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Guide to Puerto Rican Oral History Project records 1976.001

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Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by Morgen Stevens-Garmon under the supervision of Chela Scott Weber, with revision by Brett Dion

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on May 22, 2017
Finding aid is written in English and Spanish using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Container List

Series 1: Oral Histories, 1973-1975 1974

Acosta, Flora, 1974 November 5

Biographical / Historical

Flora Acosta was born in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico in the late nineteenth century. She immigrated to New York in 1927. Her husband Ramón Acosta was also recorded for this collection. Acosta's daughter is Celia Vice, an influential community leader in Brooklyn and also a narrator in this collection.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Flora Acosta briefly describes her five day journey to the United States and experiences adapting to the United States socially, economically, and culturally. She closes the interview with her perception of the differences between her generation and the younger generation of Puerto Ricans in Brooklyn. Interview in Spanish conducted by Jaime Barreto.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Acosta, Flora

Subject Topics

  • Factories -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Labor -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Rican women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Women's rights -- New York (State) -- New York

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Manhattan (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Acosta, Ramon, 1974 November 5

Biographical / Historical

Ramón Acosta was born in Puerto Rico in 1880. He arrived in Brooklyn in September of 1927 aboard a German steamship. He first lived in the apartment of his brother-in-law Ramón Rodríguez on Hudson Avenue in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Vinegar Hill, later moving to Sands Street in what is now the neighborhood of DUMBO, and eventually settling in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Acosta worked for Acme Packing Corporation for decades, eventually retiring in 1955 when the company moved to St. Louis, Missouri. With his wife Flora Acosta, he was a parent of Celia Vice (1919-1993), a businesswoman, elected official, and community activist in the Puerto Rican community of New York.

Scope and Contents

Ramón Acosta remembers his experiences working in Brooklyn's factories, as well as the different neighborhoods he has lived in since his arrival in the borough in 1927. He refers to the ethnic makeup of the factories and in particular the Acme Packing Corporation. He discusses unions and their effect on the industrial workplace, including Local 21 and Local 65. Acosta discusses community leaders; such as his daughter Celia Vice, and Carlos Tapia. He also describes the living conditions, demographics and interethnic relations in the various Brooklyn neighborhoods he has lived - as well as New York in general. Interview in Spanish conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Acosta, Ramon
  • Tapia, Carlos
  • Vice, Celia M.

Subject Topics

  • Factories -- New York (State)
  • Labor -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- Kings County -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- New York -x History
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century
  • Race discrimination -- New York (State) -- New York

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • DUMBO Historic District (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration
  • Vinegar Hill (New York, N.Y.)

Ally, Trina Andino, 1973 July 31

Biographical / Historical

In 1911, Trina Ally was born in Cataño, Puerto Rico. She arrived in Brooklyn in May of 1923 and, at the time of the interview in 1973, had lived continually in Brooklyn for over half a century. After learning English as a second language and completing the 10th grade, Ally joined the workforce; working in factories and later, food service for much of her adult life. After marrying and raising a son, Ally remained an active and civic-minded resident of Brooklyn's first generation Puerto Rican community. Trina Ally died in March, 1991.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, the narrator shares a chronological account of her moving patterns - from her first Brooklyn residence to several addresses on Adams Street. She describes both housing conditions in the neighborhood of Downtown Brooklyn, as well as working life in New York's factories and food service industry. Interview conducted by Ms. Ruiz and Ms. Torres.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Ally, Trina

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Factories -- New York (State)
  • Puerto Ricans -x Education -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social conditions -y 20th century
  • Work environment -- United States

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Arroyo, Angel, 1973 August 9

Biographical / Historical

Ángel Arroyo arrived in New York City in October 1929 at the age of seventeen. He had a two-year college education, was a journalist for twenty years - including a stint as an editor and then columnist for Spanish-language daily El Diario - and considered himself a writer by trade. At the time of the interview in 1973 he was president of the Puerto Ricans Writers Association, had three of his poetry collections published, and was busy composing a book of poems on the Puerto Rican experience in New York City.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Ángel Arroyo looks back on his professional life - including twenty years as a journalist - reviewing events he helped to publicize for the mid-twentieth century's Hispanic population of New York City. He recalls his early work experience in factories and in the import-exporting business. While the interview's primary focus is autobiographical, there is significant attention paid to socioeconomic and political concerns of the Puerto Rican community, as well as Spanish-language media in the city. His career as a professional writer and poet is one that stands in contrast with that of many other migrants who, due to financial and familial obligations, were often unable to pursue a formal education. Interview conducted by Ms. Ruiz and Ms. Torres.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Arroyo, Angel M.

Subject Organizations

  • El Diario de Nueva York
  • La Prensa Newspaper, Inc.
  • Puerto Rican Writers Association

Subject Topics

  • Education
  • Puerto Ricans -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Intellectual life
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -v Newspapers
  • Puerto Rican poetry

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Manhattan (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Arroyo, Carmen Rosado, 1975 January

Biographical / Historical

Carmen Rosado Arroyo was born in the 1910s in the neighborhood of Melillas in Santurce, Puerto Rico. She moved to New York in 1923, where she had six children and spent most of her life as a housewife. She was involved in civic and religious activities and was a member of the First Spanish Presbyterian Church in Williamsburg. At the time of the interview in 1973, she was sixty-five years old and had been living in New York for approximately fifty-two years.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Carmen Rosado Arroyo briefly describes her life in Santurce, Puerto Rico and her first experiences in New York. Mrs. Rosado Arroyo talks about the beginnings of the First Spanish Presbyterian Church and the reasons for its establishment. She compares New York--as well as its population--of 1973, to the New York she knew during her first years in the city. She goes into detail as to how immigrants worked and lived together regardless of country of origin. Mrs. Rosado Arroyo discusses several social relief programs such as the Works Progress Administration, Civilian Conservation Corps, and welfare. Interview in Spanish conducted by Jaime Barreto.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Organizations

  • Civilian Conservation Corps (U.S.)
  • New York (N.Y.). Department of Public Welfare
  • United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.. Presbytery of Brooklyn-Nassau
  • United States. Works Projects Administration (New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Great Depression -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social conditions -y 20th century
  • Race relations -- United States

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Santurce (San Juan, P.R.)
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration
  • Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.)

Bermudez, Justina, 1974 November 18

Biographical / Historical

Justina Bermúdez was born in 1921 in Puerto Rico. She arrived in Brooklyn in 1932 at the age of eleven. She first lived in the apartment of her seamstress aunt Rafaela Simmons; an address on Bedford Avenue, on the border of the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Williamsburg. After Bermúdez briefly attended school while in her Aunt's care, she later moved to Hooper Avenue in Williamsburg and still resided there in 1974. Following her completion of the seventh grade, Bermúdez labored in factories, eventually working as a heat sealing operator (or lining specialist) in both a luggage and a leather handbag factory. At the time of the 1974 interview, she was retired. Justina Bermúdez died in April, 1983.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Justina Bermudez recalls growing up in Brooklyn after arriving from Puerto Rico at the age of eleven. She recalls the locations of various factories - where she initially worked with smoked fish - and eventually in a luggage factory, as well as a handbag factory as a heat sealing operator (or lining specialist). Bermudez touches on the social and recreational aspects of the Puerto Rican community; including someone she describes as one of the first Puerto Ricans in New York radio, Santiago Grevi, by name. References are also made to several nightclubs frequented by members of the community. Also, she describes the ethnic makeup of the Bedford and Flushing Avenues area, which lies on the border between the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Williamsburg. Interview in Spanish conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Bermudez, Justina
  • Grevi, Santiago

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Factories -- New York (State)
  • Great Depression -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Rican women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century
  • Race discrimination -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration
  • Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.)

Bonilla, Carmelita, 1973 May 12

Biographical / Historical

Sister Carmelita Bonilla was born in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico in 1908. She journeyed to Brooklyn in 1923, becoming the first Puerto Rican Roman Catholic nun in New York City. During the height of the Great Depression of the 1930s, Bonilla ran a community center on Gold Street in the Vinegar Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn; organizing clubs and activities for impoverished residents - many from European immigrant backgrounds - and providing vital social services, both for existing ethnic enclaves as well as the fledgling Puerto Rican community. She was stationed at Saint Peter's Church at 117 Warren Street in Brooklyn's Columbia Waterfront District, where she offered religious instruction to parishioners, including many new arrivals from Puerto Rico. In 1967 she was assigned to St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church on Pacific Street in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. By that time, she had completed a bachelor's degree from the University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras, and a master's degree from Santa María in Ponce. In 1991 she moved into the motherhouse of the Blessed Trinity Mother Missionary Cenacle in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She remained a member of the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity until her death in 2003.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Sister Carmelita Bonilla describes conditions for the residents of Brooklyn's waterfront during the 1920s and 1930s. The interview pays particular attention to the various personalities - including police, politicians and gangsters - she had to deal with in order to accomplish her social and religious work with the Catholic community at large, with the narration focusing on Bonilla's work with newly arrived migrants from her native Puerto Rico. She discusses neighborhood life and some local institutions, such as the Cumberland Hospital, and their relationship with the community. Bonilla also recalls details from her initial training and decision to join a religious order, her education, as well as her personal role in helping the poor and needy, particularly among New York's Puerto Ricans. Interview conducted by Pedro Rivera and Tomas Rivera.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Bonilla, Carmelita
  • Kelly, James
  • Tapia, Carlos
  • Weber, Louis

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Navy-yards and naval stations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Rican women -x Political activity -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Ricans -x Education -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social conditions -y 20th century

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Columbia Heights (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  • Downtown Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • DUMBO Historic District (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration
  • Vinegar Hill (New York, N.Y.)

Carrasquillo, Magdalena, 1974 November 15

Biographical / Historical

Magdalena Acosta Carrasquillo was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico in 1910. After immigrating to New York in July 1921, she became a resident of Brooklyn. Carrasquillo had a tenth grade-level education, worked at a factory and as a housewife, and was an active member of various social clubs and religious organizations. She married the community advocate Rosendo Acosta and with him she raised four children, and for twelve years prior to 1974, a grandson.

