Gary and sometimes Pedro, the man behind the grill. Camilo finds out his immigration story, his plans for the future and how it all relates to the history of Dominicans in New York.


Photo by Marlon Bishop

Chapter 3: Ramón’s Story

Ramón Murphy, owner of the Red Apple Deli Supermarket, is the American Dream brought to life. He shares his story of entrepreneurship starting back in the DR before revealing his rules for success. Producer Marlon Bishop accompanies Ramón and his son on a trip to a giant warehouse where bodega owners buy their products.


Photo by Marlon Bishop

Chapter 4: Soda Sales

Producer Camilo Vargas was stationed at the counter during rush hour deliveries. In walked a charming soda saleswoman to check the fridge and push a new brand. A little back-and-forth between her and the cashier prompts a quick look at the bodega’s relationship to unhealthy food.

Photo by Marlon Bishop

Chapter 5: Iced Honey Bun

Bodegas are known for carrying some of the city’s most unhealthy junk foods. So producers Marlon Bishop, Antonia Cereijido and Michael Simon Johnson had a taste test of the worst offenders. Blogger Dallas Penn explains his perspective on the bodega as a legitimate food source.


Photo by Marlon Bishop

Chapter 6: The Cash Register

The cash register is like the heart of the bodega, so who’s the guy behind the counter? After the dinner-time rush, producer Antonia Cereijido spent part of the evening with the lonely cashier, Jose Ramon, who is nonetheless beloved by all, to get another perspective on bodega life.


Photo by Marlon Bishop 

Chapter 7: What’s the Future for Bodegas?

The Red Apple Deli comes to a close. And so after the day we begin to wonder about the future of bodegas. As the city’s demographics change, and gentrification becomes the norm, the role and nature of the bodegas are sure to change with it. But what will bodegas of the future look like? Store owner Ramón Murphy has his own ideas for surviving the 21st century.


Photo by Marlon Bishop

#1507 – Love and Loss

Latino USA brings you stories of all kinds of love: romantic, family, friendship, and love of community. We also hear what happens when long-distance romance goes bad, and note that the Smithsonian’s National Portrait gallery is finally showing Latinos some love.


Francisco Rabal and Silvia Pinal in Luis Buñuel’s VIRIDIANA.  Credit: Janus Films.


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