"Aquí y Allá", a portrait of the Dominican community in
Washington Heights, from its germination to its designation
as “Little Dominican Republic”. The evolution of this community
captured for over 60 years thru the lens of dominican photographer
Winston Vargas, a homage to this important space between two
nations that is vital to dominican identity.

Winston Vargas was born on November 9th, 1943, in Santiago, Dominican Republic. His parents had been traveling to New York City since 1950 while Vargas and his brother stayed with friends and family. Vargas says, “We came here in 1952… I don’t remember if we came alone. I was about nine or ten and my brother was five”.

Vargas has documented Wa”shington Heights for over 60 years. He photographed the Heights long before the city had commercially and culturally designated the neighborhood as “Little Dominican Republic”. Before the death of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo caused waves of Dominican immigration, Vargas photographed a Washington Heights made up of African Americans, Puerto Ricans, German-Jews, and Irish residents. Vargas documented the Dominican diaspora before germination, from black and white film back in the day to colorful digital files today.

Aquí y Allá

Winston Vargas

Vargas has photographed immigrants resisting, assimilating, and becoming Dominicanyorks. The term Dominicanyork had been used disparagingly by some before many first and second generation Dominicans reclaimed the term.

I will use the term to speak in general of those Dominicans and their progeny who moved from the Dominican Republic to the New York metropolitan area, mostly focusing on those residing in northern Manhattan. Josefina Báez’ work and Vargas’ photography frame what it means to be “ni de aquí y ni de allá”. In Levente no. Yolayorkdominicanyork Báez’s female characters have us rethink and reimagine identity, ethnicity, race, and class and our nostalgia with the homeland. The text breaks from the traditional singular narrative, telling the story of the Dominican in El Alto through many voices.

Similarly, Vargas’ photography subjects show the formation of the Dominicanyork and the transformation of a neighborhood once called “Frankfurt on the Hudson” becoming “Little Dominican Republic”.

PART 1: “Ni de aquí”

(1960 & 1970)


Shows us the first waves of Dominicans joining the Irish, African Americans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and German-Jewish neighbors in a bankrupt New York City. Vargas focused on the blocks between 164th and 166th street on Amsterdam Avenue.

The decade begins with Vargas leaving Washington Heights to join the U.S. Army, where he was stationed in Italy and ends with his return to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic where he lived with his wife, son, and daughter until 1984.

PART 2: “Ni de aquí”

(1980 & 1990)

Tells the story of Dominicans establishing roots in Washington Heights, shopping with their children and becoming an electorate and organizing with other races and ethnicities. It was in a diverse community that Dominicans in the Heights overcame the New York Police Department’s war on drugs. The neighborhood became a home for Dominicans, including Vargas, who after military service and living in Greenwich Village returned to live in Washington Heights.

PART 3: “Ni de aquí, Ni de allá” (2000s To the present)

Brings us to today where Dominican Americans in New York City have redefined the Dominican and New Yorker identity. In the background of Vargas’ photos are the red, white, and blue of Dominican flags. By this era Vargas is traveling five hours to get to Washington Heights from his new home in a rural town in Wayne County, New York.

The influence of Dominicans and Dominican culture in Washington Heights is evident in all aspects of life. On September 7th, 2018, then State Senator Marisol Alcántara announced the commercial and cultural designation of “Little Dominican Republic” from West 145th Street to West 220th Street. At the Plaza de Las Americas, on 175th Street between Broadway and Wadsworth Avenue, elected officials, community leaders, activist groups and neighborhood residents held up Dominican flags. A year later Dominicans became the largest Latino nationality in New York City.

Vargas says: “I walk around and see a picture before I take it. Photography is not a matter of taking pictures, it’s the ability to see”. And Vargas’ ability to see has given us Dominicans in the diaspora and in the homeland a history to build from and a point of reference. Vargas says even though he has lived most of his life in New York City, he still considers himself a Dominican photographer. 

“No matter where you live, you can’t get away from who you are”.



JP Infante


Winston Vargas


Pardo Agency

Art director and designer

Peter Weidlich


Gema Imbert
& Laura Morell

Cartographic & Corrections