First Interview Essay

Diego Barcena

Intro to Hispanic Hartford

19 November 2017

Professor Aidalí Aponte-Avilés

Internal Insight of Hartford

     Cesar Chávez once claimed, “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community…Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and our own.” Hartford’s Hispanic community is not an exception. The community came to thrive, but they are also doing what is necessary for the community to improve. In addition, Hartford, as united as it is, is one of the most diverse cities and capitals in the country. Many of these Hispanic people came in search of jobs. Hartford, along with other cities in Connecticut, is known to have been a “factory town.” In the 1900’s companies in Hartford needed cheap labor. To solve this issue, the companies began to contract workers from areas such as Puerto Rico. As a result, the Puerto Rican population grew. With the Puerto Rican population increase came the rest of the Hispanics. Now, in the 21st century, Hartford has become very diverse and through the unity of family and cultures, this community looks to thrive. In this essay I will explain how the members of the community resemble Hartford, as a city, through the interview of Jarol, a Hartford resident that immigrated into the US from Spain two years ago. Hartford was, and remains, a place full of cultural diversity that attracts people that need jobs, especially those with family in the city. However, the residents would love the government to improve.

Hartford is a city that was well known for its factories and now is full of many small companies run by Hispanics that came in search of factory jobs. In class, we learned about how the factories would contract people that would be willing to work hard for little money because of the better living standards. That is true with most of the residents in Hartford. When I asked Jarol why he came here he said he came: “por trabajo” (for work). Work is one of the main reason the community is as it is. Citizens from all around the world work improve their living standards. I can relate to this because my parents also wished for better living conditions. They also came, not to Hartford, but to Oakland, CA in search of a better living standard. Like Jarol, my parents also believed that it was the critical reason they came. In addition, all the workers that came to Hartford lost their factory jobs after the factories began shutting down. As a result, many of the residents began to create restaurants and little shops. It is true that Hispanics value small businesses the most. Jarol works at a tiny Barber shop on Broad street called “Ricardo’s.” He values this little shop and is thankful for the work.

Moving to the US is hard for people and communities always end up getting split based on culture. People move to where they can feel comfortable. Family is one of the most comforting factors for human beings. As we studied in class, the population grew due to the comfort of the cultures within the city. Many of the people we have studied state that they come to Hartford because they have family here that convinces them to come. Jarol said, “Vine a visitar a mis padres. Lo más significante es ver a mi papá después de muchos años y a mi familia” (I came to visit my parents. The most significant thing about coming is getting to see my dad and family after years of not seeing them). During his time here, he has had a young child and is working for his family. Like him, many came to visit family and end up staying in Hartford because of how comfortable it is and how much support they must move forward.

Finally, since the 1900s Hartford has been a diverse community full of many cultures that make it such a great city. Many people value the diversity that is in Hartford. According to Jarol, “O Sí: hay demasiados, muchos países, diferentes países, todos tipos de países” (Oh yes: plenty, many countries, different countries, all types of countries.) The community has a wonderful sense of Hispanic diversity. Although everyone talks in Spanish, everyone has their own special dialect of Spanish. I am from Oakland, CA which is a predominantly Mexican neighborhood. I was not aware of these dialects and the different foods. Coming to Hartford has shown me what a diverse community is like. For example, “Ricardo’s” Barber Shop consists of a Mexican and a Spanish barber. Jarol later told me that there are Cubans, Venezuelan’s, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and Guatemalans just to name a few. During the time I was there, I experienced the diversity of the clients and how the clients would know the barber personally due to the unity of the community. Although there were many cultures, all the cultures were able to socialize comfortably and were able to relate.

The residents would like the government to improve. Jarol still wishes: “que haya más trabajos” (that there would be more jobs). These little shops are struggling to keep running and he wishes the government would do more. Residents would like to have more jobs available because the little businesses set up by Hispanics aren’t enough. In addition to jobs, many people love coming to Hartford because of family, but the residents desire for public places to be improved. Jarol also stated that he wishes that the government would: “Mejorar un poquito más lo que hay aquí en Hartford” (improve what the city has). The city is nice but many of the residents wish that their community would be more appealing and taken care of. In addition, when asked upon what could be improved, Jarol said, “Pues, la delincuencia, las drogas” (Well, the crime, and the drugs). It is true the community is suffering from a lot of issues, but some residents wish the government would do a little more. However, many foundations such as the “Connecticut Institute for Community Development” are considering getting younger kids off the streets and into safe habits. Although the government is trying, many people wish that the government would do more for their current family (and the possible family that may be coming) to be in a safer environment.