Scope and Contents

In this first of two interviews, Magdalena Acosta Carrasquillo reflects on her association with the social, political, and civic organizations that defined the Puerto Rican community in Brooklyn at the time of her arrival in the 1920s and into the 1930s. She notes specific individuals; Carlos Tapia, Luis Hernández and Antonia Denis, and places of significance for Puerto Ricans like the Betances Democratic Club and the Downtown neighborhood of Brooklyn. She also refers to her personal job-hunting process in the years 1925 to 1940. Interview in Spanish conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Carrasquillo, Magdalena
  • Denis, Antonia
  • Tapia, Carlos

Subject Topics

  • Factories -- New York (State)
  • Puerto Rican women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -x Cultural assimilation -- United States
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Societies, etc.

Subject Places

  • Downtown Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Carrasquillo, Magdalena, 1974 December

Biographical / Historical

Magdalena Acosta Carrasquillo was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico in 1910. After immigrating to New York in July 1921, she became a resident of Brooklyn. Carrasquillo had a tenth grade-level education, worked at a factory and as a housewife, and was an active member of various social clubs and religious organizations. She married the community advocate Rosendo Acosta and with him she raised four children, and for twelve years prior to 1974, a grandson.

Scope and Contents

In this second of two interviews, Magdalena Acosta Carrasquillo reflects on her association with the social, political, and civic organizations that defined the Puerto Rican community in Brooklyn at the time of her arrival in the 1920s and into the 1930s. She notes specific individuals; Carlos Tapia and Antonia Denis, and places of significance for Puerto Ricans who experienced discrimination. Interview in Spanish conducted by Jaime Barreto.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Carrasquillo, Magdalena
  • Denis, Antonia
  • Tapia, Carlos

Subject Topics

  • Factories -- New York (State)
  • Puerto Rican women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -x Cultural assimilation -- United States
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Societies, etc.

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Emigration and immigration
  • Puerto Rico

Carrero, Jean, 1974 November 2

Biographical / Historical

Jean Carrero was born in Las Marías, Puerto Rico in 1914 and migrated to Brooklyn, New York in 1926 with her parents. She studied bookkeeping at The Girls' Commercial High in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn but decided to abandon her studies as professional work was difficult to come by during the Great Depression. Carrero was married to Cecilio Rivera and was a homemaker during most of her life before working in New York City's Mental Health Department. Carrero was a member of the civic group Las Hijas de María.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Jean Carrero speaks about her first impressions of Brooklyn, New York and the challenges she faced when migrating from Puerto Rico, especially those relating to getting an education in English. She narrates several incidents regarding racial tensions between Italians and Puerto Ricans in the workplace and in Spanish Harlem. She also describes working conditions during the Great Depression and discrimination towards Puerto Ricans in the workplace. She talks about several Puerto Rican clubs such as the Casino Puertorriqueño and Las Hijas de María. She goes into detail about the role of the woman in a marriage and discusses the disparities between being a married woman and being a married man. She concludes the interview by speaking about the challenges that newer generations of Puerto Ricans face in the 1970s and her hopes for the future of the Puerto Rican community. Carrero's husband is in the background being interviewed as well. Interview in Spanish conducted by Jaime Barreto.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Carrero, Jean

Subject Organizations

  • New York (N.Y.). Department of Public Welfare

Subject Topics

  • Great Depression -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Italian Americans -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Rican families -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Rican women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -x Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Language
  • Race discrimination -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Race relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Work environment -- United States

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Harlem (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico

Colon, Ramon, 1973 April 30

Biographical / Historical

Born in 1902, Ramón Colón was a migrant from Cayey, Puerto Rico who came to New York in 1918. Educated at Brooklyn College, he worked for New York State's Division of Human Rights, as well as in the insurance and real estate industries. He was a long-time leader of the Republican Party of Kings County.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Ramón Colón contributes a wealth of information about the community benefactor Carlos Tapia, and discusses a variety of related themes: from the naming of a public school, to his perception of the younger generation of Puerto Ricans living in Brooklyn. He also discusses other civic leaders and issues pertaining to the Puerto Rican community - as well as biographical details from his own life - at length. Interview conducted by Pedro Rivera, Tomas Rivera and Elba Correa.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Colon, Ramon
  • Tapia, Carlos

Subject Organizations

  • New York (State). Division of Human Rights

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Political clubs -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -x Education -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -v Newspapers
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social conditions -y 20th century

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Cortes, Esther Mercado, 1973 August 6

Biographical / Historical

Born in Puerto Rico circa 1910, Esther Mercado Cortés migrated to Brooklyn in 1934. She spent most of her years as a housewife, a caregiver to a sick husband, and a mother to three children. One of her children is Dr. Sonia Nieto, a leading bilingual educator and author.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Esther Mercado Cortés recounts her efforts to find employment in Brooklyn factories after arriving in America alone. She also speaks of the poor housing conditions in the Borough Hall section in the neighborhood of Downtown Brooklyn during the late 1930s. Interview in Spanish conducted by Ms. Torres with an introduction by Jaime Barreto.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Cortes, Esther M.

Subject Topics

  • Puerto Rican families -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Rican women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Rican women -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social life and customs -y 20th century

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Ponce (P.R.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

de Jesus, Pastor, 1974 October 25

Biographical / Historical

Pastor de Jesús was born on a small family farm in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico in 1889. A veteran of World War I, he arrived in Brooklyn on April 1, 1920 to visit relatives, and has resided here ever since. First inhabiting an apartment on Sands Street in what is now the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn, he eventually settled on Pennsylvania Avenue in the neighborhood of East New York, where he lived in 1974. A retired furniture factory worker at the time of the 1974 interview, de Jesús served as one of the founders of American Legion Post # 1105.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Pastor de Jesús reveals his dichotomous role as a native-born Puerto Rican and American veteran of the First World War. He describes the ethnic demographics and everyday life in Brooklyn since his arrival in 1920, with a focus on his community activism. He also mentions some of the prominent names of New York City's Puerto Rican community during his lifetime. de Jesús describes working in a furniture factory in the early and mid-twentieth century, including one that manufactured wooden refrigerators. Interview in Spanish conducted by Jaime Barreto.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • de Jesus, Pastor
  • Tapia, Carlos

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Factories -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Games -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Parades -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social life and customs -y 20th century
  • Race discrimination -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • DUMBO Historic District (New York, N.Y.)
  • East New York (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Diaz, Mercedes, 1974 April 11

Biographical / Historical

Born circa 1926, Mercedes Díaz left Santurce, Puerto Rico with family in 1931. First living on Manhattan Avenue in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, she later moved to the Bronx in 1941. A high school graduate, Díaz went on to be a mail clerk.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Mercedes Díaz comments on the housing and social conditions of the Puerto Rican community in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn and Brooklyn in general. She relates the issues of ethnicity that factored into life among neighbors from the Jewish and Italian population. Interview conducted by Bob Rosado.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Diaz, Mercedes

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social life and customs -y 20th century
  • Race discrimination -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Donnes, Cesar, 1974 November 23

Biographical / Historical

César Donnes was born in 1904 in Puerto Rico and was raised on a farm until his adulthood. He arrived in Brooklyn in 1928. For the next thirty years, Donnes worked in a factory. In 1974, Donnes was retired, a widower, and a forty-six year resident of Brooklyn.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, César Donnes recounts his early employment experience; farming in Puerto Rico and factory work in Brooklyn. He describes the Downtown neighborhood of Brooklyn; in particular Sands, Gold and Adams Streets. Donnes relates the origins and formations of the Aqueybana Democratic Club, Puerto Rican Civic Union and other early Puerto Rican organizations in Brooklyn. Interview in Spanish conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Donnes, Cesar

Subject Topics

  • Factories -- New York (State)
  • Political clubs -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- Kings County -x Social conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social life and customs -y 20th century

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Estepa, Julio, 1974 December 7

Biographical / Historical

Born in Puerto Rico in 1918, Julio Estepa came to Brooklyn in 1928. He lived in Brooklyn from 1928 to 1934 and returned to Puerto Rico until 1946, when he came back to Brooklyn permanently. Estepa worked for the federal government as a security specialist. Julio Estepa died in November, 2005.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Julio Estepa talks about the circumstances surrounding life in Puerto Rico and in New York City at various points in his life. He describes what community support existed in Brooklyn for Puerto Ricans and which individuals helped others to ease the transition from life in Puerto Rico to life in Brooklyn. Estepa also offers insight on the differences between "pre-war" and "post-war" Puerto Ricans. He adds that more of an initiative should be taken by Puerto Ricans in New York in 1974; to take advantage of all the educational as well as occupational opportunities that existed within the city in the late-twentieth century. Interview in Spanish conducted by Jaime Barreto.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Denis, Antonia
  • Estepa, Julio

Subject Topics

  • Political clubs -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -x Cultural assimilation -- United States
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social conditions -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social life and customs -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Societies, etc.
  • Race relations -- United States

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Ferrell, Julio, 1973 May 10

Biographical / Historical

Julio Ferrell was born in 1892 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. After training as a carpenter in Puerto Rico, he traveled to Brooklyn aboard the Hellen as a stowaway in 1924. It was there that he primarily worked in factories; beginning with a job at the Brillo Company. He first resided in his brother's apartment on Sands Street, and later moved to a house on Prospect Street, in what is now the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn. At the time of the interview in 1973, Ferrell lived on Union Street in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn

Scope and Contents

Julio Ferrell begins the interview by recounting the lives of family members who raised him in Puerto Rico. He shares his experiences as a rebellious young man who, on a whim, left Puerto Rico as stowaway in 1924 and wound up making a new life for himself in Brooklyn. Ferrell recounts the working conditions in Brooklyn's factories and describes his relations with bosses and co-workers of different ethnic backgrounds. He recalls housing conditions and rent prices in the 1920s and 1930s. Ferrell also touches on the subject of racial discrimination; both in Puerto Rico and in New York. Interview in Spanish conducted by Tomás Rivera and Pedro Rivera.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Ferrell, Julio

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic identity
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Factories -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Great Depression -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Ricans -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century
  • Race discrimination -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • DUMBO Historic District (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Festa, Josephine and Tejada, Gloria, 1974 June 23

Biographical / Historical

Josephine Festa and Gloria Tejada, who are siblings and children of Puerto Rican parents, were born and raised in the Brooklyn neighborhood of DUMBO, before moving to Bay Shore in Long Island. Festa and Tejada both attended Public School #5 in Brooklyn, New York. Festa was a former dental assistant before becoming a housewife. Tejada was trained in mental health.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, siblings Josephine Festa and Gloria Tejada discuss growing up in the ethnically diverse Brooklyn neighborhood of DUMBO and the surrounding Brooklyn neighborhoods of Downtown Brooklyn and Vinegar Hill. Festa and Tejada discuss the role that the Catholic Church and nuns played on the development of Puerto Rican youths, and describe the duality of attending a public school where ethnic groups often remained to themselves, while also coexisting in an integrated community. Interview conducted by Monte Rivera.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Bonilla, Carmelita
  • Festa, Josephine
  • Tejada, Gloria

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York Region -x Religion
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social conditions -y 20th century
  • Public schools -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Ricans -x Education -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- Kings County -x Ethnic identity

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Downtown Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • DUMBO Historic District (New York, N.Y.)
  • Vinegar Hill (New York, N.Y.)

