Monday, April 07, 2008

Cemí Underground

In June 2007, Galería Cemí launched Cemí Underground, a Puerto Rican/Latino cultural outlet that sells books, t-shirts, art, music, and produces cultural events including a constantly changing art exhibition. Cemí Underground was founded by graphic artist Luís Cordero and Séry Colón, an actor who once owned Agüeybaná Bookstore on the Lower East Side. Cemí Underground is located at 1799 Lexington Avenue at East 112th Street in the heart of “El Barrio,” or Spanish Harlem, in New York, NY 10029. The hours of operation are Tuesday through Saturday from 12:00 PM to 7:00 PM. The phone is (212) 860-2820.

What is a “Cemí?” Luís Cordero, describes a cemí is as “a sacred object which is the artistic representation of a guardian spirit or deity that was skillfully carved in stone, bone, cotton, wood and rock by the Taíno indigenous people of the Caribbean.”

Luís Cordero says he and Sery Colón launched Cemí Underground “with the goal of establishing an entity that would add another voice to the desperately few voices promoting and proclaiming our art and artists to the world.”

At Cemí Underground you will find published works about Julia de Burgos, Puerto Rican nationalist leader, Don Pedro Albizú Campos, salsero Héctor Lavoe, and writings describing the Taíno and African heritage of Caribbean people. New and recent titles by Steven Torres, Nicholas Mohr and Pedro Pietri line the shelves. A collectible books section with impossible-to-find books about Puerto Rican/Latino history and culture sets this bookstore apart from the rest.

New York’s hottest Latino poets such as Willie Perdomo and María Aponte have appeared at Cemí Underground. Cemí Underground has also featured musical tributes by Carmen DeLucca, cultural educational talks by lecturers including Bobby González and comedy shows by emerging Latino comics.

A modest art gallery space has exhibited up-and-coming artists like painter, Yasmín Hernández, photographer, Elena “Mamarazzi” Marrero, ceramic artist and community activist, Esperanza Martell, as well as the paintings of well-known poet, Sandra María Estéves. Cemí Underground also carries handmade crafts by New York's best Puerto Rican artisans.

Cemí Underground also has a growing music section that features CDs by New York's own Boricua Roots Music sensation, Tato Torres y Yerbabuena, Puerto Rican protest music icon, Roy Brown and hip hop artists, The Welfare Poets.

However, Cemí Underground is the only store where you will find graphic t-shirts with indigenous Taíno symbols and silk-screened designs featuring Don Pedro Albizú Campos and Ché Guevara. Some of these designs, by store owner and graphic artist, Luís Cordero, are featured here in this editorial, “Orgullo Latino,” shot by Puerto Rican social worker, teacher, community activist, puppeteer and established photographer, Ricardo Muñiz (

For more information on Cemí Underground, please go to their websites: and

To purchase any of the t-shirts featured here for only $12 and up or any of their other products, go to


Anonymous said...

Unrelated to the blog message...Why do some beautiful guys think they have to discolor their skin with tattoos? Is it the in-thing?..Are they making a personalized fashion statement? Maybe I'm old fashioned,but I just dont find it physically appealing.

Anonymous said...

The one covering his ears in the first pic is a girl. He must be doing the other two. Actually, I'm just envious, I'd do them, too! Thanx for the info.
From Puerto Rico,

Anonymous said...

Live 3 blocks away and knew nothing about this. Thank you for posting the information.