Hartford is going through a difficult financial era, but its diverse community stands as strong as a united family that is just trying to survive. The reasons for arriving to Hartford are all different but most people would say it is for the work. At the time, unemployment is a big issue and the community is realizing it but everyone continues to enjoy life. People came to the US in search of opportunities. The opportunities are still available no matter what conditions are put in front of the Hartford community. The families are happy with every new born and the generations keep advancing through time. However, the community will always remember its diverse roots.

First Interview Essay

Giovanni Flores

FYSM Intro to Hispanic Hartford

12/14/2017

Professor Aponte-Aviles

 

To what extent have the reasons for migration and settlement of Hartford changed from the early 1900’s until present day?

Migration and settlement into Harford has always had the same basic motivating factors, primarily the search for work. In the early 1900’s the main motivation to move into the US was to work as a farmhand for the growing/ cultivating season in the hopes of sending remittances to their area of origin.  (Latino Americans Empire of Dreams) In current day the search for work is still one of the primary motivators for migration into Hartford.

In an interview with a man who moved to Hartford and chose to stay anonymous he stated his main reason for coming into Hartford was that it offered him the opportunity to work. In his place of origin, Guerrero, Mexico, he had never worked despite being in his early thirties. He came to Hartford in 2014 and got work in construction, primarily as a dry-waller. This displays that Hispanics are still moving into the Hartford area to work in menial labor jobs and likely to send money back home. The interviewee saying, he came here alone and not knowing any English alludes to him sending money home to his family. In similar fashion people who migrated from Puerto Rico who came to work fields of tobacco and sent money home or returned home after the season finished. Although when asked whether he would move anywhere else he stated that he would not like to do so. Though his reasons were obscure as his primary one for staying was that Hartford had work for him.

I believe the link to Hartford that causes him to want to stay and not move to another city is the large concentration of Hispanics and that he does not have to learn English to stay in the area. In his three years of living in Hartford he has not learned English, and when asked if that was ever a problem for him he replied by saying that it was never a problem for him. He said that nearly everyone he’s met since coming to Hartford can communicate with him in Spanish.  Although admittedly he is also not a very active member of the community. As a construction worker, he has long days and goes home tired, so he does not go out many places. When asked what his favorite areas to eat and frequent were, he said he normally eats at home and if he wants to change it up he goes to the Mexican food place named El Tepeyac on Park street. When asked if he noticed any issues in the area he replied vaguely saying that there not many issues that couldn’t be found in any other place. He seemed very content to stay in Hartford and settle here, he had no complaints about the area and seemed to feel very at home. In similar fashion many Hispanics must have done the same thing as him over the time period between 1900 and 2017 in order for the Hispanic population to be as dense as it is within the city.

From walking around Hartford and especially Park Street it is very easy to see the sense of community in the area. The area can look a little scary and rundown at first, but the more an individual immerse themself in the culture and talk to people in the area, one begins to realize the area is very warm and inviting. From the random strangers that come close to ask questions that are genuine questions, not just the standard hawking for money, any person would find in cities like my hometown Chicago.

While the reasons for coming to Hartford are similar, the reason for staying has changed a lot since the year 1900. Where in the past the reason to stay may have been the need for work and the price of moving back and forth from Puerto Rico to mainland US, now it has evolved to become a sense of Hispanic community. It started with Puerto Ricans and has grown to include a large variety of Hispanics all revolving around the language preference of people who come to the United States. Now the community seems very welcoming not just to Puerto Ricans, but also to Guatemalans, Dominicans, Mexicans, and many other Spanish speaking nationalities.

As a Hispanic I can attest to the strong sense of community and welcoming the community has to offer to people of Hispanic descent especially as a native Spanish speaker. However, after talking to people who don’t speak Spanish that are in my class I have found that it can be hard to communicate with the community and really get involved because the language barrier prevents a lot of communication and thoughts. The language barrier also leads to a lot of uncertainty which adds to the idea that the neighborhood is not safe. Although I feel it is safe to say that as a Spanish speaker the community feels less dangerous than as a non-Spanish speaking newcomer.

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

PBS. “Empire of Dreams.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 2013, www.pbs.org/latino-americans/en/watch-videos/#2365076018.

BiCi Co.

