Latino Americans – 500 Years of History – Part 4 – The New Latinos


WE NOW RETURN TO
LATINO AMERICANS Woman: IT WAS SUDDEN BECAUSE
WE HAD TO LEAVE IN A HURRY. MY FATHER WAS
IN THE UNDERGROUND. IT WAS KIND OF THRILLING
BUT SCARY BECAUSE WE REALIZED THAT ADULTS
WERE SO NERVOUS BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T KNOW IF WE
WERE GONNA MANAGE TO GET OUT. THE PLANE KEPT GETTING DELAYED
AND DELAYED. PAPI THOUGHT THAT MAYBE
THE SECRET POLICE WERE GONNA COME GET HIM, GET US. Narrator: MIDSUMMER 1960, JULIA ALVAREZ AND HER FAMILY WERE ESCAPING
THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC AND ONE OF
THE MOST RUTHLESS DICTATORS IN THE HISTORY OF LATIN AMERICA, GENERAL RAFAEL
LEONIDAS TRUJILLO. DR. EDUARDO ALVAREZ
WAS ON HIS HIT LIST, AND THE AMERICANS WERE HELPING
HIM AND HIS FAMILY TO LEAVE. THE ALVAREZ FAMILY WAS PART
OF A VAST CARIBBEAN MIGRATION– PIONEERS
OF A NEW DOMINICAN WAVE. Julia Alvarez: WE HAD SOME AUNTS
UP IN THE BRONX THAT HAD BEEN HERE
FROM THE 1940S, BUT THAT WAS IT. YOU KNOW, IT WAS MOSTLY
PUERTO RICANS, SOME CUBANS, BUT VERY FEW DOMINICANS. PEOPLE, WHEN WE FIRST CAME,
THEY’D HEAR AN ACCENT, “WHERE ARE YOU FROM? DOMINIQUE?
YOU MEAN DOMINIQUE?” I, YOU KNOW, I WAS JUST–
I ENDED UP SOLVING IT BY SAYING
I’M FROM THE CARIBBEAN. HA HA! THEY KNEW WHERE THAT WAS
BECAUSE THAT’S, YOU KNOW, WHERE PEOPLE WENT FOR VACATION. I’M FROM THE CARIBBEAN,
YOU KNOW. IT’S LIKE SAYING I’M FROM
AFRICA, I’M FROM EUROPE, I’M FROM THE CARIBBEAN. Narrator: AS THEY BUILT
A LIFE IN NEW YORK CITY, THE FAMILY HELD ON
TO THE INDELIBLE MEMORIES OF THE NATION THEY LEFT BEHIND. Julia Alvarez: IMMIGRATION MEANS
EVERYBODY CHANGES. YOU HAVE TO BE FLEXIBLE,
YOU KNOW, BUT CERTAIN THINGS ARE IMPORTANT
TO HOLD ON TO BECAUSE, YOU KNOW,
THIS CULTURE NEEDS IT, THIS CULTURE NEEDS
CERTAIN THINGS FROM US. Narrator: IN THE YEARS
AFTER WORLD WAR II, HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS
WOULD COME FROM CUBA, THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, PUERTO RICO, AND CREATE NEW LIVES IN AMERICA. LIKE SO MANY IMMIGRANTS
BEFORE THEM, THEY WOULD STRUGGLE,
CONFRONT PREJUDICE, AND SEIZE OPPORTUNITY. JULIA ALVAREZ WOULD BECOME AN IMPORTANT AMERICAN LITERARY
VOICE OF HER GENERATION. AN ORPHAN BOY FROM PUERTO RICO WOULD DEFY
A SEGREGATED EDUCATION AND BECOME A U.S. CONGRESSMAN. A CUBAN MAN AND HIS TWO SONS WOULD SURVIVE
A PERILOUS VOYAGE AT SEA AND CONTRIBUTE TO THE MAKING
OF AN AMERICAN CITY. AND THE DAUGHTER
OF A SWEATSHOP WORKER WOULD WIN THE HIGHEST HONORS
ON BROADWAY AND IN HOLLYWOOD. Woman: IMAGINE COMING TO THIS
COUNTRY WHEN YOU’RE 5 YEARS OLD, AND EVERYTHING IS NOT ONLY
