News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Thurs. Dec. 17, 2020: A New York Post Office will soon be renamed after a late Caribbean born community organizer, cultural pioneer and activist.
A bill pushed by Dominican-born Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to rename the United States Postal Service facility at 511 West 165th Street in New York, New York, as the “Normandia Maldonado Post Office Building,” was passed on Wednesday.
Normandia Maldonado was a pioneer in the unique historical development of Dominicans in the US. Maldonado’s long history of community activism helped establish the New York Dominican population as a distinct ethnic group within the New York City mosaic. Maldonado worked tirelessly and effectively to promote Dominican culture in New York City, engendering a great sense of pride among Dominicans in their roots.
As an organizer, she was instrumental in erecting the statue of Juan Pablo Duarte statue in New York City and was also a driving force behind the Dominican diaspora’s ascent within the cultural landscape of music, dance, and film. Centro Cultural Ballet Quisqueya, which she started in the late 1960s, continues to share and recognize Dominican culture and folkloric music.
“Ms. Maldonado was a true pioneer – she advanced and elevated the Dominican culture tenfold through her creative work, activism, and community organizing,” said Congressman Espaillat. “Her fingerprints can be found across the Diaspora – and, especially in New York City, where her memory still looms, and her work continues to flourish and inspire. Now, with the renaming of the post office off 165th street, I am certain Ms. Normandia Maldonado’s achievements and legacy will continue to inspire the people of New York City and the greater Dominican diaspora.”
She was born in Santiago, Dominican Republic on February 21, 1929 and migrated to the United States in 1960 as a member of the cast “Busquen A Ese Hombre,” a Cuban film produced by the Caribbean Theatrical Alliance. She decided to leave the world of acting upon completing the film.
She then began to work as a seamstress in a clothing factory to make ends meet. It was in New York where her career as a dancer, teacher, and community activist. In 1962, Maldonado formed the group Mambo Girls together with her sister Marina Maldonado. With Mambo Girls, Maldonado traveled around the world performing in local and national television stations.
Around this time, Ms. Maldonado also met Juan Paulino and Victor Liriano, two rising community leaders in Washington Heights. Together with Paulino and Liriano, Maldonado proposed the idea of having a statue of the founding father of the Dominican Republic, Juan Pablo Duarte, erected as a landmark for Dominicans living in New York City, a dream that would be realized 1978, after years of struggle.
Continuing with her passion for the arts, she participated in the Desfile de la Hispanidad and in a Santo Domingo Canta y Baila show at the former San Juan Theater. In 1967, Mambo Girls adopted the name Ballet Quisqueya, later to be known as Centro Cultural Ballet Quisqueya. To this day, Centro Cultural Ballet Quisqueya has continued to uphold its mission to promote Dominican culture and folkloric music at an international level, bringing attention to such classic dances as the “Merengue” and the “Mangulina.”