BiCi Co. is a bicycle shop located in the Parkville neighborhood of Hartford, Connecticut. It was created by the Center For Latino Progress in June 2015. In 2015 there were no bicycle shops in Hartford. According to the Program Manager Joe Dickerson, “BiCi Co. was really founded with the goal of being a youth development program. The intention was to create opportunities for youth to learn a marketable skill. In this case, bicycle mechanics. They would get trained to work with bikes.” After being founded two years ago, BiCi Co. has grown and is now able to offer a wider variety of programs ranging from mechanics classes to their famous Earn-a-Bike program.

Frog Hollow

Dagoberto Nunez

Intro to Hispanic Hartford

December 13, 2017

Frog Hollow

Map of Frog Hollow (Photo Credit: http://www.livehartford.org/neighborhoods/froghollow.aspx).

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A picture of Park Street in Frog Hollow. These are a few of the many commercial markets that are on Park Street (Photo Credit: http://plannersweb.com/2012/09/anchoring-a-neighborhood/).

Image result for park street hartford ct

 

Frog Hollow is a neighborhood in Hartford that has a lot of history and is now a special place in Hartford. A first, Frog Hollow was mostly farmland until 1852 before industrial companies settled in Frog Hollow building arms production companies and residential houses for the workers. This industrial work brought Danish, Irish, German, and many more kind of immigrant workers to fill in the industrial work need. The demographics of Frog hollow has changed as the decades have passed by due to multiple Hispanic immigration waves, mainly Puerto Rican people, who have settled all over Hartford, and especially in Frog Hollow, looking to work and to improve their lives. This influx of hispanics brought new life and culture to Frog Hollow because these Hispanic immigrants were making their presence felt by building a commercial market in Frog Hollow of restaurants, salons, bakeries, barbershops, etc. A perfect example that shows the hispanic influence in Frog Hollow is Park Street because it is a Hispanic hub because of the Hispanic commercial life that is on the street. This place makes anyone who is of Hispanic decent to feel comfortable because it is filled by hispanic people 24/7 constantly shopping, driving by or hanging out on the street. It is a place where one can feel at home because one is surrounded by people with similar backgrounds, who speak the same language, and get to eat traditional authentic food from their homeland. Frog Hollow has dramatically changed since its industrial days until today and this is because of the ethnic groups that have moved into the neighborhood over the decades.

The Town Hall/ City Hall of Hartford

 

What is a City HAll? What is the purpose of it? Most of community here in Hartford doesn’t know what is the purpose of Town Hall. The City

534 Main St

Hall is one of the most important place for the community  especially for the Hispanic community. This place contain important information regarding your person living like, birth certificate, marriage license, to paying taxes.Also, the City Hall provides assistance to the resident in case of problems they make encounter such weather issues , law enforcement, current events to future events that would happen in the city. One of the challenge that I found during my research is that “The Town Hall” which sometimes is referred as “The City Hall”, has bilingual barriers. The City of Hartford  it is know for high number of Hispanic resident in community that does not speak English. This can become a problem because not lot of people who works in the City Hall are bilingual and often time there is not a person enough person to assist the hispanic community. This problem mention by one of the employees of the community Liaison offices which believe that this is  issues need to be resolve. Communication is the key especially for the hispanic community who want to be inform daily of the thing that occurs in the city and their personal issues to be solved. This place is the house of The Mayor, City Council, Tax Collectors and Town Clerk that each of this contain least one bilingual individual. It really important for the community to understand the purpose of this place and what is there for.  The government of the City Hall are willing to heard your voice and assists to to any issues regarding Hartford for all residents.

The Bond in Hartford

The Bond in Hartford

     Throughout the world people are moving constantly to different countries to find a better future. They move in the hope to find a better place they can call home. Therefore,  coming from a different country and wanting to go back is quite the metaphor as some reasons are better left behind, in terms of personal problems. The individual reason for this might be the countries actions. Jobs are not available at all and as crime rates worsen, government corruption becomes a bigger matter. What makes this so astonishing is that as people move in into a country, their own culture follows them. In the city of Hartford, we could simply realize that the community is quite diverse and has multiple cultures that are really unique towards particular people. What you mostly see in the community of Hartford is Hispanic/Latino people who become really attached to the city life. Their attachment is the common “goal”  in every place, which is based on finding a job. This is  a community who helps each other out and for this, their culture is celebrated proudly. In fact, wouldn’t someone like to live in the city of Hartford, where people regularly lend a hand to each other? This is an opportunity, something that makes a Hispanic, or any race search for their dreams.