Figueroa, Rosario, 1974 November 12

Biographical / Historical

Rosario Figueroa was born in 1902 in Puerto Rico. She arrived in Brooklyn on October 23, 1936 aboard the steamship Borinquen. A sewing machine operator in clothing factories, she resided in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn for thirty years before moving to Corona, Queens - where she lived at the time of the interview in 1974. As factory worker, wife, mother of two, and grandmother, she managed during both high and low points for industry and prosperity in the United States. Rosario Figueroa died in August, 1989.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Rosario Figueroa recounts her arrival in Brooklyn aboard the S.S. Borinquen in 1936, as well as her experience making ends meet in various Brooklyn factories over several decades. From a cold-water flat on the industrial border between the Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods of Brooklyn to a comfortable home in Corona, Queens, Figueroa discusses her life's journey as a wife, mother, and worker in twentieth century New York - including details about the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the 1940s. Interview in Spanish conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Figueroa, Rosario

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Factories -- New York (State)
  • Parades -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Rican women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- Kings County -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- Kings County -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Work environment -- United States

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration
  • Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.)

Fontanez, Santiago Soto, 1974 September 18

Biographical / Historical

Reverend Santiago Soto Fontánez was born in Caguas, Puerto Rico in 1904, and grew up in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Rev. Fontánez received his bachelor's and master's degrees in education at the University of Puerto Rico. He moved to the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1947. He was a professor at Brooklyn College, as well as a Baptist minister. He died in 1985, a few years after writing his autobiography Misión a la Puerta, Mission at the Door.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Reverend Santiago Soto Fontánez reflects on his role as the first Puerto Rican on the local school board in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg, describes the figures who supported and helped the Puerto Rican community in Williamsburg, and also describes the limitations he faces as a Baptist Minister in the Puerto Rican community. Rev. Fontánez explains the importance of understanding the religions that Puerto Ricans believe in to help understand their culture. Interview conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Fontanez, Santiago Soto

Subject Organizations

  • Brooklyn College
  • Central Baptist Church of Williamsburgh (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Universidad de Puerto Rico. Centro de Investigaciones

Subject Topics

  • Puerto Rican youth
  • Puerto Ricans -x Education -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- Kings County -x Social conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York Region -x Religion
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Societies, etc.

Subject Places

  • Bronx (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Ponce (P.R.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • San Juan (P.R)
  • Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.)

Fortun, Maria, 1974 December 23

Biographical / Historical

Maria Fortún was seventy-five years old in 1974 when she was interviewed. She came to Brooklyn, from Puerto Rico, on December 5, 1923 at the age of twenty-four and lived there permanently. Fortún had attained a fourth grade level education and was retired in 1974.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Maria Fortún discusses the ethnic distribution and social conditions of the Brooklyn neighborhood of Downtown Brooklyn; specifically referring to Columbia Street. She discusses the early political organization "Hijos de Borinquen," and its founder Antonia Denis. Interview in Spanish conducted by Jaime Barreto.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Denis, Antonia
  • Fortun, Maria
  • Tapia, Carlos

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Political clubs -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Rican women -x Political activity -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social conditions -y 20th century

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Columbia Heights (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  • Downtown Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Garden, Maximina, 1974 January 22

Biographical / Historical

Maximina Garden was born in 1913 in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. She was forced to leave school after second grade in order to care for her widowed mother. Garden's mother died a few year later, when she was ten years old, after which she went to live with relatives. Garden sought a better life in New York, arriving in Brooklyn on the ship El Ponce on December 2, 1939 - and living in various addresses in Downtown Brooklyn and the surrounding Brooklyn neighborhoods of Brooklyn Heights and Fort Greene. After getting married, she worked in a Brooklyn garment factory at 85 Dekalb Avenue for many years.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Maximina Garden recounts her childhood in Puerto Rico, where she sacrificed an education to care for her widowed mother, her trip via the ship El Ponce to Brooklyn and her reasons for migrating to New York. She recalls a time when there were very few Puerto Ricans in Brooklyn, and describes the housing conditions in Downtown Brooklyn - and the surrounding Brooklyn neighborhoods of Brooklyn Heights and Fort Greene - where she resided at a number of locations. Garden also discusses her years at a garment factory at 85 Dekalb Avenue, where her coworkers were predominantly Italian and Jewish. She ends the conversation with details about her life as it stands at the time of the interview in 1974. Interview in Spanish conducted by Pedro Miranda.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Garden, Maximina

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Factories -- New York (State)
  • Great Depression -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Rican women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Race discrimination -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Work environment -- United States

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Fort Greene (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Giboyeaux, Jose Ramon, 1974 October 22

Biographical / Historical

José Ramón Giboyeaux was born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico circa 1904. He was raised by his sister and brother in law in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico and later relocated to Vega Baja to attend high school. Giboyeaux worked at a pineapple farm and sugar mill before attending the University of Puerto Rico to pursue a rural teacher certificate. The narrator was active in workers' unions in the island before quitting his job and moving to Brooklyn, New York in 1924. Giboyeaux was also active in workers' unions in New York and was a member of the civic group La Liga Puertorriqueña and founding member of La Civica Vanguardia Puertorriqueña.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, José Ramón Giboyeaux reflects on his interaction with several Puerto Rican personalities, political figures, and community leaders in the 1920s and 1930s. He also recalls his involvement in the Young Communist Party in Brooklyn during the 1930s alongside Jesus Colón. Giboyeaux remembers the many political activities in the Puerto Rican community of Brooklyn, such as the establishment of clubs. Interview as Spanish transcript only was conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Colon, Jesus
  • Giboyeaux, Jose Ramon

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic relations
  • Gangs -- New York (State) -- Kings Country
  • Political clubs -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social conditions -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social life and customs -y 20th century

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Gonzalez, Carmen Fortun, 1974 December 26

Biographical / Historical

Carmen Fortún González was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1926. Both of González's parents were Puerto Rican, her father having moved to Brooklyn in 1912 and her mother in 1919. The narrator was exposed to political and social activism at an early time as her father lent his barbershop to community leaders to use as a meeting space. As an adult, she was involved in several Puerto Rican and Latin American civic, political, and educational organizations in Brooklyn. She worked as a stenographer at Borough Hall in Brooklyn and at the newspaper La Prensa. At the time of the 1974 interview, González was employed by the Fort Greene Community Corporation as a human resources specialist.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Carmen Fortún González describes her parents' reasons for moving to New York from Puerto Rico and their first impressions of the city. She discusses several public figures such as Antonia Denis, Carlos Tapia, and James A. Kelly and their role in the Puerto Rican community in Brooklyn. The narrator also talks about Puerto Rican migration after the 1940s and the current situation of the newest immigrants in comparison to those who moved to Brooklyn before World War II. She also discusses the current state of Puerto Rican organizations in Brooklyn. González expresses her disappointment in Puerto Rican organizations in terms of the lack of interest in working with the community in Brooklyn, instead focusing efforts in Manhattan. Interview in Spanish conducted by Jaime Barreto.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Denis, Antonia
  • Gonzalez, Carmen
  • Kelly, James
  • Tapia, Carlos

Subject Topics

  • Italian Americans -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Political clubs -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social life and customs -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Societies, etc.
  • Race relations -- United States

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • Red Hook (New York, N.Y.)
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Guanill, Elizabeth, 1974 June 18

Biographical / Historical

Elizabeth Guanill was born in 1924 to Puerto Rican migrants in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn. Her family came to Brooklyn in 1915. Guanill's mother was a translator and her father was a cab driver and postal employee who later worked for an aviation company and founded a fruit and grocery market on Long Island. Guanill spent her first ten years in Downtown Brooklyn and the remainder of her youth in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg. She married her husband Pedro Guanill, a merchant marine, in 1943. Guanill attended Brooklyn College before moving out to eastern Long Island. At the time of the interview in 1974, Guanill and her husband lived in Bayshore, in Suffolk County, Long Island.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Elizabeth Guanill describes being born to Puerto Rican migrants in Brooklyn. She recalls the social and cultural life, as well as the ethnic distribution of the Downtown and Williamsburg neighborhoods of Brooklyn in which she was raised. She also discusses the differences between Puerto Rican migrants that came to New York in years past and those who came more recently, as well as the role of community leaders such as "Sister Carmelita" (Carmela Zapata Bonilla Marrero) and Carlos Tapia in the Puerto Rican community of New York City. Interview conducted by Monte Rivera.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Guanill, Elizabeth

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Rican women
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York Region -x Religion

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration
  • Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.)

