First Interview Essay

Sydney Olstein

FYSM 201


Prof. Aponte

Community and Migration in Hartford and their Connections

In times of need, humans will go far and wide in search of a remedy. In the case of the United States when in need of workers on farms such as tobacco, they searched as far as Puerto Rico. As a result of the US government paying for the Puerto Rican migration to the mainland for work, many tight knit communities were born in agricultural areas, such as Hartford due to the similar situations all the residents faced and the ability to come together when times are tough.

It is important to begin by highlighting the reasons why Puerto Rican migration blew up in the 1950’s and 60’s in the United States. The first major reason was landlessness in Puerto Rico. The people living on the island and working on plantations (mostly sugar) were barely making any money. In some areas they made as little as forty-seven cents a day, where in some areas they were making a maximum of seventy-five cents to one dollar for a 10-12 hour work day. The population was incredibly dense and the island is very small, meaning jobs were limited and money was scarce as it was. The few people who could claim jobs were not making enough salary to put food on the table. Secondly, though the largest source of jobs and income for Puerto Rican’s was the sugar agriculture, there was a lack of industry for the most part. Because of the amount of people on the island and the lack of jobs, everything that could be produced should have been produced there on the island- food, clothing, equipment, etc. However, almost everything besides sugar was imported, meaning they were paying money and not giving any jobs. Unemployment was incredibly high. Finally, one of the most important causes of Puerto Rican migration to the United States was

Operation Bootstrap. Operation Bootstrap was a tactic used by the United States to entice the people of Puerto Rico to move to the mainland for work, which meant many people began leaving for more opportunities. In the decade of the 60’s, 450,000 people migrated to the United States under Operation Bootstrap. Because of this movement, that left very few people on the island and many more people in the same situation on the mainland USA.

One of the interviewee’s we worked with was Benito, one of the kitchen staff working in Mather Dining Hall at Trinity College. We learned he came to the States over thirty years ago under a plan where the government paid for his travel and he came to work with a company in New Jersey. He stayed for a while, however ended up here in Hartford working in the kitchen. He has three grown sons and unfortunately lost his wife who was also here about two years ago. While coming here he said he traveled with a group of people who were going to be working at the same place as him, and his goal was to assimilate and find happiness the same ways the Italians and Irish did in the United States. He said he very much enjoys the US but has grown a fondness of Hartford over New Jersey.

The closeness of the community in Hartford is one of the most important aspects of the city. After taking several walks and meeting many different people and businesses within Frog Hollow and the North End, it is clear that everyone has a deep rooted and reliable support system within the people around them. When meeting the people who own and run Aquí Me Quedo, a small Puerto Rican restaurant in Hartford, it was mentioned that the Puerto Rican community finds a lot of comfort and happiness in being around people with similar cultures and situations as them. The greatest example is this year when Hurricane Maria wrecked the island of Puerto Rico. Many of the residents of the city have family still on the island, therefore many were afraid and unsure of how to help/what to do about the crisis. Aquí Me Quedo hosted many fundraisers, including

donations of not only nonperishable goods but clothes, toothbrushes, etc. Upon asking the owners what the best part of the community was, they said that it was no matter whether you were Puerto Rican, Dominican, Mexican, etc, you always knew the people around you had your back. When entering the restaurant during the disaster on the island, people began referring to each other by name and asking about specific members of their families and the situations they faced. Being in a small community with many people who are facing the same day-to-day struggles brings people together in a way unlike anything else. The same is arguable for the Puerto Ricans, like Benito, who came to the U.S. paid for by the government to work. The process of coming over here with a small group, missing the ways of life on the island and your family, adjusting and assimilating to a new society, and dealing with many new aspects such as weather and climate are very hard and it brings you so much closer to the people you are with. After all the interviews I conducted, every person said the community in Hartford and Frog Hollow is “close-knit”. This is due to the lives they live every day and the things they face and have faced together.

The proximity of the Hartford community is undeniable, and shows through in the toughest of times. Their tight bond from the island to the mainland is no coincidence; it has to do with the struggles and efforts shown by the Puerto Ricans as they struggled to assimilate here when the U.S. government paid for their migration when they needed more money. As a result of their shared experience, the community grew inseparable and close knit; something that is hard to find in other cities.


