New York City Immigrant Communities: Where VHS is King or If It Still Works – Use It!

Dear Commons Community,

In this age of streaming video and Blue-ray discs, the New York Times  has an article on the popularity of VHS videocassettes in the immigrant communities of New York City.  The article describes several neighborhoods as follows:

“The survival of the format may speak to a frugal strain among some immigrants, particularly those who are older, who seem more reluctant to embrace the throwaway, ever-modernizing consumer culture of America. Why upgrade to today’s technology? Those old cassettes do just fine.

“The immigrant very much values what they did not have,” said Orlando Tobón, a leader in the Colombian community of Jackson Heights, Queens, who runs a travel agency and tax-preparation office. “And if it still works, they still use it.”

In Harlem, a Senegalese-owned store stocks cassettes with movies from the expanding African film industry, and at least two shops in Queens, one owned by a Pakistani and the other by a Bangladeshi, supply Bollywood films on videocassette to the borough’s large South Asian population. Latinos with a lingering preference for the format shop at a Peruvian-owned store in Jackson Heights.

In interviews, the stores’ owners said videocassette sales and rentals, though now only a small and shrinking slice of their business, were sustained in part by older immigrants who seemed less inclined than the young to adopt new gadgetry.

A South Korean immigrant named Jesook Choi, 60, another customer at Hwang Jae Video, said she owned a DVD player but never used it.

“Whenever I want to watch, I cannot play it,” Ms. Choi said, as she rented two tapes, both Korean television dramas. Anyway, she added, using videocassettes “feels like an old Korean tradition kind of thing.”

This all makes sense to me.







  1. Hi Dr.Pacciano,

    Its a really nourishing article in pleasant morning. Whenever I go by these Jackson Heights lanes, I observed it quite often. Thanks for sharing!