Guanill, Pedro, 1974 June 18

Biographical / Historical

Pedro Guanill was born in 1915 in Puerta de Tierra, Puerto Rico. He migrated to the United States in 1933, at the age of eighteen. Arriving in Brooklyn, he first worked in factories, then as a boxer, and finally as a merchant marine. Guanill resided in numerous New York City neighborhoods - including long periods spent in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn and Downtown Brooklyn. In 1943, he married Elizabeth Guanill, whom he had met in Williamsburg. At the time of the interview in 1974 Guanill and his wife lived in Bayshore, Suffolk County, on eastern Long Island. He died in 1997.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Pedro Guanill talks about his experiences as a factory worker, boxer and merchant seaman during the interwar and World War II period. He also describes the Williamsburg and Downtown neighborhoods of Brooklyn in the 1930s and 1940s. Guanill touches on the life of community leader and businessman Carlos Tapia, as well as the Baldorioty Democratic Club. There are some specific references to Carlos Tapia's restaurant and other Puerto Rican-owned small businesses during that time. Interview conducted by Monte Rivera.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Guanill, Pedro

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Factories -- New York (State)
  • Games -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Ricans -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social conditions -y 20th century
  • Work environment -- United States

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.)

Hernandez, Julio, 1974 December

Biographical / Historical

Julio Hernández was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1925, and had lived in Brooklyn consistently when he was interviewed in 1974. He served as the Director of both the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter of New York and the Puerto Rican Merchants Association. He also was an advisory board member of the Borough of Northern Manhattan.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Julio Hernández discusses the economic conditions of Puerto Ricans in Brooklyn, New York. He describes the ethnic distribution in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook. Hernández talks about the political movements by Puerto Ricans in Brooklyn, where he refers to the Betances Democratic Club, and political leaders including Jesus Colón, Antonia Denis, and Louis Weber. Interview in Spanish conducted by Jamie Barreto.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Denis, Antonia
  • Hernandez, Julio
  • Tapia, Carlos
  • Weber, Louis

Subject Organizations

  • Betances Club
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
  • Puerto Rican Merchants Association

Subject Topics

  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- Kings County -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- Kings County -x Social conditions
  • Political clubs -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Societies, etc.

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • Red Hook (New York, N.Y.)

Hernandez, Luis, 1974 November 4

Biographical / Historical

Luis Hernández arrived in Brooklyn, New York in 1926 at the age of two or three years old and lived in the borough for at least the next five decades. Coming from a very active, civic-minded family, he had been involved politically in the borough since his early youth. At the time of this 1974 interview, Hernández was the Commissioner of Relocation and Rehabilitation for the city. He also founded the Voter's Club and was actively involved in the political life of the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Commissioner Luis Hernández discusses the general social conditions of the early Puerto Ricans in Downtown Brooklyn. He briefly surveys the altercations between Italian, Irish, and Puerto Rican gangs. He references the first Puerto Rican Democratic club founded in 1928, the Borinquen Democratic Club and its founders. Commissioner Hernández also shares details on his four brothers in relation to the family's work ethic and professions. Interview conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Colon, Jesus
  • Denis, Antonia
  • Giboyeaux, Jose Ramon
  • Hernandez, Luis
  • Tapia, Carlos

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Political clubs -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social life and customs -y 20th century
  • Race discrimination -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration
  • Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.)

Hostalaza, Emilio, 1974 November 5

Biographical / Historical

Emilio Hostalaza was born in Puerto Rico in 1899 and arrived in Brooklyn, New York, on April 23, 1929. At the time of his interview in 1974, he had lived in Brooklyn for forty-five years. He resided in several Brooklyn neighborhoods, including the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Clinton Hill, Williamsburg, and DUMBO. He was employed in the restaurant business as a cook during his time in Brooklyn.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Emilio Hostalaza discusses political movements within Puerto Rican clubs, where he relates specific information on the beginnings and transformations of the Betances Democratic Club. He describes political leaders in the community, such as Carlos Tapia and Jesus Colón. He describes the ethnic distribution of the Brooklyn neighborhood of Clinton Hill and the economic conditions of the Puerto Rican community. Interview in Spanish conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Colon, Jesus
  • Hostalaza, Emilio
  • Tapia, Carlos

Subject Topics

  • Political clubs -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Societies, etc.

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Clinton Hill (New York, N.Y.)
  • DUMBO Historic District (New York, N.Y.)
  • Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.)

Irizarry, Honorina Weber, 1974 October 17

Biographical / Historical

Born in 1902, Honorina Weber Irizarry arrived in Brooklyn in 1928 and remained a resident well into the 1970s. A college graduate, she owned a small business in Brooklyn at the time of this 1974 interview. Married in 1930, she was a grandmother by 1974. Irizarry is also the sister of the well-known Puerto Rican benefactor Louis Weber. She died in 1980.

Scope and Contents

Honorina Weber Irizarry relates information on the first Democratic Puerto Rican clubs, and on those involved in their creation. She references Louis Weber and Carlos Tapia, specifically discussing their styles of interacting with the community. She recalls her work history as a multilingual translator in Lower Manhattan. Irizarry also describes the ethnic distribution of the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Interview conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Irizarry, Honorina Weber
  • Tapia, Carlos
  • Weber, Louis

Subject Topics

  • Political clubs -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Societies, etc.

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Columbia Heights (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  • Manhattan (New York, N.Y.)

LaRosa, Ramon, 1974 October 30

Biographical / Historical

Ramon LaRosa arrived in Brooklyn in 1917 and stayed there since his arrival. LaRosa had a limited formal education. When he was interviewed in 1974, he was a retired factory worker. He had been employed at the Welder-Brillo Manufacturing Company for over forty-five years and was a merchant seaman for eight years. He died in 1978.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Ramon LaRosa discusses the economic conditions of Puerto Ricans during the 1920s and 1930s. He describes the social conditions of Brooklyn, New York, and he reflects on his personal relationships with Italians on the Brooklyn waterfront. He describes the personalities of political leaders in the Puerto Rican community, including Louis Weber and Carlos Tapia. Interview in Spanish conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • LaRosa, Ramon
  • Tapia, Carlos
  • Weber, Louis

Subject Topics

  • Factories -- New York (State)
  • Puerto Ricans -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social conditions -y 20th century

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Clinton Hill (New York, N.Y.)
  • DUMBO Historic District (New York, N.Y.)

Larregui, Dick, 1974 September 11

Biographical / Historical

Born in Downtown Brooklyn in 1930, Dick Larregui was one of seven children. In his time from grammar through high schools, Larregui worked at several part-time jobs in his neighborhood. In the United States Army from 1951 to 1953, he served in Kentucky, Texas, and Alaska. In the late 1950s, he went to work in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. As jobs there thinned, he went into management at International Business Machines (IBM) in 1960. He first experienced Puerto Rico as a tourist in 1964, and returned there on IBM business and stayed. He retired in 1993 and was residing in San Juan, Puerto Rico as of 2016.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Dick Larregui speaks on his own experiences of life at school and work within Brooklyn of the 1930s and 1940s, as well as his military stint in the early 1950s and migrating to Puerto Rico in the 1960s. He recalls Jesus Colón's role in the Puerto Rican community and the ethnic distribution of Downtown Brooklyn during wartime. Larregui looks back on the economic and social conditions of the formative time of the Puerto Rican community in Brooklyn. He makes some comparisons of the Puerto Rican cultural experience in New York versus that of Puerto Rico. Interview conducted by Jaime Barreto.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Colon, Jesus
  • Larregui, Dick

Subject Organizations

  • International Business Machines Corporation
  • New York Naval Shipyard

Subject Topics

  • Navy-yards and naval stations -- New York (State) -- Kings County -x Employees
  • Political clubs -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Societies, etc.

Subject Places

  • Downtown Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico

Loperena, Felix, 1974 November 22

Biographical / Historical

Felix Loperena was born in Puerto Rico in 1906. He traveled to New York in 1922 aboard a vessel on the Bull steamship line, working as a steward en route. Loperena first arrived in Brooklyn on a Columbia Street dock and lived nearby in an all-Puerto Rican boarding house on Poplar Street and Columbia Heights in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood. He worked in several cardboard box factories along the Brooklyn waterfront over the years, including in the Bush Terminal complex. At the time of the interview in the 1970s, he lived on Manhattan Avenue in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Felix Loperena offers his informed account of Brooklyn's Puerto Rican community as a pioneering Puerto Rican in Brooklyn during the 1920s and 1930s, a time when Puerto Ricans were few and far between. He traces the experience of newly arrived Puerto Ricans in the world of labor; including job hunting during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Loperena mentions specific factories which employed Puerto Ricans along with other ethnic groups. He gives a vivid account of discrimination faced by Puerto Ricans from Irish and Italians, and also touches on how the arrival of labor unions may have helped to alleviate prejudice against Puerto Ricans in the workplace. Interview in Spanish conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Loperena, Felix

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Factories -- New York (State)
  • Great Depression -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Ricans -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century
  • Race discrimination -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Work environment -- United States

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Columbia Heights (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Maisonette, Jovita, 1974 April 10

Biographical / Historical

Born Jovita Díaz, Jovita Maisonette arrived in Brooklyn in 1924 and resided in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn for ten years, until she moved to the Bronx neighborhood of Hunts Point. She was a retired factory worker. Taking the name Jovita Robledo Y Díaz later in life, she died in 1983.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Jovita Maisonette describes the ethnic distribution of the Brooklyn neighborhood of DUMBO. She discusses the racial tensions between Puerto Ricans and Italians in DUMBO. Masionette talks about the economic conditions of the Puerto Rican community and the culture of small businesses in DUMBO. Interview in Spanish conducted by Bob Rosado.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Maisonette, Jovita

Subject Topics

  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social conditions -y 20th century
  • Race relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Bronx (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • DUMBO Historic District (New York, N.Y.)