      In the city of Hartford,  Hispanics are working hard every single day to make their future dreams become a reality. Some people have accomplished this reality by establishing a market or a business. For example, “Aquí me Quedo” is a restaurant that has been in Hartford for a long time; as well as “ El Mercado Marketplace”.  We briefly got to know the owner of the restaurant “ Aquí me Quedo” when we were doing the walk on Park Street in Hartford.  The owner gave us a brief history of his restaurant that has been established for a long time and with this, a second restaurant was opened in the North of Hartford. The owner was a polite gentleman who was glad to talk to us before running to his business again. You can tell that the owner is a hardworking man who wanted to accomplish his dreams and like that, giving himself a better future as a Puerto Rican. The community was his job, thankfully his goals are met yearly. You can see this as well if you visit “ El Mercado Marketplace” where people are working hard in their business as employees and managers. Inside the place you could notice the different meanings towards their goals, like mini-restaurants representing their own culture. As Hispanic/Latinos, they sell their unique food to a different community. In addition, in the mercado you find a mini-marketplace which provides many native countries products such as food, drinks, fruits, etc.  Providing these items in the market allow the communities to be closer to their own native nation. This is important for the communities since this product are not found anywhere else.

     This brings me to a valid point towards what other’s view of Hartford. Most people view this city as a place of poverty, where jobs are vacant and the homeless are the common and because of this, the city is viewed as “trash.” However, during my walk I did not see this in the community at all! I saw people helping each other out as many of them worked hard, which changed the whole idea of a trashed city. One of these hard-working individuals was Alberto, who I interviewed during my walk, he is Mexican.  Alberto works at a Barber shop. He moved from Mexico to this country to work, he started working when he was 19 years old. He’s been living in Hartford for 12 years now and currently works as a barber. One question that I had for Alberto was quite intriguing; What do you consider your community as, in terms

884 Broad St, in Hartford

of a social class? Alberto responded, “ Medio, porque yo pienso que las personas trabajan para estar en una buena posición.”  It is surprising how Alberto’s view for his community is decided upon the results of hard work, which made him view his community as middle class. Alberto “view is similar to other Latinos this because of Hispanics are people who work really hard and  who achieve their work ethics by helping each other out. This is what I would love to call my community.

     The community of Hartford  has a strong bond. It is extraordinary how the Hispanic community in Hartford is connected through different cultures. My second walk with my course of “ Intro to Hispanic Hartford “ was going to the North End. When we got to the North End we visited “ The Artist Collective” which was a different type of culture, but it had a bond with the Hispanic community. We met a wonderful lady who introduced us to the place. This place was connected to the community of Hartford by music because of the big events that would take place in it. Although one of the things that she mentioned was based on them raising money for the Puerto Rican Parade. The Puerto Rican Parade is a big celebration that takes place in the community of Hartford, but it sadly had to be shut down due to the shortage of money. This is really remarkable as one hand helps the community of Hartford; but it’s not the only place that staggered my point of interest towards how much they have helped the community.  After we finished in “ The Artist Collective” , we went to “Aquí me Quedo” to eat a lot wonderful food! It was really delicious, so I gave my many thanks to my professor for that amazing opportunity. In fact, the person who was serving us the food and drinks was a Puerto Rican who was obviously happy to work there as well! But what amazed me was  how happy he was working at his job, just like that he gave us a talk about Puerto Rico. How the Hurricane Maria made a destruction and the Puerto Rican community over there was at a great struggle for food and water. Due to this, the restaurant was raising money and buying products to ship it over to the island, to land them a hand. Yet again, it is truly a reality in terms of how much this Hispanic community has helped other communities in other countries like Puerto Rico that has gone through hell after the tragedy with the Hurricane. In my interview with Alberto,  I asked him how he felt about Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico? He was really sorrowful about what had happened in Puerto Rico and he explained that no one deserves what those people are going through right now. You can see that even though he is from Mexico he has true feelings about a disaster from another country. Therefore, people would celebrate their culture proudly to show that anything that comes their way won’t prevent them to celebrate it, but also to bring some light to the community and show how strong a bond could be by celebrating it with joy.  

