Joann Jimenez never thought that her neighborhood bars and lounges of Washington Heights and Inwood would ever open their doors to a party that consisted of an eclectic crowd, clotheslines hanging from the ceilings, and Afro-Latino house beats.
“It was a dream of sorts, but many of the venues uptown weren’t open to this type of party or understood it,” said Joann Jimenez, founder and organizer of ¡WEPA!
On this past Tuesday night, the ¡WEPA! movement that she and the Boricua-bred Antonio Ocasio created, which accrued its popularity in the East Harlem neighborhood of “El Barrio,” brought its party a few train stops away to the predominantly Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights.
The dream has now been achieved.
¡WEPA! Tuesdays made its debut at the artsy Apt. 78 lounge, which has become one of the trendiest places uptown, and the place to spin for Hip-Hop legends such as Pete Rock, Bobbito, Tony Touch, and numerous other luminaries.
A crowd like no other ever seen gathered at the venue; a mix of young and old, a gumbo of different cultures and ethnicities, and infectious house beats pounded the establishment’s walls as attendees displayed their best dance moves on the floor.
Jose Morales, owner of Apt. 78, said it was a no-brainer to bring ¡WEPA! to his lounge with the feel he’s trying to create.
“The people that usually attend ¡WEPA! events are very passionate about music and the arts, and it fits perfectly with the feel of my establishment,” said Morales.
Carlos Sebastian Guzman, who never attended a ¡WEPA! event before, was amazed to see such an original and fresh event in his neighborhood.
“It’s bringing richness and culture that some of the other events were lacking,” said Guzman. “It feels like an old school block party. Maybe you’ve seen some people but you never really mingled with them.”
The party, which began at six and ended way past its scheduled time of midnight, wasn’t just about the dancing and the different backgrounds packing the place. What hung above them also gave the party some sabor.
“I feel like I’m home. You have a clothesline hanging from the top of the ceiling which is pretty cool. True Latino fashion,” said Gina from the Lower East Side.
The clotheslines had everything from Puerto Rican and Dominican flags to panties and musical instruments hanging from them.
¡WEPA! Tuesdays, which will continue to occur monthly through the winter was a success to Maury Matos, who helped assist in bringing the event uptown.
“I had a great time dancing and meeting all these new people,” said Matos. “I told Joann that I thought this should be brought to the Heights. Come to find out she’s from here, is Dominican and lives in Dyckman.”
After years of thinking the neighborhood she grew up in wasn’t ready for this type of event, things have changed, and Joann’s glad they have.
“Being that we’re in a place called Apt. 78, this definitely felt like a housewarming. We had a great time and it looks like we found a new place to stay.”
As Joann was finishing her sentence, a group of young kids dancing house started chanting “Wepa” in a circle.
“You don’t understand how this is all so refreshing to see.”