Malabe, Orlando, 1974 June 24

Biographical / Historical

Born in Savana Grande, Puerto Rico in 1919, Orlando Malabé arrived in Brooklyn in 1934. First residing on Bergen Street at Smith Street, he went to work at a luncheonette before he was drafted and served five years during World War II. On a business contract in the early 1950s, Malabé opened and ran a store in Puerto Rico before he and his wife started a shipping and storage company in 1953. Malabe Shipping was based on Bergen Street at Boerum Place in the Boerum Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, and did not cease operations until 1992. He was a husband and a father of two adult children at the time of this 1974 interview. Orlando Malabé lived in Miami, Florida in the few years before his death in 1991.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Orlando Malabé speaks of some organizations and people who were leading Brooklyn's Puerto Rican community. He refers to some of the most active personalities like Louis Weber and organizations like the International Workers Order (IWO) and La Civica Vanguardia Puertorriqueña, which were popular in the Brooklyn of the late 1930s. Malabé recalls his own personal history in terms of his migration, family connections and support, early jobs, and business enterprises. Interview conducted by Monte Rivera.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Malabe, Orlando
  • Weber, Louis

Subject Organizations

  • International Workers Order

Subject Topics

  • Business enterprises -x Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Great Depression -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Political clubs -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Societies, etc.
  • Shipyards -- United States

Subject Places

  • Boerum Hill (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico

Marrero, Luis, 1974 June 24

Biographical / Historical

Luis Marrero was born in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico in 1901. He first arrived on the Brooklyn waterfront in 1920 as a merchant marine, after which he was employed at the Domino Sugar refinery and resided on Sands Street. Later, during the 1940s, Marrero worked at maintaining ships and lived on Henry Street in the neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights. He spent 1951 to 1962 in Puerto Rico, after which he returned to Brooklyn permanently.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Luis Marrero discusses in detail Carlos Tapia's significance to Brooklyn's early Puerto Rican community vis-a-vis the status of Tapia's restaurant as a place of socializing, mutual aid and employment. He makes specific comments on Tapia's business activities and his wife "Dona Yuga." Marrero also provides information on the job market during the Great Depression, including work conditions; with specific reference to the Domino Sugar refinery and ship maintenance along Brooklyn's waterfront. Orlando Malabé, a narrator within this collection, referred the interviewers to Marrero and added commentary to this oral history. Interview in Spanish conducted by Monte Rivera.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Marrero, Luis
  • Tapia, Carlos

Subject Organizations

  • American Sugar Refining Company

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Great Depression -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Sugar factories -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Columbia Heights (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Marti, Anaberta, 1974 August 20

Biographical / Historical

Anaberta Martí came to the United States in 1953, where she lived in New Jersey, the Bronx, and Brooklyn. At the time of the 1974 interview, Mrs. Martí had lived in Brooklyn for twelve years. She had attained a seventh grade-level education. She was the mother of nine children, and a housewife.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Anaberta Martí describes the ethnic distribution of the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Brownsville and East New York during the late 1950s and 1960s. Martí reflects on the economic conditions of the Puerto Rican community, referencing small Puerto Rican businesses in Brooklyn, New York. She discusses the social conditions of Brownsville and East New York and describes the role women play in the Puerto Rican family and community. Interview in Spanish conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Marti, Anaberta

Subject Topics

  • Puerto Rican women -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Societies, etc.
  • Race relations -- United States

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brownsville (New York, N.Y.)
  • East New York (New York, N.Y.)

Marti, Nereida, 1974 August 22

Biographical / Historical

Nereida Martí was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Brooklyn, New York in July, 1951 to live with her godmother's daughter. At the time of the 1974 interview, Martí was married and had two children. She lived in different apartments in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood, where she also worked, until 1959, as a sewing machine operator.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Nereida Martí narrates her experiences finding employment and working in sewing factories in Brooklyn, New York while attending night school. The narrator briefly discusses living conditions and recreational activities in the neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights, as well societal changes in there during the 1950s. Interview in English and Spanish conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Marti, Nereida

Subject Topics

  • Factories -- New York (State)
  • Puerto Rican women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -x Education -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Race relations -- United States

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn Heights (New York, N.Y.)

Martinez, Gumercindo, 1974 October 15

Biographical / Historical

Gumercindo Martínez was born in 1935 in Salinas, Puerto Rico. At the age of eighteen, he joined the United States Army and moved to Brooklyn, New York. He came from a modest upbringing, had six siblings, and his father was a sugar chemist at the Aguirre sugar mill in Salinas, Puerto Rico. Martínez was an active community member and politician. He studied at a commercial high school and became an office clerk before starting a career in politics. He occupied the positions of Assistant Administrator of the Board of Elections and Commissioner of the Board of Elections in Brooklyn. At the time of the interview, Martínez was director of the Bronx Model Cities program. He was married to Teodora Martínez, who was also active in political and civic activities.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Gumercindo Martínez briefly narrates his first experiences in Brooklyn, New York, living conditions in 1950s Brooklyn, and his family's economic conditions. He discusses his political career and goes into detail on his accomplishments as part of the Board of Elections and as director of Bronx Model Cities. He focuses his narrative on voter registration campaigns, discrimination in the polls, and the need for Puerto Ricans to be more invested in United States politics while living in the U.S. Martínez also talks about the history of Los Pioneros and their first march to commemorate Antonia Denis. He mentions many Puerto Rican organizations such as the Puerto Rican Democratic Club, the Betances Democratic Club, La Casa Borinquen, El Bello Ideal Puertorriqueño and La Federación de Sociedades Hispanas; although he does not go into detail on any of these. The narrator also talks about his wife, Teodora Martínez, and lists several of her positions and accomplishments in politics. Interview in Spanish conducted by Jaime Barreto.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Denis, Antonia
  • Martinez, Gumercindo
  • Martinez, Theodora

Subject Organizations

  • New York (N.Y.). Board of Elections
  • United States. Model Cities Administration

Subject Topics

  • Demonstration Cities Program (New York, N.Y.)
  • Parades -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Political clubs -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Rican women -x Political activity -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century
  • Race discrimination -- New York (State) -- New York

Subject Places

  • Bronx (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico

Medina, Felipe, 1974 October 16

Biographical / Historical

Born circa 1897, Felipe Medina arrived in Brooklyn in 1920, and had lived in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Downtown Brooklyn for more than fifty-four years when the interview took place in 1974. He was a barber by trade, and he operated and owned a barber shop. He belonged to Jesús Colón's militano group.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Felipe Medina discusses the ethnic distribution of Puerto Ricans in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Downtown Brooklyn. Medina refers to the social conditions of Puerto Ricans in Brooklyn during the 1920s and 1930s. He describes the political movements by the Puerto Rican community in Brooklyn, referencing political leaders Carlos Tapia and Jesús Colón. Interview in Spanish conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Colon, Jesus
  • Medina, Felipe
  • Tapia, Carlos

Subject Topics

  • Barbers -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Barbershops -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Societies, etc.

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Downtown Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Melendez, Angel, 1974 November 11

Biographical / Historical

Ángel Meléndez was born in Puerto Rico in 1897. He arrived in New York in 1923, briefly working at the Vanderbilt Hotel in Manhattan. After obtaining a better paying job at pharmaceutical company Pfizer's Flushing Avenue plant, he moved to Brooklyn in 1925. Meléndez was one of the first Puerto Ricans hired at Pfizer - which was located between the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant - and he lived in close proximity to the facility for the next forty-three years; thirty-five of which were spent working there. Meléndez retired in 1960 and eight years later moved to Corona, Queens. He was residing there at the time of the interview in 1974.

Scope and Contents

In a brief interview, Ángel Meléndez gives a description of the Puerto Rican community in Brooklyn, specifically in the area of Ellery and Hopkins Streets; in close proximity to the Pfizer pharmaceutical plant. He offers a description of the experience of working at Pfizer as one of the first Puerto Ricans hired at the facility. There is also a brief discussion on the social role of community grocery stores known as bodegas in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn and the advent of Puerto Rican social clubs in the area of the plant - which lies between the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant. Interview in Spanish conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Melendez, Angel

Subject Organizations

  • Pfizer Inc.

Subject Topics

  • Clubs -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Ricans -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social life and customs -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Societies, etc.

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration
  • Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.)

Melendez, Filomena, 1974 October 19

Biographical / Historical

Filomena Meléndez was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Brooklyn in 1932. She never attended school and didn't know how to read, write, or speak English. At the time of this 1974 interview, Meléndez had lived in Brooklyn for forty-two years, mainly in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Filomena Meléndez describes life in Brooklyn in the 1930s and 1940s as well as the development of Puerto Rican bodegas in the area. She talks about types of radio programs she used to listen to and compares them to radio broadcasting in the 1970s. She describes how she traveled around Brooklyn despite her being illiterate and having a language barrier. Meléndez comments on the cost of life in 1930s Brooklyn as well as the availability of jobs for Puerto Ricans. She compares the Puerto Rican community from the '30s and '40s to the Puerto Rican community at the time of the interview in 1974 and reflects on how the adoption of an American way of life has affected Puerto Rican values. At the end of the interview, the interviewer provides a summary in English on Meléndez's views on the Puerto Rican community in the 1970s. Interview in Spanish conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Melendez, Filomena

Subject Topics

  • Literacy -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -x Cultural assimilation -- United States
  • Puerto Ricans -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Language
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social life and customs -y 20th century
  • Radio -- United States -y 20th century

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.)

Mercado, Peter O., 1974 October 23

Biographical / Historical

Peter Mercado arrived in Brooklyn from Puerto Rico at the age of eighteen on April 9, 1928. He was still a resident of the borough when interviewed in 1974. He was a small business owner in the Brooklyn community, formerly running a small storefront print shop at 314 Adams Street.