     

Moving to the city of Hartford feels like that of a welcoming hand. I could connect to this because I have lived in this city for almost 9 years now. I am currently  in college, but I coming to the city for the first time, truly made me feel scared. I didn’t know anybody and even then, I couldn’t speak English! For this reason, my parents placed me in a school in Hartford called, M.D.Fox Elementary School. That’s where I learned my new language and I was sure nervous to meet people; I felt that people wouldn’t like me but I was wrong, people were bilingual and they were welcoming me every moment of the way. They were lending a hand by explaining me things that I couldn’t understand in this other language. I started making friends from different cultures that were from Puerto Rico, Cuba, U.S, Peru, El Salvador and many more.This shows how attach I am towards this beautiful community of many different cultures. I have learned a lot and with this knowledge, more things will come to me. I will always work as hard as I can, because that’s what this community did when I came here. This was just like the walk in the community, we were learning how people lived their daily lives in the community, and with this we also learned their perspective of the city and how they are proud to celebrate different cultures and lend a hand to each other.  Don’t ever be frightened to visit and become part of a great community of Hispanics and other cultures.

Factors Motivating Latin Americans to Live in Hartford

The city of Hartford is a diverse community made up of people from all over the world. The Latino population in Hartford make up much of the population, with people who emigrated from their countries and came to the United States to discover new opportunities for themselves and their families. One specific question I wanted to answer was why Hispanic people all came to Hartford, and what factors motivated them to stay in this city. From interviews, readings, and discussions, I have found that people come specifically to Hartford for job opportunities and the education system for their children, and one thing that helps them to stay in the city is that it feels like home to them; from the places where they shop and eat, to the language spoken that resembles their language from their original countries. Hartford is a city flourishing in different cultures, specifically from Hispanic countries, and from walking around the city and going to different restaurants and shops, I have been able to discover more about the community.

One of the first things I discovered while learning about the Hispanic community in Hartford is that Latino people came to the United States, and specifically Hartford, for job opportunities that their home countries did not have. Hartford seemed to be a wonderful place for people to earn money for their families. In the essay “Puerto Ricans in Hartford: From Settlement to Collective Behavior” Jose Cruz, writes that Puerto Ricans came to Hartford “by invitation to fill critical labor shortages in industry and agriculture”. In the early 1950s, Hartford was in need of people to come because of their intense labor shortages and the Puerto Ricans came to work, and ended up staying. One important part of Hartford at this time was that it was close to tobacco farms so the Puerto Ricans were needed only seasonally to come and work the tobacco fields, however the better pay and better opportunities that Hartford had enabled them to stay in the city, rather than returning to the island. Not all of the Hispanics in Hartford are from Puerto Rico. In the interview that I conducted, I spoke with an older couple in their 60s from Mexico. The interviewees told me one of the reasons they came to Hartford was the job opportunities that they received, although they both are retired now. They told me they used to work in a flower shop in Hartford and loved their jobs, especially the pay and benefits they received from it. Hartford, unlike some other cities in the United States, provided unique jobs that worked within agriculture and were easy for unskilled and uneducated workers to come and get paid significantly more than what they were being paid in their home countries.

For many people in the Hispanic and Latino communities, the United States is a place that offers many opportunities and benefits that the countries where they are from do not have. One specific thing is the education system throughout the United States. In my interview with the older couple from Mexico, one of the first things they told me was that they came to Hartford for schools and opportunities. When I asked them what they liked about the schools, and specifically the schools in Hartford, they replied that they liked how the schools that their children and grandchildren attend here are bilingual. Having bilingual schools is incredibly important for many of the people that come to Hartford because they mainly speak Spanish, and sometimes, when they arrive, they can barely speak English. While it is important for the students in the schools in Hartford to learn English to be active members in society in the United States, it is still important that they can continue to learn and speak in the language that they are most comfortable in, which for many students in Hartford, is often Spanish. From walking around Hartford, it is extremely evident that most of the population speaks Spanish, simply by looking at the signs on the buildings and hearing the language being spoken between the people on the streets. For many students, the public education system in the United States can provide children with opportunities to grow up to do whatever they want to do in their lives. The education provided to many students who come to Hartford from countries where they only speak Spanish is a significant factor in why many families come to Hartford and stay in Hartford.

With job and education opportunities providing members of the Latino community to move to Hartford, places that resemble their cultures from their home countries provide them reasons to stay in the city. While visiting “El Mercado” I felt like I was a foreigner in an entirely different country and almost forgot I was actually in Hartford, Connecticut. El Mercado resembles what an outdoor market would be like in many Latin American countries. El Mercado also includes Mexican, Dominican, Peruvian, and Columbian restaurants. The people inside of this store seemed to have a strong sense of community and it seemed as though it was a place where they truly felt at home. El Mercado’s location on Park Street is centrally located within different Latin American shops and restaurants, making it a place where people from Latin American countries want to come to and enjoy coming to. The couple that I interviewed was sitting in the restaurant El Tepeyac eating food inside of El Mercado and it was a place that symbolized “home” (Mexico) where they were from. The unique Latin American places in Hartford, such as “El Mercado” allow Latin Americans to feel as though they are at home, or at least a place similar to it where they feel comfortable and therefore, happy.