FREEZING COLD, BUT IT’S GRAY. THERE WASN’T A TREE ANYWHERE,
THERE WASN’T ANYTHING GREEN. THERE WASN’T ANYTHING COLORFUL
ANYWHERE. IT’S AS THOUGH
I HAD LEFT PARADISE AND SORT OF GONE TO
A VERY COLD HELL. Narrator: RITA MORENO
AND HER MOTHER, ROSA MARIA, ARRIVED IN NEW YORK’S
SPANISH HARLEM IN THE 1930s. Rita Moreno:
MY MOTHER DECIDED THAT, UH, SHE WANTED A BETTER LIFE
FOR BOTH OF US. AND SHE MADE IT SOUND LIKE
WE WERE GONNA HAVE, YOU KNOW, THIS AMAZING NEW LIFE. Narrator: RITA’S MOTHER
WENT TO WORK AT A SWEATSHOP WHERE MANY OF THE NEW IMMIGRANTS
WERE ABLE TO FIND JOBS FOR A MEAGER WAGE. Moreno: MY MOM WORKED, YOU KNOW,
VICIOUS HOURS FOR VERY LITTLE MONEY. BUT AT THE TIME
SHE WAS MAKING MONEY! AND INITIALLY WE STAYED IN
AN AUNT’S TENEMENT APARTMENT WITH 3 OTHER FAMILIES. Narrator:
RITA ALSO WENT TO WORK– MAKING HER DANCE DEBUT AT
A GREENWICH VILLAGE NIGHTCLUB. SHE WAS ONLY 6 YEARS OLD. YOU KNOW, WHEN I HEARD
THAT APPLAUSE, I SAID, “WHO NEEDS SCHOOL? THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO DO
FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.” Narrator: SHE DREAMED OF
BROADWAY AND HOLLYWOOD. FOR ANY CHILD OF THE DEPRESSION
THOSE WERE DISTANT DREAMS, MORE SO FOR RITA
IN A PLACE THAT WAS FOREIGN AND IN A LANGUAGE NOT HER OWN. Moreno: AND IT WAS REALLY AN
UPHILL, UPSTREAM KIND OF SWIM. Narrator: IN THE EARLY YEARS
OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION, NEW YORK STILL OFFERED,
FOR PUERTO RICANS, A WAY OUT OF THE MISERY
OF THE ISLAND. A U.S. TERRITORY SINCE 1898, PUERTO RICO WAS HIT HARDER
BY THE GREAT DEPRESSION THAN THE U.S. MAINLAND. SUGAR, GROWN MOSTLYBY AMERIS FOR THE AMERICAN MARKET,
WAS THE ISLAND’S MAIN CROP. WHEN SUGAR PRICES COLLAPSED
DURING THE DEPRESSION, PUERTO RICANS WERE PLUNGED
INTO DEVASTATING POVERTY THAT LASTED INTO THE 1940s. IN 1947, THE PUERTO RICAN
GOVERNMENT TOOK ACTION, IMPLEMENTING A HISTORIC OVERHAUL THAT WOULD TRANSFORM CENTURIES
OF AGRICULTURAL DEPENDENCE INTO A MODERN
INDUSTRIAL ECONOMY. IT WAS CALLED
OPERATION BOOTSTRAP. Man: PUERTO RICO
HELD OUT THE OPPORTUNITY FOR CHEAP LABOR AND NO TAXES, AND THEY BEGAN WOOING
AMERICAN COMPANIES TO COME TO PUERTO RICO, CLOSE THEIR OPERATIONS
IN THE UNITED STATES AND COME TO THE ISLAND. SO, MANY COMPANIES
DID SET UP SHOP IN PUERTO RICO IN THE 1950s, BUT NO MATTER HOW MANY COMPANIES
SET UP SHOP, THERE WERE MORE AND MORE
PUERTO RICANS THAT WERE COMING OFF THE LAND
AND STILL UNEMPLOYED. Narrator:
A U.S. GOVERNMENT STUDY ESTIMATED THAT AT LEAST
ONE MILLION PUERTO RICANS WOULD HAVE TO LEAVE THE ISLAND FOR OPERATION BOOTSTRAP