Scope and Contents

Peter Mercado, sixty-five when this interview occurred in 1974, emphasizes his well-informed view of the Puerto Rican community. He discusses his meeting with Carlos Tapia during the 1932 elections. He makes reference to the de Hostos Democratic Club; describing its activities and stating specific areas where Hispanic American votes were sought. Mercado recalls personalities such as politician Vito Marcantonio, businessman Don Parovereret, César Rodriquez, and Marino Rodriquez; both early businessmen in the Puerto Rican community in Brooklyn. He also makes reference to Jesus Colón and Gualda Rivera. Interview conducted by John D. Vasquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Denis, Antonia
  • Grevi, Santiago
  • Marcantonio, Vito
  • Mercado, Peter O.
  • Tapia, Carlos

Subject Organizations

  • de Hostos Democratic Club

Subject Topics

  • Business enterprises -x Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Freemasonry -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Periodicals -x Publishing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Ricans -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- Kings County -x Intellectual life
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Politics and government
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Montignier, Gilbert, 1974 September 30

Biographical / Historical

Born in Puerto Rico in the 1930s, Gilbert Montignier and his family immigrated to New York City in 1938. From 1949 to 1952, he lived in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. At the time of the 1974 interview, Montignier was residing in Manhattan and working as a mechanical designer.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Gilbert Montignier speaks about the ethnic distribution of the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn in the mid-twentieth century, as well as the distribution of Puerto Ricans in the South Bronx and New York City as a whole in the early 1970s. He recalls the early 1950s encounters he had with a Williamsburg community leader, Mr. Hernandez, and his encounter with New York politician Vito Marcantonio. In closing, Montignier references the skewed treatment of Puerto Ricans in academics and in the urban economy. Interview conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Marcantonio, Vito
  • Montignier, Gilbert

Subject Topics

  • Politicians -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -x Education -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -x Housing -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century

Subject Places

  • Bronx (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.)

Mulero, Mildred, 1974 September 26

Biographical / Historical

Mildred Mulero was born in 1928 and raised in Brooklyn; first in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant and after 1944, in the Williamsburg section. She and her siblings grew up in a traditional, religious Protestant household and later socialized with a diverse group of neighborhood friends. At the time of the interview in 1974, Mulero was working as an educational assistant in a predominantly Puerto Rican New York City public school.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Mildred Mulero recounts growing up in the 1930s and 1940s; recalling the diverse array of businesses, religions, and ethnicities in the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Williamsburg neighborhoods of Brooklyn. She describes a traditional religious upbringing, youthful activities, and an ethnically mixed clique of teenage friends and acquaintances in Williamsburg. She recalls the neighborhood developing over the years from German nd Irish to predominantly Puerto Rican. Education, religious, and political leadership is briefly discussed. Spanish-language news media in the Puerto Rican community is also touched on. Interview in Spanish conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Bonilla, Carmelita
  • Mulero, Mildred

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Multiculturalism
  • Puerto Rican families -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Rican women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- Kings County -x Social conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York Region -x Religion
  • Race relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Schools -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.)

Negron, Sophie, 1974 August 27

Biographical / Historical

Sophie Negrón was born in Puerto Rico and moved to the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1926 with her husband and son. She had seven children after moving to Brooklyn, two of whom passed away as infants. Negrón was a housewife while her husband was a factory worker and later a railroad worker.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Sophie Negrón talks about living conditions, ethnic composition, and shop owners of the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood. She briefly narrates what life was like during the Great Depression and mentions several political figures and community leader such as Sister Carmelita, Carlos Tapia, and Gilberto Concepción de Gracia. Although she was not directly involved in any political organizations, Negrón describes how she was kept up to date regarding the current political climate and social struggles through her visitors and the radio. Negrón reflects on how the Puerto Rican community and their recreational activities have changed and concludes that Puerto Rican values and culture are being left behind by younger generations. Interview in English and Spanish conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Negron, Sophie
  • Tapia, Carlos

Subject Topics

  • Great Depression -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- Kings County -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -x Cultural assimilation -- United States
  • Puerto Ricans -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social life and customs -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York Region -x Religion

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn Heights (New York, N.Y.)

Oliveras, Edna Rosado, 1975 January 19

Biographical / Historical

Edna Rosado Oliveras was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1934. She lived in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn for eight years and then moved to the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood. At the time of the 1975 interview, Oliveras was forty years old and a housewife. She worked as an assistant teacher with the Department of Education and as a Sunday school teacher. She was an active member of the Seneca Club, the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), and the First Spanish Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn. Edna Rosado Oliveras died in Brooklyn in April, 1984.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Edna Rosado Oliveras discusses living conditions in the Williamsburg and Brooklyn Heights neighborhoods of Brooklyn, as well the changes that occurred once the Puerto Rican population in said neighborhoods increased. Oliveras talks about the charitable activities of the civic, religious, and political organizations to which she belongs. She also mentions notable members of these organizations and their efforts to enhance the quality of life for Puerto Ricans in New York. Oliveras discusses the need for immigrants to overcome language barriers and learn the language of the country in which they currently live in while also retaining their cultural identity. The flaws embedded in public assistance programs such as Welfare are reflected upon as well. Interview in Spanish and English conducted by Jaime Barreto.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Oliveras, Edna Rosado

Subject Topics

  • Political clubs -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Public welfare -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Rican women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Rican women -x Political activity -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -x Cultural assimilation -- United States
  • Puerto Ricans -x Education -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century
  • Young Men's Christian associations -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.)

Padilla de Armas, Encarnacion, 1974 October 21

Biographical / Historical

Encarnación Padilla de Armas came to Brooklyn in 1926, at age sixteen. Her residency there was sporadic since then. She traveled extensively through all of the Spanish-speaking countries of the world. Padilla de Armas obtained a bachelor's degree and an honorary doctorate from Fordham University. She worked for sixteen years with the Liberal Party. In 1974, she had organized a community group of elderly, urban Puerto Ricans, was retired and a widow. Padilla de Armas died in 1992.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Encarnación Padilla de Armas begins by describing her involvement with the Puerto Rican community in Brooklyn in the 1920s. She reminisces about her first years in America as a teenager, and then continues with a description of her involvement with certain organizations and civic leaders, as well as her personal interest in Puerto Rican citizens in need. She closes by evaluating and forecasting both political and social matters concerning the Puerto Rican community of Brooklyn in the 1970s. Interview conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Denis, Antonia
  • Padilla de Armas, Encarnacion

Subject Topics

  • Political clubs -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Rican women -x Political activity -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -x Cultural assimilation -- United States
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Intellectual life
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Societies, etc.

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • Red Hook (New York, N.Y.)
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Perez, Nick, 1974 November 5

Biographical / Historical

Nick Perez arrived in New York City in 1930 at the age of twenty-five. He came to reside in Brooklyn circa 1934 and remained until at least 1974. With little formal education, Perez worked mostly in service industry workplaces like restaurants. However, he enrolled in several training programs and qualified as an auto mechanic. Perez was retired and living alone in 1974. He died in Miami, Florida in 1997.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Nick Perez gives a chronological account of his workplaces and work experience; beginning with his first job in the States at the Hotel New Yorker in Manhattan to his last job as an auto mechanic instructor at Mobilization for Youth, an anti-poverty program. He discusses job hunting experiences, his divorce and immediate family, and his visits to Puerto Rico. Interview conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Perez, Nick

Subject Topics

  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Ricans -x Cultural assimilation -- United States
  • Puerto Ricans -x Education -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- New York

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Manhattan (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration
  • Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.)

Plasencia, Gonzalo, 1974 November 4

Biographical / Historical

Born in Puerto Rico, 1909, Gonzalo Plasencia arrived in Brooklyn in 1929 and, after a brief stay with an aunt in Upper Manhattan, he became a longtime resident. As a man of letters - in addition to sports - he had been active in the Puerto Rican community for decades. Plasencia was responsible for establishing a Puerto Rican baseball league in Brooklyn. A former employee of the Sweets Company of America's Tootsie Roll factory in Manhattan, Plasencia was semi-retired and working as a columnist for the Sunset News in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Sunset Park at the time of the interview in 1974.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Gonzalo Plasencia offers information on the employment problems faced by Puerto Ricans, as well as the historic problems between the Puerto Rican community and the New York police. He also discusses the origin and formation of the Puerto Rican Pioneers Parade, as well as the advocacy group United Puerto Rican Organization of Sunset Park (UPROSE). In addition, there is mention of several well-known Puerto Rican individuals, such as Carlos Tapia, Antonia Denis and Ramon González. Interview in Spanish conducted by Jaime Barreto.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Denis, Antonia
  • Plasencia, Gonzalo
  • Tapia, Carlos

Subject Organizations

  • New York (N.Y.). Police Department
  • Pioneers Day Parade (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  • Tootsie Roll Industries
  • United Puerto Rican Organization of Sunset Park

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Factories -- New York (State)
  • Games -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Parades -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Race discrimination -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Work environment -- United States

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Harlem (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • Sunset Park (New York, N.Y.)
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Pratts, Francisco, 1974 October 14

Biographical / Historical

In 1921, at about age twenty, Francisco Pratts arrived in New York City and moved to Brooklyn shortly thereafter and remained a resident well into the 1980s. A merchant marine and dockworker on Brooklyn's ports and a veteran of World War II, Pratts was a cook before he retired in the early 1970s. Married with four grown children at the time of this 1974 interview, he hoped he and his wife could return to Puerto Rico in retirement. Francisco Pratts died in Brooklyn in 1987.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Francisco Pratts gives his account of the social and economic challenges of Puerto Ricans new to Brooklyn during the 1920s and 1930s. He speaks with some severe language and bias about the conflicts and confrontations of Puerto Ricans and Italians. Pratts also reflects on political dealings that affected the community and individuals such as Carlos Tapia, James Kelly, and others who were active in establishing political clubs. Interview conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Kelly, James
  • Pratts, Francisco
  • Tapia, Carlos

Subject Topics

  • Discrimination in employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Docks -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Italian Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Political clubs -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Ricans -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social conditions -y 20th century
  • Waterfronts -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Work environment -- United States

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Downtown Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Ramos, Juan, 1973 August 25

Biographical / Historical

Juan Ramos was born in Puerto Rico in 1908 and raised in Bayamon and San Juan. He arrived in New York in 1926, living in Upper Manhattan until 1945 - at which point he moved to the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. He was trained as a baker in Puerto Rico and had labored in New York City as a factory worker. At the time of the interview in 1973, Ramos was living in Williamsburg with his wife and youngest son and working in a hospital as a nurse's aide. He was the father of five children.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Juan Ramos briefly discusses his childhood in Puerto Rico and 1926 arrival in New York. He recounts his experience as a Puerto Rican in the United States during the Great Depression, offering a vivid description of economic conditions between 1928 and 1932. He recalls the ethnic friction that arose between Puerto Ricans, Jews, and Italians during the 1930s and 1940s. Ramos gives detailed information about Puerto Ricans in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn after 1945. Ramos also compares the small and tightknit New York City Puerto Rican community of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s with subsequent generations. Interview in Spanish conducted by Mayda Cortiella.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Ramos, Juan

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Great Depression -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration
  • Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.)

