Letter of Introduction Assignment Gabriel Gjyla

Writing in the Social Sciences




Dear Ms von Uhl,


My name is Gabriel Gjyla.  This is my second semester at CCNY and I feel like I have been opened up to a brand new world. The transition from high school to college hasn’t been an easy one, especially with having to learn the important life skill of time management. Honestly, I feel like I have cruised through high school, worked hard to get high grades and become the salutatorian.  As I entered my senior year, I got into sports and joined my soccer team, focusing most of my after school activities on team practices and games. Senior year was definitely the year were I made the largest impression on my school, but I think I could have done much more. In terms of time management, I was a wreck in high school, due to late night conversations with my friends. I often woke up late and came to class in the second period. I thought that since it was my final semester, it wasn’t that important to have to turn in on time. That is one of my biggest regrets from my high school career, and the class that I ended up going late to everyday was creative writing, which brings me to this current class I’m taking.

I have always been interested in writing because it allowed me to put my thoughts onto paper in a way that I can’t do on the iPhone. Using my imagination to think of literally anything is what I am interested in, so it makes sense that free-writing has always been a favorite free-time activity for me to do at home (don’t tell my friends that because they will think it’s lame). An important fact is that I never have liked math, which is why, I believe, I have chosen writing and literature as topics of interest. Throughout this semester, I hope to enhance my writing skills as well as learn many different new ideas and concepts to use in my writing, whether it being for an assignment or just a quick free-writing session at home.  To evolve as a writer, I aim to use my personal experiences to translate what is going on in my community, culture, and society that have influenced human behavior and how others change their mind on certain topics.

I was born in the country of Albania, which is located on the south-eastern part of Europe. I arrived to America with my family when I was six years old, first to Connecticut and then the Bronx. Ever since, I have been living in the Bronx, which is where I spent my teenage years.  A neighborhood is important for any individual, helping to grow and decide which groups of people they will interact with as they grow older. My neighborhood in Pelham Parkway is filled with Albanians, so much that it is unofficially deemed “Little Albania.” I have kept my Albanian culture an integral part of my life, celebrating it whenever the occasions arise and always quick to tell non-Albanians about the culture with much enthusiasm. However, the high school that I attended, Herbert H. Lehman High School, was filled with people of different ethnicities and backgrounds, with the most common being Hispanic and African American. When I first arrived at that high school, my friend Alex and I felt like we were out of place in the beginning.

To other people, being different from others around them is a scary thing. Nonetheless, I decided to take advantage of it. I have always been a social person, especially when introducing myself and my culture. As I learned more about the different Hispanic cultures that my new classmates were from, I realized how little I knew about the Hispanic community around me. The main Hispanic countries that my classmates came from were Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. I was introduced to new foods that were passed around during our school’s annual Thanksgiving potluck party, learning to love maduros, pernil, and arroz con leche. My classmates even told me about an ongoing feud that the Dominicans and Puerto Ricans have with each other, bragging about which culture is better and who makes better Hispanic food. Overall, I feel like my experience in high school that led me to explore different cultures has made me a wiser person and better writer, the latter helping me to use different cultures in my writing to try to connect with my audience.

As a social scientist, I focus on the issues of immigration, pop culture, family structure, human innovation/achievements, and the impact of sports on my writing. These topics interest me the most because they are what I care about and tend to focus on.  In this course, I am open to writing about anything I get assigned to, especially with the free-writing sessions. The things that excite me the most are the things that makes me the most nervous, the topics that are controversial. I am talking about the topics that no one wants to talk about such as the Blue Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter movements, the faltered American legal system, the future of artificial intelligence and its impact on the American workforce.