TO SUCCEED. AMONG THOSE WHO LEFT
WAS JUANITA ORTIZ, WHO GREW UP ON A FARM,
THE SIXTH OF 12 SIBLINGS. Woman: I DIDN’T HAVE MONEY
FOR THE TICKET, PLANE TICKET, BUT I BORROW FROM MY,
ONE OF MY BEST BROTHERS, BECAUSE I DIDN’T WANT TO ASK
MY FATHER BECAUSE HE WOULD SAY,
“NO, NO. DON’T GO.” AND IT WAS VERY CHEAP,
THE PLANE TICKET. Narrator: IT WAS THE FIRST
AIRBORNE MASS MIGRATION IN AMERICAN HISTORY; A DOZEN DAILY FLIGHTS FERRIED
PUERTO RICANS FROM SAN JUAN TO IDLEWILD
AND LaGUARDIA AIRPORTS. AMERICAN CITIZENS SINCE 1917, PUERTO RICANS HAD NO BARRIERSTO, ONLY A LIMITED IDEA
OF WHAT THEY WOULD ENCOUNTER. Juanita Sanabria: SO I DIDN’T
HAVE AGAIN A GOOD COAT, SO MY COUSIN GAVE ME
AN OLD COAT, BUT BY THAT TIME
WE DIDN’T WEAR NO PANTS. NO HEAVY JACKET, NOTHING, JUST DRESSES AND LONG SKIRTS,
AND I SAID, “UH-UH, I THINK I’M GOING TO GO BACK
TO PUERTO RICO.” Narrator:
THE PUERTO RICAN COMMUNITY, ESTABLISHED WITH FEWER
THAN 20,000 PEOPLE IN 1917, SWELLED TO MORE THAN 300,000 BY THE TIME JUANITA
ARRIVED IN 1952. MOST SETTLED IN EAST HARLEM,
“EL BARRIO,” THE CULTURAL
AND COMMERCIAL CENTER OF LATINO LIFE IN NEW YORK. Woman: YOU COULD FEEL IT. YOU COULD HEAR IT.
YOU COULD SMELL IT. YOU COULD SMELL THE FOODS
COMING OUT OF THE RESTAURANTS WHERE THEY WERE COOKING
TRADITIONAL PUERTO RICAN FOOD. YOU WOULD HEAR THE LANGUAGE
SPOKEN IN THE STREETS. YOU WOULD HEAR MOTHERS
CALLING THEIR CHILDREN FROM THEIR FIFTH-STORY
APARTMENT HOUSE WINDOWS DOWN TO THE STREETS. Narrator: IT WAS A COMMUTY
THAT STUCK TOGETHER, BOUND BY THEIR ROOTS… HELPING EACH OTHER THROUGH TOUGH
TIMES AND CELEBRATING THE GOOD. Virginia Sanchez Korrol:
PUERTO RICAN PEOPLE ARE SO RESILIENT IN SO MANY WAYS. [SALSA MUSIC PLAYING] THEY WOULD HAVE RENT PARTIES
TO PAY THEIR RENT. EVERY WEEKEND,
THEY WOULD OPEN THEIR HOME, FOR MUSIC AND DANCING,
AND CHARGE THE GUESTS IF THEY WERE ABLE TO AFFORD IT. THAT WAY, THE HOSTESS
WOULD EARN ENOUGH MONEY TO PAY THE RENT
FOR THAT MONTH. Narrator:
EVERY NIGHT THOSE SOUNDS WOULD MAKE THEIR WAY FROM EL BARRIO
TO MIDTOWN NIGHTCLUBS, FUELING A DANCE CRAZE
THAT WOULD SWEEP THE COUNTRY. AT THE PALLADIUM CLUB
IN NEW YORK, A KID FROM EL BARRIO, NAMED TITO
PUENTE, REIGNED AT THE TIMBALES. ON THE FLOOR ANOTHER
PUERTO RICAN, CUBAN PETE, DANCED THE MAMBO,
MESMERIZING AUDIENCES FROM EVERY RACE
AND WALK OF LIFE. JUANITA WAS A REGULAR
AT NEW YORK’S CASINO NIGHTCLUB, ALWAYS WITH A CHAPERONE IN TOW, AND ON THE NIGHT
OF HER 24th BIRTHDAY, SHE MET A YOUNG MAN,JOE SAN, A PUERTO RICAN WHO HAD RECENTLY
RETURNED FROM SERVING OVERSEAS DURING THE KOREAN WAR. Juanita Sanabria:
MY FRIENDS INVITE HIM, BUT HE WAS AFTER ANOTHER GIRL.
