Free food, prepared daily by “Toñita”, is set out in front of the Puerto Rican flag. Williamsburg, Brooklyn, May 1, 2022. Photo by Sylvia Riveros

The Caribbean Social Club aka Toñita’s is one of the oldest and most popular Latinx clubs in New York City, located in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Nowadays, the Caribbean Social Club is struggling due to  gentrification. According to the regular customers, South Williamsburg went from being a dangerous area -formerly  known as “Los Sures”-, to becoming an exclusive area of fashionable boutiques, and trendy restaurants.

The Caribbean Social Club was opened in 1980 by María Antonia “Toñita” Cay. Originally from Puerto Rico, Toñita is considered the matriarch of the latinxs for her support, generosity and service. People from different generations and cultures gather there to play dominoes, billiards, to play songs on the jukeboxes and enjoy the  free food. Toñita not only provides free food for the community but a collective place where all people feel at home. 

Toñita’s is considered a collective gift for the Latinxs community.

María Antonia “Toñita” Cay, owner of The Caribbean Social Club. Williamsburg, Brooklyn, May 1, 2022. Photo by Sylvia Riveros

Octavio, from Puerto Rico, plays dominoes at Toñita’s. Williamsburg, Brooklyn, April 2, 2022. Photo by Sylvia Riveros

Two women sing in unison “Lamento Boliviano” by Enanitos Verdes, an iconic song of Latin American rock. Williamsburg, Brooklyn, April 16, 2022. Photo by Sylvia Riveros

Jaime Falquéz (62) dances salsa with a visitor from Colombia. Williamsburg, Brooklyn, April 2, 2022. Photo by Sylvia Riveros

Photographs of beloved Puerto Rican baseball players adorn one of Toñita’s walls. Williamsburg, Brooklyn, April 4, 2022. Photo by Sylvia Riveros

Customers from different countries of Latin America sing and dance at Toñita’s, in the background, is a portrait of Toñita. Williamsburg, Brooklyn, April 16, 2022. Photo by Sylvia Riveros

Two regulars, both from Puerto Rico, play pool while a woman helps herself to the free food on a Sunday afternoon at Toñita’s. Williamsburg, Brooklyn, May 1, 2022. Photo by Sylvia Riveros

JP aka “La mejor basura” (23) flirts with a woman at the club, in the background is a portrait of Toñita. Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Apri 16, 2022. Photo by Sylvia Riveros

Toñita’s bar. Williamsburg, Brooklyn, April 4, 2022. Photo by Sylvia Riveros

Toñita is surrounded by a crowd of customers who have come to greet her. Williamsburg, Brooklyn, April 4, 2022. Photo by Sylvia Riveros

Toñita shows off her rings and bracelets in front of the bar. Williamsburg, Brooklyn, May 1, 2022. Photo by Sylvia Riveros

Two friends share beer and food while Toñita selects songs on the Social Club’s jukebox. Williamsburg, Brooklyn, May 1, 2022. Photo by Sylvia Riveros

Martha, a regular visitor, is sitting in front of one of the multiple portraits of Toñita that adorn the walls of the club. Williamsburg, Brooklyn, April 16, 2022. Photo by Sylvia Riveros

Two visitors from Colombia and Mexico kiss at the entrance of the club. Williamsburg, Brooklyn, April 16, 2022. Photo by Sylvia Riveros