During this course, I aim to successfully be able to cross out the course learning objectives as stated in the syllabus, hoping that I have completed them to the best of my ability.  I want to incorporate different writing styles in my work, not just the styles I normally use. Something that I will keep in mind is my audience, knowing who I will be writing to and what kind of language to use when addressing the people. Teamwork is a very important part of any group project, and that is when I feel like I can shine. As stated, I can be a very social person when I want to, and I really enjoy the group work in the class, whether it being small talk with another person or a bigger project with more people to interact with. If the topic of the project was based on culture, then you can bet I will work the hardest I possibly can to tell you about my Albanian culture!  Furthermore, reviewing another person’s work is instrumental in being able to give and receive feedback, which is why peer reviewed work is so helpful. In this course, I believe we are all social scientists, and scientists have to be open to criticism as to why they believe certain things are the way that they are, which is why I always look forward to peer review. It is a way for me to solidify my work with the help of other students, gaining valuable insight as a positive outcome.

As you can see my experience as a social scientist is brief, being that I have just recently graduated high school and have entered a whole different level of work expected in college. However, my love for free writing is evident in my life and I will use what I have learned to further my progress in different writing styles. My experience with my Albanian culture and the various cultures I have been exposed to since I came to America have helped me to understand the world from another viewpoint, which helped to express different topics while keeping in mind not to negatively disrupt anyone’s culture. I will look back at the end of this semester and see how I have evolved and progressed as a writer and social scientist, focusing on the things I’ve struggled with and how I handled the hard situations in life. The experiences as a writer in this course will always be with me, just as important as basic skills needed to survive in today’s world.

  • Sincerely, Gabriel Gjyla



Box 11 Assignment Gabriel Gjyla


Gabriel Gjyla

Professor von Uhl




Box 11 Assignment

As I ponder about my time spent at the field site I chose, which is the Arthur Avenue Food Market, I am able to see how certain things happened because of my privilege. I think that if I were someone else, I may not have gotten all the opportunities to get into conversation with all the people I talked to, maybe I might have gotten the silent treatment from some merchants. I can concur that some obvious privileges that I have are based on my age, gender, nationality, freedom of travel, education level, among others.

The Little Italy section in Arthur Avenue is known for having an historic Italian community, which is why there are so many Italian restaurants that are highly rated. Since I am Albanian myself, I was able to use that privilege to gain more knowledge from the people at the merchant stores. Albania and Italy are very close to each other in Europe, and their people tend to welcome each other. I feel like the Italians in the stores welcomed me with open hands. One big part of the warmness towards me might have been because of my Albanian nationality, but I think a bigger reason is because the community in there is just welcoming in particular, towards all people. The main goal is to attract customers, so the employees have to think outside the box and try different methods to make their stores stand out. I would say that I feel like family to these people, in the way that they started to talk to me about their own problems like I was their own family. I have to say that they succeed in making the customer feel important.


The age factor also played a big part in my privilege as well. As soon as I told them that I am 19 years old, that’s all they needed to hear! Throughout my essay on the field site, there’s some stuff that I decided to leave out due to spacing issues. However, the four friends in the cigar store treated me like a man, if I really think about it. They talked to me like I was part of their group, giving me advice on relationships and family. Furthermore, they even gave me a free cigar after showing me how to roll one and determining which kind is the right one for me. I don’t know if I am old enough to legally buy a cigar, but they just gave it to me and I smoked with them like I was one of the Italians in The Godfather movies.  To add, I feel like my age would be a big factor for attracting the younger people. I would assume that the merchant employees saw this as an opportunity to try to branch out for people my age, giving me free food samples in the hopes that I would tell people of my generation about this retail market. It seems like a good business opportunity, but I just really love the free samples. I guess that it would be a win-win for both sides involved. I would give them more customers by telling my friends about the market, who would tell their friends and so on, while they would keep a loyal customer and I still get my free samples.