YES! NOT REALLY. OH, YES,
BECAUSE– EVEN THOUGH SHE WAS
NICE-LOOKING AND EVERYTHING, BUT SHE GAVE ME
THE BRUSH OFF. Juanita: SO HE STARTED DANCING
WITH ME. Joe Sanabria:IT WAS LOVE. Narrator:
JOE AND JUANITA WERE MARRIED IN THE BASEMENT
OF A LOCAL CHURCH. HER DRESS
RENTED FOR $75, MONEY SHE HAD SAVED
EARNING $29 A WEEK AS A FLOOR GIRL
IN A BRONX FACTORY. Juanita Sanabria: I WENT TO WORK
IN THIS FACTORY, HALF SLIPS FOR LADIES. I USED TO SEPARATE THE GARMENTS, AND WHEN I FINISHED THAT BUNDLE,
I TIE IT UP AND PUT A TICKET AND THEN
I TAKE ANOTHER ONE LIKE THAT. Narrator:
WITH THEIR TWO YOUNG CHILDREN, JOE AND JUANITA
MOVED THEIR FAMILY FROM THEIR CRAMPED
TENEMENT APARTMENT INTO A MORE SPACIOUS ONE
IN THE BRONX. FAR FROM THE PUERTO RICAN
COUNTRYSIDE OF THEIR CHILDHOOD, THE SANABRIAS WERE
FINALLY FEELING AT HOME IN THE UNITED STATES. Juan Gonzalez:
THE PUERTO RICANS FELT AMERICAN. THEY FELT THEY WERE
U.S. CITIZENS. BUT WHAT THEY ENCOUNTERED
WHEN THEY GOT HERE WAS A DIFFERENT VIEW
OF WHO THEY WERE. Narrator:
JUST AS AFRICAN AMERICANS HAD BEEN DENIED EQUAL RIGHTS
AS CITIZENS, SO, TOO, WERE MOST
PUERTO RICANS. A PEOPLE OF MIXED SPANISH,
INDIGENOUS, AND AFRICAN HERITAGE, THEY WERE VIEWEDAS RACIALLY. AND EVEN THE LIGHT-SKINNED
JUANITA SANABRIA WOULD NOT BE SPARED. Juanita Sanabria:
AWFUL, IT WAS– LET ME TELL YOU–AWFUL. I TOOK THE BUS TO COME BACK HOME
FROM MY JOB. THIS LADY WAS SITTING
IN THE FRONT, AND I TRIED TO SIT NEXT TO HER, AND SHE WAS CALLING ME
DIRTY PUERTO RICAN, AND SHE WAS HITTING ME
WITH THE ELBOW, AND SHE HIT ME WITH A CANE. SHE HIT ME WITH THE CANE,
AND SHE HIT ME UNDER MY LEGS. AND A LOT
OF TEENAGERS LAUGHING, “DIRTY PUERTO RICAN,
GO BACK TO PUERTO RICO.” Narrator: RACE AND ETHNICITY INCREASINGLY BECAME A SOURCE
OF CONFLICT FOR PUERTO RICANS IN NEW YORK. AS THE PUERTO RICAN POPULATION
DOUBLED, THEY PUSHED AGAINST THE EDGES
OF EAST HARLEM, SPREADING OUT TO OTHER PARTS
OF MANHATTAN, BROOKLYN, AND THE SOUTH BRONX. THE JEWS, IRISH, AND ITALIANS
WHO’D BEEN THERE FIRST PUSHED BACK. TURF–SOMETIMES A MERE
TWO-BLOCK STRETCH– WAS FIERCELY DEFENDED
BY ADOLESCENT BOYS IN GANGS LIKE
THE LATIN CROWNS, THE SCORPIONS,
THE DRAGONS, THE VAMPIRES IN HARLEM, HELL’S KITCHEN,