Along with locations in Hartford that make Latin Americans feel as though they are at home, the Spanish language is heavily used throughout the streets and buildings and businesses all throughout Hartford. Hearing and seeing their native language can be comforting to people who are not from the United States and don’t speak English as their primary language, which is why many Latin Americans come to Hartford and stay in Hartford. In my interview with the couple in El Mercado, they preferred to have the interview in Spanish because that’s what they felt most comfortable speaking. Unlike many cities and towns in the United States, the Spanish language can be seen in most places in Hartford, which is why a Latin American family would prefer to live here rather than in a different city in the United States.

The reasons why many Hispanic people have come to Hartford and stayed in Hartford are due to various reasons that make Hartford a unique city opposed to other destinations in the United States. The job opportunities that are in and around Hartford are what enabled many Hispanic people to come to Hartford, and the pay that they received here compared to their home countries provided a good reason for them to stay and continue to make money for their families. The education system in Hartford, specifically the amount of bilingual schools where Spanish and English are taught, are factors that keep Hispanic families in Hartford. For a child to be able to learn in two languages is very important, especially for families who have just come from a Spanish speaking country and are not as comfortable in English. The schools in Hartford provide a good transition for these children so that they are not thrown into a school being taught in a language that they cannot understand. Hartford also contains many shops and restaurants that provide authentic food and merchandise from various Latin American countries. These places can make Hartford feel like home for many people and is something that many other cities and towns in the United States do not have, therefore providing a place for Latin American people to want to come to. The Spanish language can be heard by people talking all along the streets of Hartford, and can be seen in many signs and posters within the city, which help to make members of the Latin American community, whose primary language is Spanish, feel more welcome and comfortable in the city. Hartford is a place for all members of the Latin American community to come and gain new opportunities and begin a new life while still maintaining their culture.

Unity and Stereotypes: The Hispanic Community in Hartford, CT

What makes a community safe? What makes it unified? Is there even a way to determine the level of badness within a city? Hartford has this big stereotype that it is one of the most dangerous cities in Connecticut and that it is very unsafe. However one can never truly believe these stereotypes without actually going into the city and experiencing it for themselves and talking to the people within the city to hear their stories and their perspectives on the city. Hartford has been known to be a place where it’s dangerous walking outside alone no matter what time of day. However, by exploring the city and talking to residents of the city, one is able to deduce that Hartford is a beautiful city that is nothing like the predetermined stereotypes. There is a beneficial relationship between the Hispanic Community and Hartford, a welcoming sense of community due to the people’s interaction with each other and their history in Hartford; that is the best strategy to get rid of the stereotype of Hartford that is bad.

Language plays important role in defining a community’s sense of communication, successfulness, and unity. In the Hartford Community, Spanish is the language most commonly used. There are many Hartford residents who can only speak Spanish and not English whatsoever. A young lady who works in the Cubanitos Bakery did not speak English and when asked if she ever wanted to learn how to speak English she responded by saying: “Yo no lo necesito, it is not necessary to learn it”. She then later explained how in the community she lives in, everyone speaks Spanish and talks to each other in that language because it reminds them of home and from where they come from or migrated/immigrated. By speaking Spanish with each other, the Hartford residents are demonstrating a sense of communication with each other to make sure everyone, those who do or do not speak English, still feel included in the community and thus showing how welcoming they are and united.

