NEW YORK CITY (PIX11) — Since February 14, 2019, NYC native Djali Brown-Cepeda has been on a mission to ensure that the many Latino and Caribbean faces across the city are never forgotten.

Bothered by the lack of representation of her people in mainstream media, Brown-Cepeda decided to launch her own cultural homage to the world: Nuevayorkinos.

Described as the unofficial organization that everyone has a membership to — Nuevayorkinos acts as an online album dedicated to documenting and preserving New York City’s Latino and Caribbean cultural history through photos, videos, and stories. 

As a Black Indigenous Latina growing up in the streets of Washington Heights, Dyckman, and the Bronx — Brown-Cepeda says she’s always been surrounded by a mix of different cultures.

So for her, starting this project with a photo of her mother made sense.

Credit: Djali Brown-Cepeda//NuevaYorkinos//PIX11 News

“The first photo is of my mom when she was 16 years old,” Brown-Cepeda said. “I started with her because it was a way to start this project with a young woman who was born here [New York] but raised in the Dominican Republic, came back here, and was trying to figure out who she is and where she fits in…I think that story is universal to a lot of immigrants regardless of them being Caribbean or Latin American.”

What started as a passion project to highlight the many nuances and faces in NYC’s Hispanic culture has since grown into an online community with nearly 70,000 members.

Receiving close to 2,000 submissions over the past three years, Brown-Cepeda, alongside her partner Ricardo Castañeda, skim through photos and videos from past memories of New Yorkers to include as a daily feature for the archive.

“Every photo is going to be included,” Brown-Cepeda said. “It’s just a matter of when because everyones stories matter.”

Submissions are open via email or through Nuevayorkinos’ Instagram to anyone of Caribbean or Latin descent who is from New York City. Every photo submitted must date back before 2010, be taken within the five boroughs, and include a detailed description or story to include with it.

For Brown-Cepeda, Nuevayorkinos is more than just a project of nostalgia. It’s an ode to the love and joy of old-school New York and a reminder that immigrants have always been here and will continue to reside in the city.

“I want people to feel seen…I want people to feel appreciated,” Brown-Cepeda said. “Immigrants are so important to not just NYC but to our culture, to our economy and to this whole country… I want people to feel like we have been made visible because we are all engaging in this collective act of archiving to be made visible.”

Both Brown-Cepeda and her partner Castañeda hope to continue the archive in the coming years and bring the project beyond the digital realm of Instagram and the internet.

“I just hope that both of us are able to continue showing up for our people in a way that feels respectful and reminds folks that we’ve been here and we aren’t going anywhere,” Brown-Cepeda said. “As long as the community is here, we will always be here.”

Djali Brown-Cepeda (left) and her partner Ricardo Castañeda (right)

PIX11’s Frank Melli contributed to the editing of this project.