By Nickolaus Hines
Between the streets of Broadway and Saint Nicholas at 170th Street in uptown Manhattan, there’s a small, triangular park named after Juan Pablo Duarte, one of the founders of the Dominican Republic. I live right next to Duarte’s Square, but I probably would have spent my life ignorant of his place in the history and hearts of my neighbors if it weren’t for Pokémon Go.
I would like to think otherwise, but it’s true.
New York City Parks didn’t choose Duarte at random — 48 percent of Washington Heights was born in another country, and two-thirds of those foreign-born residents are from the Dominican Republic. There are plenty of residents like me, brought north by cheaper rent and the medical programs at Columbia University’s teaching hospital, but the Heights’s locals are still overwhelmingly Dominican-American.
I’ve learned about the present-day culture of the neighborhood over the past year I’ve lived there – largely through the people I see every day. What I missed, however, are the marks of history and art covering the walls on side streets and in parks. Pokémon Go makes missing those pieces of culture close to impossible.
The Duarte Square PokéStop, for example, includes the info Duarte Square, named for Juan Pabo Duarte, Founder of the Dominican Republic. Close by is the site of Hilltop Park, which tells players about how the park was “dedicated to Washington Heights by the New York Yankees to mark the exact location of home plate in Hilltop Park, home of the New York Highlanders from 1903 to 1912, later renamed the New York Yankees.”
Related: Heights History – Hilltop Park