“You’re going to an amazing school, but make sure you stay on campus because Hartford is a really dangerous city”. When accepted to one’s first top choice for college, it is reasonable for one to feel excitement. However, if others would first say to be careful in the city the individual is going into school, it is clearly shown that there is a huge stereotype with the city of Hartford because these other people may have never even been to the city itself.  If this is how outsiders from Hartford view the city, how do Hartford residents view the city? The young lady from Cubanitos responded to this question by saying: “He escuchado todos los estereotipos pero no los creí porque necesitaba experimentar Hartford por mí misma (I heard of all the stereotypes but I wanted to experience Hartford myself to see if these stereotypes were true). She explained how when she arrived here and her first few years living and working in Hartford, she saw how everyone who came to work in Hartford came from somewhere else and weren’t residents of Hartford and, for that reason, she thinks these stereotypes are still alive because these people aren’t staying in the city and interacting with the community. With these answers, one is able to analyze why these stereotypes become stronger. The people who come to work here would see all these people outside in the streets and would automatically think that they are criminals when in reality they are out because they have no shelter or in poverty. Walking through the city, one is able to see how even Hartford residents were helping helping out their own by giving the last dollar they had to the homeless and making homeless shelters from abandoned buildings. This young lady from Cubanitos explained to me how only the residents of Hartford help the ones in extreme poverty out in public because everyone else who believes in these stereotypes are too scared to go inside the community and help out.

Through the help from within and the use of Spanish as their main language in the community, Hartford is able to highlight their sense of unity and through this can defeat or combat all of these stereotypes by inviting outsiders to come and experience Harford by first hand.

The Role of Language in Education in Hartford, CT

“¡Hola, chicos! Today we’re going to be learning numbers and colors…again.” In most public schools, learning a second language is optional, if it is even offered at all. Compared to other parts of the world where learning multiple languages is a standard necessity, here in the United States it is considered a luxury. However because of the demand for bilingualism, some public schools in Hartford have bilingual curricula. María Colón Sánchez Elementary School, named in honor of a strong activist of bilingual education, offers bilingual education to children in Hartford. Located right next to one of Hartford’s public libraries, the students have an environment in which their ability to speak both Spanish and English is fostered. The Hispanic community drastically changed the education system in Hartford.

Hartford was very different in the middle to late XX century, compared to the story it tells today. María Sánchez came from Puerto Rico to Hartford in 1953, and served as a member of the Hartford Board of Education for sixteen years. She was an enthusiastic supporter of bilingual education and dedicated her life to advocating for a quality education for Hartford’s children (CICD flyer). Her successful activism resulted in an elementary school that retains its bilingual program to this day. “Between 1960 and 1965, the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare…created the country’s first federally funded bilingual schools” in response to the increased demand for them and the unwavering political activists that fought for bilingual education (Guerra). The María Colón Sánchez Elementary School had to fight to remain bilingual, according to Carol Correa de Best, Associate Director of Multicultural Affairs at Trinity College, when giving a walking tour of Park Street. The city of Hartford wanted to convert the school to a monolingual program, but parents gathered enough support and sufficiently protested that the school kept its bilingual curriculum. The community’s ability and willingness to work together served as their strength in creating change.

The Hartford education system is perceived as low quality. I had grown up with classmates who lived in Hartford, but attended school in West Hartford, because of the case Sheff v. O’Neill that fought for equal education opportunities. From this knowledge, I garnered that the schools in West Hartford had to be better than those of Hartford and by extension the Hartford education system was lacking. One classmate who interned at one of the elementary schools in Hartford spoke about the school closing and the children being relocated to the basement of another school because there was simply nowhere else for them to go. We were informed by Carol Correa de Best that the magnet schools in Hartford were creating divides, causing children to be sent across the city to school because they couldn’t attend the one down the street from their house. We were advised to only volunteer at the public schools because they needed extra support. Even at the Hartford Public Library, the librarian explained that children were placed into all English classes and required to complete coursework in this language they had never been taught before. This negative message regarding the school system in Hartford has been repeated so strongly that complements made by the community about education were shocking.

The Hispanic community in Hartford has a more positive look on the education system. We interviewed members of the Hispanic community about their experience in Hartford. The first interviewees, Columba and Oscar, were a couple enjoying lunch with their family at El Mercado. They had lived in Hartford for fifteen years; their family was from Mexico. They were bilingual, but they preferred to speak Spanish over English. This component definitely hindered our ability to conduct a successful and in depth interview because Spanish is not our first language, in the same way conducting the interview in English would have received even more limited results because the couple did not speak English as their primary language. When asked, they affirmed that they believed a bilingual education was important and beneficial for their children: “our children speak at least two languages, English they learned in school and Spanish we speak at home” (Columba—translated from Spanish to English). They even named the schools as one of the greatest things to experience in Hartford. The second interviewee, George, had lived in Hartford from birth to age twelve, although his family was from Peru. After his time in Hartford, he left for a nearby town approximately ten years ago. He apparently attended a bilingual school in Hartford, however he learned both Spanish and English in his childhood: “Spanish is actually my first language…and I learned English from watching TV” (George). While he could not necessarily attest to the quality of the bilingual aspect education because of his extensive learning outside of the classroom, he still had the opportunity to attend a bilingual school noting that his, “school had a lot of extracurricular activities that I could involve myself in” (George). This school clearly focused on language as an important component of education. Whereas before the interview it had seemed that there was only one bilingual school in Hartford and it was struggling to maintain that bilingual curriculum, after interviewing members of the community it is clear that bilingualism is thriving in schools.

