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A taste of Guyana in Queens, New York

A taste of Guyana in Queens, New York

Posted by Shanelle Weir on May 16, 2014

It's a small nation on the northern edge of South America but when New Yorkers who hail from Guyana want a taste of home, they don't have to travel that far.

On Liberty Avenue in Richmond Hill, the sights, smells and sounds of Guyana are just about everywhere - so are Guyanese New Yorkers who are attracted to the neighborhood. "I work around the place so when I'm in Long Island I stop here. When I'm in Queens, in Astoria I pass through here," said one Guyanese New Yorker.

The busy Guyanese-centric shopping corridor runs from Lefferts Boulevard to 133rd Street. It's the heart and soul of a small section of Richmond Hill called Little Guyana. The latest figures from the U.S. Census bureau put the Guyanese population there at 140,000 and many live, work and play right in the neighborhood. At 131st Street a music instructor can be seen teaching ceremonial and wedding musicians how to perfect their technique. A few doors down another business owner shows off some saris.

There are plenty of sari stores, religious businesses, and shops that sell vegetables and roti, a kind of bread used in South Asian-based cuisine. There is an array of choices.

"Choices for vegetables in particular, the fish from the Caribbean, the food from the Caribbean. These are the many choices you have here on Liberty that is very unique in the United States," said Richmond Hill Economic Development Council Executive Director Vishnu Mahadeo.

At 132nd Street the Veggie Castle is always bustling with customers. So is the famous Singh's Roti Shop where people get all types of curry, rice and chicken dishes. "The community they prefer this you know because it's like home-based. What they know," said one Veggie Castle employee. Longtime residents say this area has seen tremendous growth since the 1970's.

"I was shocked to see that this had become a Little Guyana because they only had one store, the Guyana grocery store," said Chitra Singh of the Rajkumari Cultural Center. Forty years later, there are now hundreds of businesses that cater to the community.

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