Rivera, Cecilio, 1974 June 20

Biographical / Historical

Cecilio Rivera was born in Puerto Rico in 1903. He arrived in Brooklyn in 1929 and resided in the Williamsburg neighborhood up until 1949 - at which time he and his family moved to Brentwood, New York. As a retired businessman, Rivera had first worked in numerous grocery stores before eventually purchasing his own bodega. The personal connections he made while working in local shops and delivering groceries throughout Brooklyn served him well, as he went on to found and/or participate in several civic and social organizations revolving around the Puerto Rican community. These include the Baldorioty Democratic Club, the Puerto Rican Civic Association, the Puerto Rican Merchants Association - in which Rivera served as the first president - and the Pan American Civic Association, which he founded after relocating to Eastern Long Island.

Scope and Contents

In the first of two interviews, Cecilio Rivera offers personal details and touches on his experience as a small business owner and activist in Brooklyn's Puerto Rican community. Rivera discusses in brief, the formation, function, and participation within political clubs and organizations. In addition, he speaks on Carlos Tapia, the general job prospects of the Puerto Rican community, and Puerto Rican identity in America. Rivera closes with some reflection on his own business opportunities, his insight into his brief time at Pfizer, and leaving Brooklyn for New York suburbia. Interview conducted by Monte Rivera.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Rivera, Cecilio
  • Tapia, Carlos

Subject Organizations

  • Pfizer Inc.

Subject Topics

  • Bodegas |z New York (State) |z New York
  • Business enterprises -x Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Political clubs -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century

Subject Places

  • Brentwood (N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Rivera, Cecilio, 1974 November 2

Biographical / Historical

Cecilio Rivera was born in Puerto Rico in 1903. He arrived in Brooklyn in 1929 and resided in the Williamsburg neighborhood up until 1949 - at which time he and his family moved to Brentwood, New York. As a retired businessman, Rivera had first worked in numerous grocery stores before eventually purchasing his own bodega. The personal connections he made while working in local shops and delivering groceries throughout Brooklyn served him well, as he went on to found and/or participate in several civic and social organizations revolving around the Puerto Rican community. These include the Baldorioty Democratic Club, the Puerto Rican Civic Association, the Puerto Rican Merchants Association - in which Rivera served as the first president - and the Pan American Civic Association, which he founded after relocating to Eastern Long Island.

Scope and Contents

In the second of two interviews, Cecilio Rivera offers a personal chronology - and critique - as a result of his experience as a small business owner, activist, and benefactor of Brooklyn's Puerto Rican community. He gives a number of specific events with corresponding dates related to various clubs and organizations he was associated with, such as the Baldorioty Democratic Club, the Puerto Rican Civic Association, and the Puerto Rican Merchants Association - in which he served as the first president. Rivera discusses in detail the formation, function, and organization of these groups. In addition there is biographical data on Carlos Tapia, Louis Weber, and Pedro Tejada, as well as other figures involved with the Puerto Rican community. Never properly introduced, Rivera's wife, Jean Carrero, interjects often in the background and occasionally in the foreground. Interview in Spanish and English conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Rivera, Cecilio

Subject Organizations

  • Baldorioty Democratic Club
  • Pan American Civic Association
  • Puerto Rican Civic Association
  • Puerto Rican Merchants Association

Subject Topics

  • Markets -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social conditions -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Societies, etc.

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Long Island (N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • Suffolk County (N.Y.)
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Rodriguez, Juana Weber, 1974 October 25

Biographical / Historical

Juana Weber Rodríguez was born in Puerto Rico in 1897. She landed in Brooklyn with her daughter on May 30, 1926, after her husband had arrived in March of the same year. Along with her family, Rodríguez resided in the Red Hook and Carroll Gardens neighborhoods of Brooklyn. Her husband labored as a factory worker, an employee of the Betances Democratic Club (founded by Rodríguez's brother Louis Felipe Weber), and as a merchant marine, while Rodríguez worked as a housewife and mother. At the time of the interview in 1974, she had been living in the Howard Beach neighborhood of Queens for approximately two years.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Juana Weber Rodríguez recalls Brooklyn's relatively small and tight-knit Puerto Rican community of the 1920s and 1930s. She recounts the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Red Hook, Carroll Gardens and Columbia Height's waterfront with special attention paid to the early beginnings of Puerto Rican (and Hispanic) businesses and political clubs, as well as ethnic diversity. Rodríguez also discusses discrimination, as well as attempts by her brother Louis Felipe Weber and other community leaders to aid, advocate for, and encourage political participation within the Puerto Rican community. There is also a brief discussion of Spanish-language newspapers, as well as a comparison between Puerto Ricans during the interwar period and the 1970s. Interview in Spanish conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Rodriguez, Juana Weber

Subject Organizations

  • Betances Club
  • Democratic Party (New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Civic leaders -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Political clubs -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social conditions -y 20th century

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Columbia Heights (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • Red Hook (New York, N.Y.)
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Rodriguez, Maria, 1974 November 15

Biographical / Historical

María Rodríguez was born in Juana Díaz, Puerto Rico in 1911. She arrived in Brooklyn in 1945 and has lived there since her arrival. The daughter of farmers from the Puerto Rican countryside, she had limited educational opportunities and trained as a sewing machine operator. Rodríguez followed in the footsteps of an older sister and cousin by coming to New York, a move she says was made for the adventure rather than economic reasons. After first residing in the Bronx, she moved to Fulton Street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. At the time of the interview in 1974 she resided in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn with her husband Pedro Rodríguez.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, María Rodríguez relates information about Brooklyn factories during the growth of labor unions in the 1940s, including the treatment of workers - elaborating specifically on the conditions for Puerto Ricans - and the attitude of Puerto Ricans in the factory toward organized labor. As a civic-minded individual, Rodríguez offers insight into the everyday experiences of Puerto Ricans, including housing conditions and their relations with other ethnic groups. She looks back on various social clubs, including organizers of El Desfile Puertorriqueño (The Puerto Rican Parade), of which Rodríguez is a founding member. She talks extensively about unity and social progress in New York's Puerto Rican community. Rodríguez's husband Pedro was also interviewed in the couple's home on the same day. Interview in Spanish conducted by Jaime Barreto.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Rodriguez, Maria

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Factories -- New York (State)
  • Labor unions -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Parades -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Political clubs -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Race discrimination -- New York (State) -- New York

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • Sunset Park (New York, N.Y.)
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Rodriguez, Pedro, 1974 November 15

Biographical / Historical

Pedro M. Rodríguez arrived in Brooklyn in April, 1945 and has resided here since his arrival. Born the son of farmers in Ponce, Puerto Rico, he was a carpenter by trade with a limited formal education who worked in Brooklyn's factories for most of his life. In his new, adopted homeland, Rodríguez was decidedly civic-minded and often engaged in community affairs. He served as vice president of La Confederacion General Puertorriqueña, a Brooklyn-based Puerto Rican advocacy group. At the time of the interview in 1974 he resided in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn with his wife Maria Rodríguez.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Pedro M. Rodríguez recalls his first impressions of New York upon his arrival at Pennsylvania Station in 1945, his first home in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Clinton Hill, and his first job in a factory in the Bronx. He reveals the Puerto Rican search for a unified identity and its role in initiating organizations - groups which, in his view, would help meet the needs of New York's Puerto Rican community. He specifically describes the origin and functions of La Confederacion General Puertorriqueña, as well as a recounting of discrimination directed toward Puerto Ricans in Brooklyn. Rodríguez's wife, Maria, was also interviewed in the couple's home on the same day. Interview in Spanish conducted by Jaime Barreto.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Rodriguez, Pedro

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Factories -- New York (State)
  • Parades -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Race discrimination -- New York (State) -- New York

Subject Places

  • Bronx (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Clinton Hill (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • Sunset Park (New York, N.Y.)
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Rodriguez, Ramon, 1974 October 29

Biographical / Historical

Ramón Rodríguez was born in Puerto Rico in 1901. He arrived in Brooklyn in 1927, working at Acme Backing Corporation, a rubber cement factory, for twenty-three years. Rodríguez lived in various locations in the neighborhood of Downtown Brooklyn, moving to the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1946. Despite being a factory worker with little formal education, he remained active in his community, becoming acquainted with many of its leading figures.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Ramón Rodríguez recounts the first generation of Puerto Rican grocery stores in Brooklyn during the late 1920s and 1930s. He specifies such stores by name. In addition, Rodríguez relates information on living conditions in the 1930s, as well as what he describes as the poor relationship between the police and Brooklyn's Puerto Rican community. There is also a detailed account of renowned local figures such as Sister Carmelita, Jesus Colón, Louis Weber, and Carlos Tapia. Interview in Spanish conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Bonilla, Carmelita
  • Colon, Jesus
  • Rodriguez, Ramon
  • Tapia, Carlos
  • Weber, Louis

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Great Depression -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Columbia Heights (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Santiago, Georgina, 1974 November 22

Biographical / Historical

Georgina Santiago was born in Coamo, Puerto Rico in 1890. She arrived in Brooklyn in April 1925 aboard the steamship San Lorenzo, and continued to reside in the borough at the time of the interview in 1974. Her husband Ramon Santiago - who died in 1944 - was a pioneering "Bodeguero" who opened up grocery stores that catered to the growing Spanish-speaking and Latin American population. He was also considered a benefactor among the Puerto Rican community. Santiago spent her first years in Brooklyn living in the Downtown area, later moving to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg - near the family store, which was located at the corner of Flushing Avenue and Bedford Avenue - and then a few blocks away in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Georgina Santiago shares her experiences while living and raising a family in the Downtown Brooklyn area. She discusses the ethnic makeup of the neighborhood, as well as her husband Ramon Santiago's role in the community. She also discusses the bodega her husband opened on Bedford Avenue and Flushing Avenue - which was one of the first in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. The challenge of raising a family, making ends meet, and running a business during the Great Depression of the 1930s is also covered. Interview in Spanish conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Santiago, Georgina

Subject Topics

  • Great Depression -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Parades -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social life and customs -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Societies, etc.
  • Work environment -- United States
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration
  • Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.)