THE LOWER EAST SIDE. Juan Gonzalez: THE YOUTH
WERE TRYING DESPERATELY TO COPE WITH BEING THRUST
INTO THIS METROPOLIS WITH ALL OF THESE
DIFFERENT GROUPS AND WITH NOT MUCH GUIDANCE. WHAT ENDED UP HAPPENING WAS A LOT OF YOUNG PEOPLE
LOOKED AT THESE GANGS AS THEIR ONLY FAMILY OR THEIR
ONLY WAY TO PROTECT THEMSELVES AGAINST A HOSTILE SOCIETY. Narrator: THE NEW YORK PRESS
GREW OBSESSED WITH THE GANG STORY… AND IN THE PUBLIC’S MIND, PUERTO RICANS
WERE AT THE CENTER OF IT. THEN A TRAGIC INCIDENT THAT ONLY REINFORCED THE
PUBLIC IMAGE OF PUERTO RICANS. Man: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT
KILLING THOSE TWO BOYS? I FEEL LIKE I ALWAYS FEEL. Man: HOW’S THAT? LIKE THIS, LIKE I AM. Man:
ARE YOU SORRY FOR THEM? Different man:
ARE YOU SORRY? THAT’S FOR ME TO KNOW
AND FOR YOU TO FIND OUT. Narrator: 16-YEAR-OLD
SALVADOR AGRON WAS ACCUSED OF MURDERING
TWO TEENAGERS IN A HELL’S KITCHEN PLAYGROUND
WHILE WEARING A LONG BLACK CAPE. Sanchez Korrol:
HE BECOMES THE FACE OF THIS THREATENING COMMUNITY
THAT’S GROWING IN SIZE, THAT IS SPEAKING IN SPANISH. THIS IS WHAT WE’RE ALLOWING
INTO THE COUNTRY. THIS IS HOW OUR–THIS IS HOW
OUR SOCIETY IS DETERIORATING. BUT FOR
THE PUERTO RICAN COMMUNITY, I THINK THERE’S MORE OF
A SADNESS CONNECTED WITH IT IN THE SENSE THAT… HE IS ONE OF OUR KIDS AND
LOOK AT WHAT’S HAPPENED TO HIM, AND I’M GOING TO MAKE SURE
IT DOESN’T HAPPEN TO MINE. Narrator: A FEW BLOCKS
FROM WHERE THE CAPEMAN STRUCK, A MUSICAL WAS PLAYING ON
BROADWAY, “WEST SIDE STORY.” IT WAS A POLISH ROMEO
AND PUERTO RICAN JULIET SET IN A NEW YORK CITY
WHERE ETHNIC HATRED SURGED THROUGH NEIGHBORHOODS AND
GANGS LURKED IN DEFENSE OF TURF. THE FILM VERSION
FOREVER ETCHED THE IMAGE OF THE KNIFE-WIELDING
PUERTO RICAN IN THE AMERICAN CONSCIOUSNESS. THE LEADING ROLE OF MARIA
WENT TO NATALIE WOOD, THE DAUGHTER
OF RUSSIAN IMMIGRANTS, AND HER BROTHER BERNARDO
WAS PLAYED BY GEORGE CHAKIRIS, THE SON OF GREEK IMMIGRANTS. ONLY ONE PUERTO RICAN WAS ABLE
TO SNATCH A SPEAKING ROLE. RITA MORENO WAS CAST
AS THE SPIRITED ANITA. RITA HAD GOTTEN HER FIRST ROLE
ON BROADWAY AT 13 AND SOON LEFT FOR HOLLYWOOD
STILL A TEENAGER. “A HISPANIC ELIZABETH TAYLOR,”
OBSERVED LOUIS B MAYER, AND SIGNED HER FOR MGM. Moreno:
IT WASN’T ELIZABETH TAYLOR, BUT THE–THE HISPANIC PART
FOLLOWED ME EVERYWHERE. I HAD PARTS THAT ONLY REQUIRED
ACCENTS AND VERY. VERY DARK MAKEUP BECAUSE AS WE ALL KNOW,
EVERY HISPANIC IN THE WORLD IS VERY, VERY, VERY DARK. – THEY WOULD HAVE…
– I DO NOT BLAME THEM. Narrator: MORENO WAS TYPECAST
IN MOVIES SUCH AS “JIVARO,” “LATIN LOVERS,”
AND “PAGAN LOVE SONG.” Moreno:
I PLAYED MORE INDIAN MAIDENS THAN YOU CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE. RARELY, RARELY DID I GET TO WEAR
PRETTY COSTUMES; IT WAS ALMOST ALWAYS BUCKSKINS OR PEASANT’S SKIRTS AND
PEASANT BLOUSES, LOOP EARRINGS. Narrator: THE ROLE OF ANITA
ALSO REQUIRED AN ACCENT, LOOP EARRINGS, AND DARK MAKEUP, BUT IN “WEST SIDE STORY,”
IT WAS DIFFERENT. Moreno: I UNDERSTOOD THAT
CHARACTER WITH MY EYES CLOSED. THERE WAS NOTHING ABOUT THAT
CHARACTER THAT PUZZLED ME. EVEN A
GREASEBALL’S GOT… Moreno: WHEN IT CAME TO
THE CANDY STORE SCENE WHERE THE BOYS ARE CALLING ME
THESE TERRIBLE NAMES… BERNARDO’S TRAMP. BERNARDO’S PIG.
LYING SPIC! DON’T DO THAT! Moreno: IT OPENED A WOUND
THAT MUST HAVE BEEN THERE THAT I HAD FORGOTTEN ABOUT, THAT I HAD WILLFULLY
FORGOTTEN ABOUT FOR YEARS AND YEARS AND YEARS
AND YEARS. I LEARNED EARLY, VERY EARLY ON
THAT I WAS A SPIC. I WAS SOBBING FULL OUT,
I COULDN’T STOP. AND YOU KNOW,
NOBODY KNEW WHAT WAS GOING ON, THEY WERE ALL TERRIFIED. IT WAS THE FIRST TIME THAT
THAT KIND OF RACIAL HATRED WAS DEPICTED IN A MOVIE
IN A VERY REAL WAY. Narrator: IT WAS ALSO THE FIRST
TIME A PUERTO RICAN ACTRESS WAS NOMINATED FOR
HOLLYWOOD’S HIGHEST HONOR: THE ACADEMY AWARD. Man: THE NOMINEES
FOR BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS
IN A SUPPORTING ROLE ARE: JUDY GARLANDIN “JUDGMENT” AND RITA MORENO… Moreno: MY HEART IS IN MY THROAT
BECAUSE JUDY GARLAND, I THINK,
IS GOING TO WIN IT FOR “JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG.” MAY I HAVE THE ENVELOPE PLEASE? RITA MORENO
FOR “WEST SIDE STORY”! [MUSIC PLAYING] Moreno: AND WHEN
THEY CALLED MY NAME, THE FIRST THING I SAID TO MYSELF
WAS, “DON’T RUN,” AND I DIDN’T, I DIDN’T. OF COURSE I DIDN’T HAVE
ANY SPEECH PREPARED. I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! GOOD LORD!