A privilege that I didn’t really pay attention to, but is still very important, is my socioeconomic level.  Having two parents that work very hard to support my brothers and me, I have always admired their work ethic. Their hard work meant that my brothers and I usually get what we want when we ask for it. In terms of food, we never have gone hungry, with my dad always making sure we eat what we want. Case in point is this retail market that I chose for my field site. I do get free samples, but we spent more than others when we buy our groceries. My dad wants to buy food that is always fresh, which is why we shop at the food market at Arthur


Avenue. However, the total bill means that we spend a majority of our money on food/groceries because we are a big family. What I am trying to say is that if my parents didn’t earn the kind of money they currently do, my family might not always get to shop for the freshest and more admired food we want. I take into consideration the yearly wages my parents make, and although it doesn’t add up to six figures, they still find a way to make it work. I can understand how my socioeconomic level allows me to fill the grocery bags with the freshest foods I want, even while the food prices are always rising.

To sum up, my experience in being in the field site of the Arthur Avenue Market allowed me to witness a community of people going about their everyday lives, such as shopping, eating, communicating, and just laughing with their friends. I felt really welcome and loved by the people that I interviewed, although that might be a smart and effective way to make the customers want to come back every time and spread the word about the warmth and hospitality about the market. I got to acknowledge the privileges that I have which usually give me special access to certain things. In all, the privilege that I have has allowed me to be a good enough researcher in order to fully position myself in my field site.

Box 3 Assignment Gabriel Gjyla



The drug problem is very much real and active in our communities, as seen by the evidence in this article. In my experience as an Albanian growing up in New York City, I was expected to have the best grades in my classes and show the family name in a positive way.  I was always reminded of the sacrifices that my parents made in order to move from our home country of Albania, where we had a good life with our extended family, and was expected to honor them by getting great grades in school so I could be somebody in America. Most of my young life, I realized that there were two kinds of Albanian guys that grew up around me: the guys who valued their education and their finances/future, as well as the guys who didn’t care about their education. For the ones who valued their education, they were always hard to reach and play with during our teenage years because they were always home studying (or being forced to study).  However, the guys who didn’t care for their education were the “neighborhood bad boys”. These were the ones who skipped school to hang around and they eventually joined gangs.  As far as I know, some have been arrested; some have been killed, while others are still in the gangs. It’s a sad life to live when people don’t have a future for themselves, which can make people break the law in order to provide for themselves and their families.

Mary Murphy’s article from Pix11news focused on a specific drug bust in Staten Island, explaining the efforts needed to take the men down and the effect it has on the community.  Albanians are a very close knit community, so it makes sense to state that there are many Albanians living in Staten Island, as well as in New York State. Having such a close knit community would have advantages and disadvantages. The fact that Albanians are spread throughout the state would make it possible for this local gang to spread out their ambitions in the other boroughs, hoping to increase revenue as well as credibility.  However, their spread also meant that they became a target for the DEA, which is why they were eventually able to arrest members.  As a fieldworker, the questions asked would have to be carefully thought out as to not have a negative contradiction towards the Albanian community. In order to make my claims credible, I have to do background research about the Albanians in the community, as well as find out their financials and use that information to make a seasonable statement as to why these people are joining gangs, while knowing that it will only hurt their future.

Murphy showed simple, yet effective statements on her article. However, there is the impression that it was too short and there was not enough background information which could have helped to explain what forced these people to deal in gang activities. I would expect an ethnographer to have a deeper understanding of the people and the community, which is why an ethnographer would make a compelling article that would offer more information. In order to find out about the conditions of the Albanians in the Staten Island community, the ethnographer should interview previous gang members and current gang members, asking them questions such as:

  • How do you feel about the current drug problem in the community?
  • What are the ways the drug problem can be resolved?
  • How do you think you are impacting the legacy of your family name?
  • Do you plan on going into a higher education school at some point in your life?
  • How do you feel about giving Albanians in America a bad name?
  • Would you consider reshaping your life and becoming a mentor for at-risk Albanian youth?
  • How did your family handle you when they found out about your “work?”
  • Do you think the political leaders are doing enough the tackle the drug problems?

