Media coverage in Fairhill tends to be of a negative nature, usually focusing on crime. In order to provide a better understanding of this unique and culturally diverse community, here are five things you might not know about this neighborhood.
1. Fairhill houses the largest Latino population within the city. Sixty percent of Fairhill’s population is of Latin American descent, according the 2010 U.S. Census. There are multiple organizations within the area working cooperatively to preserve the culture.
2. Nearly all the businesses and institutions serve a bilingual community. Most businesses throughout the area cater to the Spanish-speaking population. Both small and large businesses and organizations have signs in English and Spanish. Churches conduct sermons in both languages as well.
3. The neighborhood’s main source of income was formerly manufacturing. Abandoned industrial warehouses and factories are scattered throughout Fairhill’s landscape. The district played a vital role in the city’s manufacturing sector following the industrial revolution. However, beginning in the mid-20th century, Philadelphia’s industrial sector faced a steep and rapid decline.
4. Fairhill still suffers from post-industrial economic decline. Following the deterioration of the city’s manufacturing industry, many residents lost their source of income. Fairhill was hit especially hard and faced a slew of ensuing socioeconomic troubles including poverty, drug use and street violence. Approximately 54 percent of the district’s population lives below the poverty line, according to the American Fact Finder.
5. The neighborhood organizes one of the largest annual Latino cultural festival each year. To commemorate the community’s rich cultural background, many organizations work together to put on the Feria del Barrio Festival. The annual event is one of city’s largest celebrations of Latino culture and features live music, art, food and dancing. The event takes place along El Centro de Oro (5th Street and Lehigh Avenue) and brings in more than 10,000 visitors from all over the greater Philadelphia region. Feria del Barrio is hosted by Taller Puertorriqueno.
– Text and images by Rhonda Elnaggar and Charles Brown