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Caribbean social club

Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Lena Mucha
Interview with Lena Mucha
“I come here when I feel homesick and miss my country. It feels almost being home here"

Éstas son palabras de una de las muchas chicas, que cada vez más, frecuentan el club puertorriqueño ubicado en el barrio de Williamsburg. Sabemos que son palabras que pueden sonar curiosas, porque lo más habitual es salir de fiesta para escapar de casa y desconectar de la rutina habitual, pero en este caso sucede todo lo contrario. En lo conocido encuentran la libertad.

How did you find out about this place?

I was looking for an interesting and unique venue in NYC where to shoot a project during my stay in June this year. I got to know it through a Puerto Rican friend of mine who told me about Toñitas.

Who can you get a small joint in Williamsburg to become a small slice of your country?


I’d say it has a lot to do with the crowd. Most of the people who come to Toñitas are from a Puerto Rican diaspora and thats what gives this place its Latin-American soul and character. There is also the original salsa and reggaeton music playing all day long and the interior design and decoration make you feel more like being in a small bar Puerto Rico rather than in NYC.

Lena, as a photographer you must constantly be traveling and seeing hundreds of themes that you would like to portray. Are expatriates a recurring theme? Or was Toñitas a unique case?

It was the first time that I approached this theme through photography. As an anthropologist I have been investigating and working with different cultural diaspora before.

What do you think an expat is looking when they fall for a place like this?


People are looking for emotions that make them feel this place called ‘home’. This can be a unique place, different people, food or music which reminds them that they are part of a community. The feeling of being excluded from social groups is one of the biggest fears in our life. Because we need the community and we can only survive through others. I think this is why these places are so popular.

How optimistic are you about the survival of places like these?


Even though the gentrification process is making it much time harder for places like Toñitas to survive I think we need them so much. There will always be a resistance against their commercialisation.