Murphy’s article sheds some light on the drug problem going on in Staten Island while focusing on the arrest of some Albanian gang members as the focal point. That would create a negative outlook on the Albanians living in the area, which would affect the Albanians in that community. With the work of an ethnographer, there would be a better sense of the impact the drugs have on the community, focusing on the antics of the gang members and other people within the community (families, schools, police department). In all, there will be a different point of view as to how and why the Staten Island community is going through this problem currently.


Box 1 Assignment Gabriel Gjyla

Gabriel Gjyla

Writing in the Social Sciences


Professor von Uhl


Box 1 Exercise Assignment

Throughout my life thus far, I have experienced many cultures and subcultures that have affected my understanding of the world and where I fit in. The people that have had a significant impact of my life helped me to determine who I am and who I will become in the future. I belong to the group of Albanians, people that originate from the country of Albania located in south-eastern Europe.  Being Albanian, I have tremendous pride for my country and culture, always willing to share all about it when I meet non-Albanians. The most core values of Albanians are family, trust, and patriotism.  There is a word in the Albanian culture called besa, which means faith and is the national word of honor. This is the word upon which Albanians live on, especially being helpful to less fortunate people. By giving my besa, I am giving you my word that I will help and assist you in the times you need me to. Family is the most important concept of Albanian life. The oldest child, preferably a male, is looked upon as the one to lead the family legacy forward, which is why I am expected to make sure the legacy of the family name is kept intact and in good views. Throughout Albania’s history, there was a dictator Enver Hoxha, who shaped Albanian culture in ways that have influenced it today. That is why divorce is seen as bad in Albanian culture, because that disrupts the family and family is the most important thing. An important thing to add is the value of soccer. Although Albanians play various sports, soccer is the forefront of being an Albanian for young boys. It is as if a boy doesn’t dream of being a soccer player, then he won’t have many friends to talk to. Although that sounds ironically tough, it’s important to note that most of the boys do love soccer. My favorite soccer club is Real Madrid and I always argue with my cousin, whose favorite team is FC Barcelona, over whose club is better. The national celebrations are huge, with the Albanian Independence Day being on November 28. Celebrations are viewed in all Albanian communities, which are celebrated worldwide because of the Albanian Diaspora being in numerous countries around the world.  As I continue my higher education at CCNY, I will attempt to use my Albanian culture into my assignments, showing my happiness and joy as to why I’m proud to be an Albanian!

Fieldwork Observation Essay #1 (Life Within the Market)


Gabriel Gjyla

Professor von Uhl



Life within the Market

Have you ever stopped and realized how a market is so much more than the food it sells? A simple question as to “what kind of pasta should I get?” can create a meaningful conversation between two members of a community that can turn into a friend for life. An old man in a cigar store can give you information about an entire community. A manager can tell you how the market looked like when it first opened, as well as the changes that have occurred in the current time. A kid talking to his parents about potential colleges he wants to join, while having a cup of coffee at the cafe.  Whether or not we understand, our markets seem to have a life of their own, with a community of people who have years of wisdom to share if you can just ask them.  A community is formally defined as a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. While observing the Arthur Avenue Retail Market and all the merchants within, I came to see just how important the sense of the community is within those walls.

I regularly go to this market at least once a week to buy my groceries, which consists of mainly meats, fish, cheese, and olives.  It has been this way for as long as I remember. I was so excited when my dad took me when I was younger. However, I don’t go into all the merchants, just my preferred ones for the items I need and then leave. My plan was to enter the places that I didn’t normally go to, in order to get a better sense of the community in there. As soon as I walk in, a sense of Italy is hard to miss. All around the market were Italian and Americans flags flying


high, with the Italian flags being slighter bigger. I assumed that the reason for that is because of the grand Italian pride in the community, shown in the flags as well. Then the smell hit me out of nowhere. I could smell cheeses, meats, fruits and vegetables all around me, even behind me. From the speakers around the area was Italian opera music from the merchants. I would say that the music was blasting, but it was calming and comforting enough to welcome customers while making sure they knew it was an Italian community.

