Hoboken is a small city in New Jersey, placed along approximately one mile on the Hudson riverside. Right in front of Manhattan, it has stunning views over The City, which is only at 1 subway stop of distance.
Despite the proximity to the Big Apple, where things happen so fast and the crowded streets are always noisy, Hoboken has succeeded to keep a familiar, close and easy-going community. Neighbours use to know each other, talk about their day-to-day issues, shop local and introduce newcomers -as in my case- to the community. Home of several immigrants arrived from Europe in the early 1900’s, most of them Irish and Italian, the city grew as their inhabitants were used to brick family homes along narrow streets full of trees, and making sure that all that could be needed (groceries, pharmacies, schools or even churches) was placed not further than a walkable distance. As they brought their city-style to America, they also did the same with their culture, and so they introduced holidays like St Patrick’s Day or the Madonna Dei Martiri. Holidays where all the city fills the streets and celebrate, reaffirming the community feeling and remembering their European ancestors.
The Hoboken Arts and Music Festival may not come from an old tradition, but it is celebrated as another opportunity to get in touch with the neighbours, to reconquer for a day the public space and give it to the people. It is not an Irish or Italian holiday, but a Hoboken holiday. From sunrise to sunset, Washington Street (the main street in Hoboken) is closed to the traffic and filled with artists stands, showing their works to everyone. Painting, pottery, blown-glass…all kinds of handmade crafts can be found there, and also music. Up to three scenarios are placed in different points of the city, where local musicians and bands perform while people enjoy their lunch, bought in any of the dozens of food trucks offering a huge range of specialities.
As said, it may not come from an old tradition, but as times change the world does so. As in the rest of the United States in the last decades, newcomers in Hoboken have not come from Europe but from Latin America. And as it happened a century ago, Latin culture has been adopted as part of the community. The Arts and Music Festival is a witness of this social changes and how America absorbed traditions of so many different cultures and integrated them, so it was not surprising to anyone to be listening to a Cuban Salsa band while eating a cheesy pizza slice!
Now it’s time to turn the page on the calendar and see what’s the next holiday to celebrate with the whole city!