Ayala, César J. “The Decline of the Plantation Economy and the Puerto Rican Migration of the 1950s.” 1996, pp. 1–27.,


First Interview Essay

Giovanni Flores

FYSM Intro to Hispanic Hartford


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,

El Mercado


Ziad Sakr

I decided to take my interview with the workers in El Mercado marketplace. El Mercado is located at 704 Park St, Hartford, CT. I choose this place because it provides all kinds of Latin food and the most important is that the majority of the workers in El Mercado are from Latin America, so they could give me the right information about the Latin life and Latin history in Hartford. The first thing that I noticed was that a few people only speak English, and that made it hard for me to make an interview with as many people as I wanted. I made the interview with a guy working in a mobile accessories shop at the El Mercado for more than 10 years, and he is from Yucatán, Mexico, but he lived here in Hartford for more than 20 years because of the living situation and the problem with his family income back in Mexico. His name is Miguel Ángel. The interview went really well, I asked him many questions and it lasted for 10 minutes. Here is the dialogue of the interview.

[Ziad Sakr]: how long have been here in Hartford? And what brought you here?

[Miguel]: I am here for more than 20 years now, and I bought by parents, who moved from México to Hartford for better jobs because in México we do not have enough money to buy food or to make improves in your business.

[Ziad Sakr]: How is your life here? How can you describe it for me in a wide way? How you find it here?

[Miguel]:  Hartford for me is like modern ancient deeps, do you know when you go to the main city that has a statue of a man holding the earth on his shoulders, this is that place. You got intellectuals from people downtown and people from Park Street.

[Ziad Sakr]: Do you accommodate with the people here and the life here in Hartford? Can you explain to me how is your life going?

[Miguel]: I am working in customer services here so I think I meet a lot of people, many kinds of people. The people here are like me they come from nothing, like my parents who brought me here and we didn’t know what future was waiting for us, and I was raised in a house that is literally mud, and we didn’t have the money, so I can say after that that I accommodate. But honestly this is my first interview and I know you guys making this to know what is going on with the people like us here and especially the Latin community, and I know that you probably heard before you came about the killing and the shooting here and the life in Park Street. But to be honest everyone here really cooperates and like in many different places, there is the good and there also the bad, but for me, I definitely feel comfortable here.

[Ziad Sakr]: How do you describe the culture here in Hartford? What can you say about it?

[Miguel]: There is a lot of cultures. There is the Mexican culture, Dominican culture, Puerto Rican culture, Colombian culture, the whole South American culture. But the biggest culture here is the Puerto Rican culture, as if you walk in the streets you will see the Puerto Rican flags, their shields. So definitely there are

many cultures here and that what makes Hartford unique and beautiful, the diversity of cultures.

[Ziad Sakr]: Who is the best representation of the city, is it a group, or person? and why?

[Miguel]: The best representation in terms of life and positivity to make the city better, is the owner of El Mercado. The owner of this building for me is the best representation because there is like home. You know also the best representation of the city for me, is every citizen here in Hartford, because if everyone here worked hard, the city will be better. So for me, every good man is the best representation of me because we are the image of this city here.

This was the interview with me and Miguel. As first, this step that I took, made big changes in my mind about the people and the community here Hartford. The people here are so friendly and they are so generous. For example, after I finished the interview, when the people knew that I am a student in Trinity College and I made an interview about the Latin life here, they gave a free meal from the Colombian restaurant, which really made me happy and helped me know how the people here are so generous. Finally, at the end of the interview, I gained much useful information about the people here and their life, because it is different when you read a book about the culture rather than talking with the people from the culture itself. For example, when he began to talk about his life and why his family came here, and how is the life back in México, this gave me a visual review about his life and also the Mexican life. At the end, I want to say that it was a good experience to talk with people and to be closer to them, and It crushes the barrier of fear between me and talking to people.

First Interview Essay

Mariana Perez

FYSM 204

November 16, 2017

Prof. Aponte-Aviles


The Importance of Bilingualism within the Hispanic community of Hartford

The city of Hartford is a unique place that represents many groups of people from different backgrounds. Hartford, despite being the poorest community in Connecticut, has the richest and most diverse cultural backgrounds that any outsider can distinguish by simply taking a stroll down Park Street. It is incredibly easy to explore the city and discover that there is a huge Hispanic community that is difficult to avoid. Although there are varying racial and ethnic backgrounds within Hartford, the Hispanic community embraces the cultural and linguistic differences from residents and non residents. In particular, there are many areas where Spanish is the only language spoken, but there are also places that embrace both Spanish and English. Speaking both Spanish and English has positively impacted the Hispanic community and has been embraced by the city of Hartford. Thus, there is a direct relationship between the Hispanic community and Hartford through the unapologetic presence of bilingualism.