Taking a few steps forward, I arrived at the first merchant store, which was “LCG Cigars”. Interestingly enough, there were a group of four friends who were deep in conversation and laughter.  They looked like they were in their 50s, with each of them having a mustache that would make even Steve Harvey jealous. Sitting in an old, wooden table, they were smoking cigars and slamming the table from laughter. As I approached them to ask for some quick questions, they suddenly got quiet and were looking at me weirdly. I assumed it was because I looked like I was going to interrogate them, with a pen and paper in my hand. But after introducing myself and stating why I was there, I got them to speak freely. One of the guys caught my attention especially because he noticed I was Albanian, without me ever announcing it. This guy was named Eduardo, and he told me if I’m not Italian in the community today, then I am most likely Albanian or Russian.  Eduardo told me about this Little Italy community and especially the community within the store from the different merchants. He said that since 1940, when this market first opened up, a lot has changed. He went on to say “ There were more Italians back in the day, while today the ones who worked here got rich and got homes upstate.” As a grandpa (who look liked a Italian OG) walked with his grandson through the market, I understood how important this neighborhood and market was for this aging man, and could only


imagine the kinds of things he went through in his childhood, which made it especially endearing to see how he spread his knowledge into his grandson in hopes of continuing their Italian traditions. This man clearly had a deep insight into the area and its changing history, which is why his actions with his grandson were so compelling to my understanding of this community.

As I toured through the market, I immersed myself within this community by buying some chicken wings from Peter’s Meat Market. Looking around, there was a poster of Saint Valentine; while on the counter was Valentine’s Day cards and candy still waiting to be brought. I don’t think people would buy sweets for their loved ones from a place where meat is chopped up in front of them, but to each their own! The sound of the various meats being chopped up would have made a vegetarian run scared, especially when the sound of bone being ripped apart by a steel knife was a mere five feet away from me. To my right side, there was a figure of the Italian Pope Paul III, with the words “There is no redemption from Hell” written out in bold letters. I asked an employee why he would choose to place that quote when it could deter away customers. His response was simple, “That’s how I grew up.” Intrigued by this, he noticed my confusion and explained that his Italian mother wasn’t always a sweet person, telling him that the real world will try to bring you down and straight to Hell. It was inspiring to see how his life led to him working a block from his original home address back in the 60s, which shows that some people don’t want to leave an area they’ve known as home for as long as they remember.

The last place I toured was the Café Al Mercato, which to be honest was not really a tour because that is usually where I relax after time spent getting produce, which makes me an insider of the cafe.  The scene of this café is so picturesque of an Italian setting, being filled with long and wide paintings of the infamous Lake Como in Italy, a dream vacation of mine since forever.


The sense of the community was all around me. At the counter, I overheard a woman saying to her friend that “Paulie needs to cut down on the sweets or he won’t have the energy to march in the Columbus Day Parade this year.”  From a family seated next to me, a little boy was expressing nothing but joy when he finally got the Italian national soccer team’s jersey, telling his dad that he will play for Italy when he gets older.  As I ordered my cappuccino, with their specially made fresh basils put for a sweet treat, I noticed the cashier talk to a guy who stated that he was an off-duty firefighter. As soon as he sat down, I told him about my appreciation for this market and he was glad to talk about it as well. This man’s name was Miguel, a 45 year old, who had a firefighter-inspired buzz cut. He went on about his job, saying that he found his calling to be a firefighter when a firefighter from the neighborhood saved his life when he was young. Since he was Puerto Rican, he told me how he met his wife in the same neighborhood where he works.  He told me “I love my Italian wife, Firenza, she is beautiful and a great mother, but sometimes Italian women can be a real pain in the ass!”  As I left the café, one of the workers gave me a fresh mozzarella cheese sample to encourage me to buy from their stand, in awe of the commitment they have to their customers.

