Abraham Manievich’s painting, the Bronx, with its cubo-futuristic style, contains various perspectives for exploration. I am focusing on the borough’s history, stream of immigration, and the transcendence that it experienced from a glorified, wealthy metropolis to a dilapidated one.
During the 1920s, an era of wealth and culture in the United Sates, Jewish immigrants from Russia and other Eastern European countries escaped the pogroms and the perpetual religious subordination in Europe. They arrived in the United States with aspirations and ideas to build a new, brighter future. Indeed, the Bronx became a haven for these new immigrants. Although the old German Jews disdained the Russian Jews’ presence, the Russian Jews were competent and industrious. Because European governments prohibited them to own land, most Jews became merchants, and in the new country they opened small businesses to support their families and further uplift their neighborhood. They populated the houses, the estates, and eventually revived the Bronx by turning into a rich cultural and social center. The 1920s made the Bronx into a wealthy metropolis, at a degree that astounded journalists, writers, poets and even immigrants who failed to experience the commodities that they had now in the Bronx. Yet, every metropolis has its own downfalls.
With the arrival of Great Depression and WWII, the Bronx fell into political and social turmoil. Americans were wary of the Jewish immigrant, for they feared the Jews were communists and socialists who would topple the fundamentals of American society—democracy and capitalism. After WWII, however, the Jewish attitude changed. With the G.I bill,a bill that provided opportunities for WWII soldiers,Jewish veterans desired a better standard of living, something that was unavailable in the Bronx. Now, the suburban wave rushed in—the open field, the space and the rural environment. Thus, the majority of Jews left, and a new wave of immigrants followed.
The African Americans and Puerto Ricans who resided in the Bronx had a different background. The blacks who moved from the South were considered vulgar, incompetent, and ignorant. The Puerto Ricans hoped for opportunities, but only faced perplexing disappointments. Consequently, the Bronx changed. It transformed from the bustling center of culture and art to a place for drugs, arson and crimes. The politicians disregarded the chaos that overwhelmed the Bronx, particularly South Bronx, which indicated politicians’ racial attitude toward these minorities. Eventually with President Carter’s visit, and several other policy makers and politicians, the Bronx became better, but always with an escalating wave of immigrants, starting from the Albanians to the Dominicans. This borough explained a rich history of immigration, social class, racial conflict and political strife.