Sepulveda, Ernesto, 1974 November 6

Biographical / Historical

Ernesto Sepúlveda arrived in Brooklyn in 1926 at age twenty-two and had resided there consistently when this interview took place in 1974. He married in 1925 and was a father to a daughter and son by 1930. He attained a tenth-grade level education. Sepúlveda had some training as an auto mechanic and owned a grocery store before he became a retiree. Ernesto Sepúlveda died a Brooklyn resident in August, 1982.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Ernesto Sepúlveda recalls factory conditions in Brooklyn, circa 1930. He discusses political clubs such as Casino Puertorriqueño and Acto Civico. Sepúlveda looks back on 1934, when the first political club for Puerto Ricans in New York was established and he was their first member. He cites leading Puerto Rican personalities, among them Carlos Tapia and Louis Weber. Interview in Spanish conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Sepulveda, Ernesto
  • Tapia, Carlos
  • Weber, Louis

Subject Topics

  • Markets -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- Kings County -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- Kings County -x Social life and customs

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Simmons, Rafaela, 1974 November 15

Biographical / Historical

Born circa 1903 in Puerto Rico, Rafaela Simmons arrived in Brooklyn in 1928 and remained a resident throughout her life. She had attained a second-grade education and made a living with her sewing machine training. In 1974, Simmons was retired. Rafaela Simmons died in September, 1984.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Rafaela Simmons remembers her experiences when she was new to Brooklyn and to the needle trade of the Puerto Rican community, circa 1930s. She relates her story of joining the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) in 1934. Simmons also describes the Williamsburg community of Puerto Ricans in the mid-twentieth century. A persistent audiotape anomaly has obscured this sound recording. Interview in Spanish conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Simmons, Rafaela

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic relations
  • Puerto Ricans -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social life and customs -y 20th century

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.)

Torres, Clemente, 1974 November 20

Biographical / Historical

Born in Puerto Rico in 1905, Clemente Torres arrived in Brooklyn in 1927 and remained a resident into the mid-1970s. He was employed by the United States Postal Service as a postal clerk for thirty years and was retired by 1974. Torres relocated to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico for several of his remaining years. Clemente Torres died in April, 1994.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Clemente Torres describes the Borough Hall neighborhood of Brooklyn, circa 1930s. He mentions several political organizations by name, focusing on La Union Civica Puertorriqueña, located on Washington Street, Brooklyn, and founded between 1935 and 1936. Torres reflects on factory conditions and overall employment status for Puerto Ricans in mid-twentieth century New York City. He remembers Carlos Tapia and the activities that made Tapia a paternal figure to Brooklyn's Puerto Rican community. A misplaced microphone obscured the early minutes of this sound recording. Interview in Spanish conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Torres, Clemente

Subject Topics

  • Great Depression -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Ricans -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Language
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social conditions -y 20th century
  • Race discrimination -- New York (State) -- New York

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Downtown Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Torres, Olga, 1974 August 21

Biographical / Historical

Olga Torres arrived in Brooklyn in 1926 at the age of nine. She resided there consistently until 1982. She had a high school diploma and was a registered nurse, working as a medical assistant. Divorced and the mother of two children (one of whom is interviewer John D. Vazquez), Torres stayed well-informed and self-educated into her sixties and seventies.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Olga Torres describes the neighborhood of Downtown Brooklyn in the 1930s and 1940s, especially Gold, High, and Sands Streets. She points out the ethnic distribution of pupils and teachers at Public School No. 12. She recalls the influence of well-known community personality Sister Carmelita, and reveals the origins of the first Puerto Rican gangs, including "Conmigo no te metas." Torres also refers to the American experience of early Puerto Rican immigrants, as well as the policy racket or numbers game linking the community and political leaders. Interview conducted by John D. Vazquez.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Bonilla, Carmelita
  • Torres, Olga

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gangs -- New York (State) -- Kings Country
  • Puerto Ricans -x Education -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social conditions -y 20th century

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Downtown Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico

Vazquez, Juan, 1973 November 5

Biographical / Historical

Juan M. Vázquez was born in Puerto Rico in 1912. He immigrated to the United States in 1929, arriving in Brooklyn. In 1955, after twenty-five years of laboring in the borough's factories, he opened a grocery store, and for decades afterward worked as the owner/operator. By 1974, Vázquez had made Brooklyn his permanent home. He was a father of four; among them sociologist and this project's interviewer John D. Vazquez.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Juan M. Vázquez offers a very succinct personal history; including his work experience and social involvement, starting with his 1929 arrival in Brooklyn. He describes both the relatively small and tight-knit pre-World War II Puerto Rican community of New York City, as well as socializing within the city's ethnic milieu of Southern and Eastern European immigrants. Early and mid-20th century Puerto Rican political and social clubs - as well as Spanish-language news media - are also touched on. Vázquez anticipates that he would spend the rest of his days in the borough rather than returning to Puerto Rico. Interview conducted by Monte Rivera.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Vazquez, Juan, Sr.

Subject Organizations

  • El Diario de Nueva York
  • La Prensa Newspaper, Inc.

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Ricans -x Education -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social conditions -y 20th century

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Velazquez, Carolina, 1974 August 6

Biographical / Historical

Carolina Velázquez was born in Arroyo, Puerto Rico and moved to New York in 1930 after a week-long journey aboard the Ponce ship. Velázquez moved to Brooklyn with her sister, leaving her three siblings in Puerto Rico. She worked as a house cleaner and lampshade factory worker in Brooklyn. Velázquez married and had two children. During this time, she babysat children in her home and returned to work after her children were old enough. She became a widow when her children were still young. She was the recipient of several public assistance programs such as Welfare, Social Security, and Medicare.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Carolina Velázquez narrates her life in Arroyo, Puerto Rico, her reasons for migrating to New York, her voyage to New York, and her first years in Brooklyn. Velázquez reflects on discrimination faced by Puerto Ricans and other Latinos and shares her opinion on bilingual education. She compares the Puerto Rican community in the 1930s and 1940s to the Puerto Rican community in the 1970s and lists some of the social issues present at the time of the 1974 interview. Velázquez also opines on the independence movement in Puerto Rico and talks about voter registration processes in the 1930s. Interview in English and Spanish conducted by Mayda Cortiella.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Tapia, Carlos
  • Velazquez, Carolina

Subject Organizations

  • New York (N.Y.). Department of Public Welfare

Subject Topics

  • Depressions |y 1929
  • Puerto Rican women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -x Cultural assimilation -- United States
  • Puerto Ricans -x Housing -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Language
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social life and customs -y 20th century
  • Race discrimination -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Race relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Voter registration

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Vice, Celia Maria, 1974 August 7

Biographical / Historical

Celia Maria Vice was born in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico in 1913. She arrived in Brooklyn at Pier Nine aboard a steam ship, and resided with her family in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of DUMBO and Vinegar Hill, later moving to the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant (where she lived at the time of the interview in 1974). Vice worked several factory and office jobs - including a position at a defense plant during World War II - before going into business for herself. She performed services including translating, as well as selling real estate - as the first Puerto Rican woman broker in Brooklyn - and insurance. She also remained extremely active in the community during her lifetime as a member of multiple citywide committees, including the New York City Human Rights Commission. Vice helped found a number of civic and cultural entities including the Puerto Rican Heritage Publishing Company, the Fernando Sierra Vardeci Independent Democratic Club, and el Museo del Barrio (a community museum) and was the first Latina grand marshal of the Puerto Rican Day Parade. She relocated back to Puerto Rico in 1979, establishing the Kiosko Cultural in the Plaza de Las Americas. Celia Maria Vice died in 1993.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Celia Vice discusses the social and economic situation for Puerto Ricans - and New Yorkers in general - during the 1920s and 1930s. She touches on work, health and housing conditions, as well as describes the ethnic composition of Downtown Brooklyn and its surrounding waterfront, which was the initial area of settlement for Brooklyn's Puerto Rican community. Vice provides detailed information on the cohesion, self-sustainability, and ultimate socioeconomic progress of Brooklyn's early Puerto Rican migrants; including descriptions of mutual aid, religion, child development, education, work ethic, cultural heritage and community organizing. Interview conducted by Ms. Torres and Ms. Ruiz.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Vice, Celia M.

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Political clubs -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Ricans -x Education -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- Kings County -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- Kings County -x Societies, etc.
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social conditions -y 20th century

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Villa, Betty, 1974 September 11

Biographical / Historical

Born in 1922, Betty Villa (one of the few narrators in this collection to be a borough native) was raised in the Downtown section of Brooklyn. She later lived between the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant, before relocating to Carolina, Puerto Rico in the 1960s. While growing up in the 1920s and 1930s she experienced racial discrimination firsthand, both from individuals and institutions. Despite this, she made friends of all ethnic stripes - even once marching in the Saint Patrick's Day Parade - and attended Brooklyn College before joining the workforce. She was the mother of three children, as well as an activist in civic, political, and mutual aid organizations throughout her life.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Betty Villa describes the Downtown Brooklyn area of the 1920 and 1930s. She gives firsthand information on figures such as Sister Carmelita Bonilla, Celia Vice, Luis Hernández, and Antonia Denis, as well as an account of Reverend W.E. Davenport (a Brooklyn philanthropist who was somewhat active in the Eugenics movement). She refers to the first church serving Spanish-speaking Catholics in Brooklyn, Our Lady of Pilar. Villa recalls both her encounters with racism, as well as friendships across ethnic and racial lines. Villa also discusses Puerto Rican identity, politics, and society, as well as the experience of reverse migration to Puerto Rico from New York. Interview conducted by Jaime Barreto.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Bonilla, Carmelita
  • Vice, Celia M.
  • Villa, Betty

Subject Topics

  • Civic leaders -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Education -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Economic conditions
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Ethnic identity
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Politics and government -y 20th century
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social conditions -y 20th century
  • Segregation -- United States -x History

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

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