As I contemplated about my eventful day, I focused on how important this market is to the community, and how it has brought people together into the community throughout generations. Going forward, the goal is to keep in mind how this area in Little Italy has inspired a new generation of New Yorkers to appreciate their neighborhood and have a better sense of ‘home.’ Whether people come to work or get produce, they will most likely leave with a small talk/conversation with the people who are the heart and soul of Little Italy, a place which I have fallen in love with all over again. The memories that this retail market makes for the community


will serve a decade, or even throughout generations. Throughout my experience, I felt welcomed, surprised, intrigued, fascinated, and comforted, and I can’t wait until my next weekly visit to the market.

Words as Weapons (Free-write)


Words as Weapons

I believe that words can definitely be used as weapons. We can see this by bullies, politicians, and even loved ones. In the case of bullies; calling people fat, ugly, and slow can be instrumental in how they deal with opposition, especially when the ones bullied are in school. Those words would be stuck in the minds of kids all the time, which would cause depression, decline in grades and diet, and increased anger around loved ones. Harmful words can cause children to think they aren’t good enough, especially when they don’t receive support from their family. In the case of loved ones, their negative words towards a family member would have the biggest effect on them. The family is supposed to be the support system, which is why when your family turns on a victim, it will cause harm to that affected victim. Furthermore, it can lead to the affected victims to become a bully themselves or cause them to self-harm. In the case for politicians, they are the elected officials that we, as the people, have voted  to represent us and our needs. When politicians use racial stereotypes, such as “All Mexicans are racist”, these words can harm and bring down a whole group/community of people. Therefore, it brings conflict between groups who agree or disagree with the politician. To sum up,  I believe words are definitely used as weapons against people, whether it is a common saying, racial slur, or negative stereotype. The more a person gets negatively affected by these words, the higher the chance it will provoke the person enough to cause harm to themselves or others.

Fieldsite Observation Essay #2 Gabriel Gjyla (The Second Sample)


                                                                                                                                Gabriel Gjyla

                                                                                                                    Professor von Uhl



                                            The Second Sample

                    “If it isn’t my favorite customer! Come on in, I have a newly arrived sample of cheese straight from Venice that I know you’ll love!” This was the greeting I received when I walked into the meat section of the Arthur Avenue Food Market. As a loyal customer for about eight years, I have had my fair share of experience and adventure in the market. However, this was the first time I went alone, and I was excited and nervous to see how I would be treated differently if there was no parental authority by my side.  Since my most recent visit to the market to buy groceries as well as conduct a field research, I have to say that not much has changed in the market. However, I do feel like I have gained a higher level of respect from the merchants and loyal customers. I have seen this while receiving higher amount of free samples of food to being put in the conversations of lifelong friends of the community, I feel more accepted into this mini community as I have ever been! As I went back to the market for my second observation, I discovered just how welcoming this mini community is to the public and how its loyalty makes the customers keep coming back again and again. It really operates like a second home to me, and I can almost guarantee other customers will say the same.

        Upon my arrival inside the Boiano Foods market stand, I noticed a group of friends that were laughing and just enjoying life. As I introduced myself and asked how they felt about the market, they smiled accordingly. There were five friends, two boys and three girls, and they told me this is a tradition they do during spring break.  The one who spoke to me first was named Adam, and he specifically stated that “ we started this tradition back during our freshmen year, that during our spring break we come here to catch up with each other and crack open a few cold beers.” I was amazed that college students actually came here to relax during their free time. For most of my life, I came here to just get my groceries and leave, but overtime I have grown to acknowledge and talk with some of the cashiers at the merchants. I was confused that this would happen, college students actually hanging out at a market for fun instead of going to the clubs or the mall. As I found out more about them, it made sense why they were so connected to this place.  To start, they were all students at the nearby Fordham University, which is less than 10 minutes from the market on foot. Also, they all grew up within this neighborhood, and one of the friends’ mother used to work as a cashier for one of the merchants. Considering they all wore “Fordham U” hoodies, I assumed that they would come around the neighborhood for a bite in one of the many restaurants, but I never would have thought how big of an impact this market would be for them. It was an eye opening chat because I recognized how people of a similar age group would interact inside the market, instead of just buying items and leaving.

