A proud native of El Barrio, Roger Caban has been a resident of East Harlem for most of his life. Along with his vocation as a social worker for Casa Mutua and Pathways to Housing, Mr. Caban is an accomplished photographer and in 1974 was a founding member of En Foco, a nonprofit organization that highlights Latino photographers in New York City. Cában lovingly captured daily life on both islands during the early 1970s.
He grew up in East harlem and he remembers those days with nostalgia and sweet memories - “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.”
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’s culture, just the way Roger Cabán likes it.
“Soy hijo legitimo de el Barrio,” Roger is fond of saying, to his lifelong passion.