It’s our identity. We are the Giordanos from Ninth Street. So if anyone asks me my name, I say, “It’s Eugene Giordano from Ninth Street. So if anyone asks me my name, I say, “It’s Eugene Giordano” and they always say, “From Ninth Street?” So that’s us. So this whole street is my identity and it’s who I am.
About the Project
The Ninth Street Market is one of the nation’s oldest and largest working outdoor markets. It is commonly known as the “Italian Market” but, like all of South Philadelphia, it has always been a place of distinct ethnic identity intertwined with diversity. From the Market’s beginning at the turn of the nineteenth century, Jewish, African American and Irish merchants and employees have worked side-by-side with the Italian merchants who made Ninth Street their cultural and commercial home. In recent decades, it is Asian, African and Latino immigrants who have joined the mix of the Market. It is a place where you still can find every Italian food imaginable, but now also fresh tortillas and jackfruit.
Continuity within transition: Different Paths, One Market embraces this aspect of the Market by telling the stories of both recent immigrants and historic Market families. And it focuses our gaze on the most humble and most historic merchants in the Market: those curbside vendors who have sold fruit and vegetables from stalls, standing outside on the pavement day after day in all sorts of weather, from the 1880s up tothe present moment. Their businesses are a look backwards in time, an experience of grocery shopping that is almost non-existent in America today.
Artists Michelle Angela Ortiz and Tony Rocco transformed the vinyl awnings that shelter the vendors from the sun and the rain into an outdoor gallery of their stories of family, labor, assimilation, struggle and identity. This gallery anchors the ends of Ninth Street at Christian Street and Washington Avenue with the stories of longtime Italian merchants. The stalls in between focus on newer immigrants—those people who are willing to work outdoors in all weather, angling for a chance at the American Dream—and on those Italian Americans who are a living link to the bygone days of hucksters.