In spite of the city’s rocky history with its school system, the Hispanic community sees a potential that will continue to thrive, improving education and allowing them to reap the benefits. Individuals like María Sánchez dedicate their lives to better educational opportunities because they believe in the immense positive impacts of education. Improved language education acknowledges and fosters an individual’s strength in one language and encourages them to grow in another.

Hartford’s Economic History and Cultural Change

Hartford has always been an economic hub, from factories and farms in the mid nineties to a major healthcare company hub today. The economy of Hartford has attracted Latinos from all over Latin America and the Caribbean with Puerto Ricans being the first major Latino group to settle into Hartford. Benito Torres is a kitchen worker at Trinity College. He first moved to the United States in 1985 and lived in three different cities before settling in Hartford. He came to the United States to work through a farming company that sponsored him and paid for most of his living expenses. Puerto Rican workers brought to the U.S. mainland by farming companies demonstrate the extent of U.S. companies’ desire for economic efficiency and the cultural changes this brought to cities like Hartford.

The constant desire for inexpensive labor from farms created a wave of mass migration of Puerto Ricans to the United States mainland and consequently to Hartford. The lack of desire of people living in the U.S. to perform these jobs forced these companies to seek more inexpensive and willing workers in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico was the perfect place to hire because companies did not need to solicit work visas or pay workers a set wage as stated by the law with migrants from other Latin American countries. Benito Torres was one of the thousands of Puerto Ricans that migrated to the U.S. through a farm company. He worked in the fields picking fruits and vegetables for three years and moved through Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey with that company. Benito’s migration story echoes that of many immigrants today who come to the U.S. through farm companies, construction companies, factories, among others.  After working for the farming company and living in New York for six years, Benito moved to Hartford and has been living in the city ever since. In the mid twentieth century, the economic promise of a better paying and less laborious job in a factory pulled Puerto Ricans away from farm work and into factories in Hartford.

Over the years, there has been a vast increase in diversity of Latin Americans living and working in Hartford. The majority of Latinos in Hartford are blue collar workers which as a result placed Hartford as one of the poorest cities in the country, despite being in the wealthiest state in the country. This oxymoron serves as a mirror for the relationship between the phenotypically diverse Hartford and the rest of the homogenous state of Connecticut. Benito currently works in the kitchen at Trinity College. As Hartford has continued to grow throughout the years, there is a growing and more apparent disparity of wealth and phenotypes within Hartford due to universities establishing themselves within the city. This creates a large divide within certain parts of the city despite all of the rest of the Latino community being very united.

The community Puerto Ricans harvested in Hartford allowed the city to become a welcoming place for new and old immigrants. Puerto Ricans were the first major Latino group to settle in Hartford and paved the way for the evolvement of the culture of Hartford. Through the pushing of local government, the Hartford community was able to transform the architecture on Park Avenue to resemble that of Old San Juan giving Hartford a more comforting and nostalgic feeling for its residents. Benito said that when he first moved to Hartford, the city was plagued by gang violence and high volumes of crime. He mentioned, however, that he never thought about moving due to this because he felt at home and welcomed by the community. This is  shared sentiment among the Latino residents of Hartford. Many mentioned they would never leave the community because it’s so tightknit and inclusive of the different Latino cultures. Benito mentioned, though, that a lot of the gang violence and crime that once existed in the community has greatly lowered. The community’s shared experience of immigration/migration and workers has brought the community together especially in times of challenge such as the hurricane in Puerto Rico and the earthquake in Mexico. Though life has not been easy in Hartford for Benito or Latinos in general, they would not change the comfort of their culture for anything else.

The Hartford community has had many tribulations throughout its development up until today both socially and economically. However, it is clearly evident that for its residents, Hartford is a perfect balance of nostalgia of one’s native country but also a motivation for the American Dream. Benito is a prime example of the typical migration story of not only many Puerto Ricans in the 20th century but also many immigrants today that arrive in hopes of achieving the American Dream without losing their culture.