        Because the Easter holiday had just passed, there was still a fresh memory of the celebrations in the market. There was confetti everywhere I looked, from the ground to the top of the stands. Although it would have been seen an unsanitary by other people, I had no problem with the confetti on the ground. I think it is because I am used to seeing that in the merchant stands, whether it being from Easter celebrations or other holidays. As I thought about it, I have been a part of the celebrations for about as long as I can remember. The confetti was colorful land lively, with it being about different shades of white, yellow, and green shapes. There were pictures of the Easter bunny on about every stand, but some of them were welcoming while one seemed threatening because it was next to a sign that said “Fresh Rabbit meat for sale.” That didn’t seem like a good advertisement for the meat stand, but to each their own.  On the counter of the diary products, there were about twenty painted Easter eggs that were on sale, not that I thought anyone would eat after the holiday had already passed. However, to my amazement- I saw a mother go right up to the cashier and buy five of the eggs because of her screaming son. I tried to focus elsewhere, but to no avail. The son had been making a fuss ever since I was looking around the area, possibly because he saw the eggs and wanted it. The thing that surprised me is when the mother said “Oh Anthony you’re killing me here. You end up acting like your father every damn day. It’s like exactly how his mother described your dad as a little boy, misbehaving as a child in the same neighborhood. I hope you turn out like my side of the family ‘cause I can’t handle your wild attitude.” Although that was just a saying, it got me to wonder just how important this specific market in Belmont Avenue has had on the Italians of the Bronx. The sense that this young boy’s dad went through exactly what he was going through, about thirty years ago shows that the merchant market has been and continues to be an integral sense of community and home for the people that live there.

        As I walked through to my favorite area in the market, which is Café al Mercato, I noticed yet again how this is a site for conversation within the community. The café was practically full, up to the point where I could barely find one empty seat. It had all the notions of Italy that I love, from the vivid and colorful paintings of the Italian Rivera to the old-style wooden tables. It gave off a vibe that I was in Italy again for vacation, simply because Italy and my home country of Albania are very close to each other. As I ordered my macchiato drink and sat down, I tried my best to look around the area without looking like a creep who was spying on people.  The center of attention was clearly aimed towards three middle aged men who were drinking their espresso coffee. They all looked like they were having a friendly debate until it turned very loud, to the point where after every sentence they said they would end it with a loud pounding on the table just to get their point across. As I was sitting next to them, I couldn’t help but notice that the other people around were staring at them occasionally, stopping their own conversation to realize where that loud banging was coming from. Their topic was about the gun debate in America, and they were definitely angry. One of the friends, who was wearing a shirt that said “When was America ever great?” shirt – a weird coincidence if you ask me- was going on about how he was tired of hearing about nationwide shootings every month. The other friend, without skipping a beat, that “maybe we should get those NRA people hear and see how quickly they change they minds about gun laws then. Man, these people are so scared ‘out they damn money that they keep they head up they ass.” The other friend, who I believe was the oldest of all because he had a older looking face, stated “if only Mussolini was alive, he knew exactly how to handle these soft sons of B’s, won’t have no shootings no more. Matter of fact, he would be kind of this block.” That last part really stood out to me because Mussolini was an Italian leader during World War 2 who teamed up with Hitler and drove his people to war against the Allied Powers that had America in it. To state that a guy like Mussolini would be the leader of the Little Italy section shows how much some people had different viewpoints about power and authority. Moreover, the chats kept being connected to the topic of Little Italy. If I had to make an educated guess, I would say that this group of friends definitely grew up in the neighborhood and definitely have been coming to this cafe in the market for some time now. I was intrigued that a cruel character like Mussolini would be respected by a member in the community, but I understand that people might have had different opinions of the man who was the leader of Italy during the war.  Another statement that one of those friends made captured my attention the most, which was “Thank goodness that we still have our shops so that we are keeping our Italian culture alive because this new generation don’t seem to give a damn anymore.” This statement seemed so influential because it felt like a deep sadness was being expressed in the man’s voice, even though he could have expressed that in a lighter tone. I automatically thought of a article that I read online, which stated “For Italian neighborhoods, such generally accepted and almost stereotypical ethnic markets, other than neighborhood shrines, have been barbershops, pizza parlors and various other purveyors of Italian foods.” (Krase, 2006) This statement got me thinking of how the original Italian immigrant tired their best to keep their heritage alive in another continent, and how the people that were from that generation kept to that belief. However, it seems like the new generations are not as culturally aware of their grandparents’ struggles to make a new life in America. A further statement made by the friends showed some level of racism that was not to be said in public or private. The friend said “All that blacks moving into our neighborhoods got them thinking they all that, they just need to move outta here.” It felt like time stood still when he said that, because people stopped talking and definitely heard it, but no one really did anything. This made me think of the original Italian immigrants to the community, who had to compete against blacks and other nationalities for work, especially from another article I later came upon. That article stated “As they (Italian immigrants) began to navigate and understand the American racial system, they gradually distanced themselves from blacks and other people of color, ultimately constructing Italian identity as American, civilized, and white.” (Bencivenni, 2015) This thought came to me that although blacks and other nationalities have come to live in the Little Italy neighborhood community today; there is still some prejudice against “other people” moving in.

