A Documentary about NJ’s Most Populated Latino City

Cubans dancing in Union City (Photo via Reporte Hispano)

[Editor’s note: The story has been updated with numerous corrections provided to Voices of NY by the director of the film.]

Before it became an enclave for Cuban exiles, Union City’s history was linked to that of the country’s most popular sports, theater and musical figures. Today, it is the mostly densely populated city in the U.S., and 95 percent of the city’s residents are Hispanic.

All this is featured in the documentary “Union City, U.S.A.,” which will be screened for free on April 20 at 7:00 p.m. at the Union City Performing Arts Center, located at 2500 Kennedy Blvd.

Film director Lucio Fernández frequently mentions that Joe DiMaggio, one of the greatest baseball players in history, used to spend his weekends having fun in the city.

In his early days Frank Sinatra sang with the Hoboken Four at the Lincoln Theatre in Union City. (Now Mi Bandera Restaurant on 32nd Street.) Fred Astaire also danced in Union City (…) according to Fernández.

The documentary is narrated by actor Tom Colavito, who grew up in Union City and spent some years in California.

Cubans began arriving in 1959. “They called us ‘Havana on the Hudson’ because we were the second city to see a massive immigration of Cubans, after Miami,” said Fernández, adding – a copy of the 2010 Census in his hand – that 65 percent of the residents of Union City are still Cuban.

The film also highlights the emergence of an embroidery industry in Union City’s economy that made it known as the “Embroidery Capital of the World.”

While the census estimated that the city would have 69,296 residents by 2016, Fernández disputes that figure.

“We believe that, right now, we are more than 80,000 residents. We have calculated this from the number of students currently enrolled in our schools,” said Fernández, who is also the city’s commissioner of public affairs.

The documentary sets out to review the history of Union City, and it is preceded by the book “Union City in Pictures,” by Fernández. It has taken its producers one year to make.

One Comment

  1. World Premiere Screening of the Documentary Feature Film
    “Union City, U.S.A.”

    (Union City, NJ) The City of Union City, Mayor Brian P. Stack & Board of Commissioners will be presenting the highly anticipated World Premiere Screening of the Documentary Feature Film “Union City, U.S.A.” on Friday, April 20, 2018 at 7:00 PM at the Union City Performing Arts Center, 2500 Kennedy Boulevard, Union City, NJ. Free Admission & Free Parking.

    “Union City, U.S.A.” is written/directed/produced by Lucio Fernandez, co-written by Gerard Karabin, and Mauro De Trizio serving as director of photography/editor; with appearances by Superintendent of Schools Silvia Abbato, Fmr. Police Chief Brian Barrett, Historian Gerard Karabin, Fmr. Commissioner James Lagomarsino, Attorney Libero Marotta, the late Rhyta Musto, Historian Jane Pedler, Susan Scherman, Mayor Brian P. Stack, Commissioner Celin Valdivia, Fmr. Mayor Arthur Wichert, Connie Wichert, and narrated by Tom Colavito.

    The film takes us from the early days of the Lenni-Lenape Native Americans to present day Union City. Through testimonials, historical photos, and present day images, it tells the story of a great city known for many its important accomplishments and people. Union City has been known as the “Embroidery Capital of the World”, “The Burlesque Capital of the World”, “Havana on the Hudson”, for the home of “longest running Passion Play in the United States”, and for being the most densely populated City in America. The City is rich in history and culture.

    Research began in 2008 by Lucio Fernandez and Gerard Karabin in preparation for their book “Union City in Pictures” which debuted in 2010. In early 2016, Fernandez set out to produce the film “Union City, U.S.A.”. In order to make this program possible, the City of Union City received a grant administered by the Hudson County Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs/Tourism Development, a county agency officially designated by the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State. In early 2017, Fernandez and Karabin set up a research team, and in May of 2017 all the interviews were conducted. It took them contacting a great many people to compile all the research and images; and nearly a year and literally thousands of hours of post-production work to bring “Union City, U.S.A.” to fruition. The film is dedicated to the people of Union City, NJ… past, present, and future.

    “Union City, U.S.A.”
    World Premiere Screening

    Friday, April 20, 2018
    7:00 PM

    Union City Performing Arts Center
    2500 Kennedy Boulevard
    Union City, NJ 07087

    Free Admission
    Free Parking

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