Even though the Hispanic community mainly speaks Spanish in Hartford, there are also individuals that firmly believe in the strong existence of bilingualism. The manager at the Hartford Public Library Branch on Park Street truly sees the value in embracing bilingualism in Hartford. Graciela identifies as a Hispanic woman or Latina, which is a big part of her identity. She is a part of the Hispanic community and has lived in Hartford for the last twenty years. She has embraced speaking Spanish and English and is proud to do so. According to Graciela, “bilingualism is very present in Hartford and it should be more present. My kids are both bilingual. It was my personal choice to be fully bilingual. We only speak Spanish at home. My daughter learned English at school, and my son of three years is fully bilingual” (Graciela). She finds this to be extremely beneficial because the ability to speak to others in both languages can cause people to learn more about other present cultures. This encouragement amongst the Hispanic population towards its youth allows for better communication This acceptance and awareness of other languages and cultures causes the different communities in Hartford to coexist in positively.

The apparent bilingualism amongst the Hispanic community positively influences the youth, despite the inequalities that are faced while residing in Hartford. Specifically, even though the education system, unfortunately, is not favored by many residents whose children attend the public schools, there is still awareness that bilingualism is important for the youth. Graciela mentioned her dislike towards the education system in Hartford. However, she recognized that “their school doesn’t provide any bilingual oriented program but some teachers are bilingual and can teach and encourage it to the students in order to provide a foundation to learn another language. [Bilingualism] is not part of the school curriculum” (Graciela). She was aware from her own experience and her children’s, so far, that bilingualism was encouraged socially and academically, despite it not being officially part of the public schools’ curriculums. This encouragement from the teachers towards the youth allows the idea of speaking both Spanish and English within Hartford can ultimately benefit them through social, academic, and economic opportunities.

Throughout Hartford history, the Hispanic community has dealt with the rise of bilingualism, even if English was imposed at the Hispanic population at first. In particular, the Puerto Rican community became the majority after many families migrated after the 1950s. In 1956, there was a place created that was named the San Juan Catholic Center in Hartford, and within three years, the center was offering family counseling and help in writing letters and translating documents and giving its clients referrals to other providers. The opening of the center did not preclude more modest initiatives, however, such as Mille Marchese’s program for non- English-speaking children at the Barnard-Brown school, also begun in 1956, when only five Puerto Ricans were enrolled there. (Cruz 51)

English was starting to be taught in community centers and schools in Hartford sixty years ago. Fast forward to today, there is not a current bilingual curriculum within the public schools in Hartford. Bilingualism mainly rose through social and economic interactions within the communities of Hartford. The Hispanic community has to adapt to the present school systems and their curriculums, as well. This has caused residents, such as Graciela, to view bilingualism in a positive and necessary form of communication. She emphasized that Hartford is diverse, welcoming, and that people of different backgrounds navigate around the city easily. She notices that people are not always bilingual with the English and Spanish languages, and that they should not feel discouraged or have trouble surviving in Hartford. Graciela states, “language and cultural differences affect Hartford in a positive way, overall. I believe I am open-minded, and I like learning new things and meeting new people of different cultural backgrounds. It creates opportunity for Hartford to learn from one another” (Graciela). She notices apparent cultural differences within Park Street and in her own neighborhood in Hartford that is two minutes away from Park Street. She actually has a mix of Portuguese, Brazilian, Jamaican, and Puerto Rican neighbors. Therefore, the variety in languages and the strong influence bilingualism has over the Hispanic community within Hartford causes people to positively learn more about one another and bond over those varying qualities.

To conclude, there is a direct relationship between the Hispanic community and Hartford through the positive influence of bilingualism. The the history of language differences within Hartford through community centers and public schools, and the personal perspective of Graciela from the Hartford Public Library Branch on Park Street, bilingualism is an essential aspect of this particular society. The differences within these groups of people are celebrated socially and encouraged academically despite the education system not having bilingualism instilled in their curriculums. It is important to recognize the limitations that are placed for residing within Hartford, particularly because it happens to be the poorest community in Connecticut. However, bilingualism is a positive factor that rose from generations within the Hispanic community in the city of Hartford that causes the communities to flourish.


Works Cited

Cruz, José E. “ Identity And Power: Puerto Rican Politics and the Challenge of Ethnicity.” Puerto Ricans in Hartford: From Settlement to Collective Behavior, 1998, 37-66.

Graciela. Personal interview. 6 Nov. 2017.