        As I left the market, I contemplated on what I saw occur, between the different people in the market who keep the market as a mini-community inside the Little Italy neighborhood in the Bronx. I realized how there are many different viewpoints, especially based on how the neighborhood used to be and is changing. Some people don’t like change, and I understand that, but to directly blame other nationalities because they are moving in the Little Italy community is racist to say the least. I witnessed stronger forms of conversations going on the second time around I visited the market as a field-site, usually because whenever I get my groceries I don’t stay long enough to see how the market is like a little community in itself. Furthermore, as I did some additional research post-field research, I found out about the many other “Little Italy’s” in New York City, conveniently located in every borough.  The root of them all is the pride that they have that is still evident from when the original Italian immigrants came over in hordes and created these communities. Upon research on an online article, I came upon an important statement that said “Arthur Avenue, the epicenter of Bronx’s little Italy neighborhood, still attracts scores of tourists eager for a deeper dive into Italian-American culture than the one they can find on Manhattan’s Mulberry Street.. But underneath that theme-park candy coating isn’t cynicism, but pride. Thanks to all that marketing, and a steady stream of loyal customers. The spirit of Little Italy still hangs on.” (Steiman, 2016) This single statement sums up the Arthur Avenue Food Market perfectly, an immersive mini-community that continues to serve as a market and means of communication within the Little Italy Community.


Bencivenni, Marcella (2015) “A Great Conspiracy against Our Race: Italian Immigrant Newspapers and the Construction of Whiteness in the Early 20th Century.” Journal of American History 102, no. 3 (December 2015): 904-905. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (Accessed April 8, 2018)

Krase, Jerome (2006) Seeing Ethnic Succession in Little Italy: Change despite Resistance, Modern Italy, 11:1, 79-95, Academic Search Complete, DOI: 10.1080/13532949500492340 (Assessed April 8, 2018)

Steiman, Adina, publisher, “Arthur Avenue is the Biggest (and Best) Little Italy in America.” October 11, 2016, https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/arthur-avenue-is-the-biggest-and-best-little-italy-in-america-article, Accessed April 4, 2018