I LEAVE YOU WITH THAT. [MUSIC PLAYING] Man:
MY FATHER PREPARE A BOAT. A BOAT THAT WAS UNDER WATER. HE TAKE IT OFF OF THE WATER,
VERY OLD BOAT, AND HE TAKE TWO YEAR TO FIX IT. FINALLY THE DAY ARRIVED. WE’RE READY TO GO TO FREEDOM. NOW THE DECISION COME. MY FATHER HAVE TO LEFT BEHIND
ONE SON IN PRISON, MY MOTHER WITH 3 LITTLE KIDS. THE TOUGHEST PART ACTUALLY
WAS WHEN I LEFT MY MY MOM. AND I KISS HER, NOT KNOWING
IF I’M GONNA SEE HER AGAIN. SO AT THE MOMENT YOU
GET INTO THE BOAT AND…AND GO. Narrator:
IN THE FALL OF 1966, MANUEL CAPO AND HIS TWO ELDEST
SONS, CARLOS AND LUIS, SHOVED OFF THE SOUTHERN COAST
OF CUBA UNDER THE COVER OF NIGHT… RISKING THEIR LIVES
TO SAVE THEIR FUTURE. AFTER 43 HOURS AT SEA, THEY ARRIVED ON THE BEACHES
OF COZUMEL, MEXICO. ALMOST 3 MONTHS LATER,
THEY MADE THEIR WAY NORTH TO THE U.S.-MEXICO BORDER
NEAR BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS. PEOPLE TOLD US
THAT THERE WAS A FENCE BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES
AND MEXICO. AND THAT FENCE HAVE A MILE TO
THE LEFT, A MILE TO THE RIGHT. AFTER THAT MILE IS NO FENCE. FORGET ABOUT IT,
THAT FENCE NEVER FINISH. Narrator: THEY JUMPED
THE 8-FOOT FENCE INTO THE UNITED STATES. BOUND FOR MIAMI,
THEY WERE PULLED OFF A BUS, DETAINED AND INTERROGATED
BY THE U.S. BORDER PATROL FOR SEVERAL HOURS. IT WAS TOUGH.
IS A TOUGH INTERROGATION. ONE-BY-ONE SCREAMING,
MY FATHER WAS CRYING. AT THAT TIME, WE DON’T KNOW
WHAT’S GONNA HAPPEN WITH US. FINALLY, THIS OFFICER SAY, “I’M
SORRY I TREAT YOU THAT THIS WAY, “BUT THAT’S PART OF MY JOB. “I HAVE TO BE SURE
YOU ARE CUBANS “AND YOU ARE
THE LEGITIMATE REFUGEE. WELCOME TO UNITED STATES
OF AMERICA.” [CHEERING] Narrator: 7 YEARS EARLIER
IN 1959, FIDEL CASTRO AND HIS
BAND OF REVOLUTIONARIES MARCHED INTO HAVANA
FOLLOWING AN ARMED REVOLT THAT ENDED IN THE OVERTHROW OF MILITARY DICTATOR
FULGENCIO BATISTA. SUPPORT FOR THE REVOLUTION
WAS OVERWHELMING, FROM THE POOREST TO THE
PROFESSIONAL AND MIDDLE CLASSES. BUT NOT ALL CUBANS
BACKED FIDEL CASTRO. FIRST TO LEAVE WERETHE CLOS OF THE OUSTED DICTATOR AND
MEMBERS OF CUBA’S UPPER CLASS. Man: ANYBODY WHO LEAVES
HIS OR HER COUNTRY, THE DAY HE OR SHE LEFT IS REALLY
EMBEDDED IN HIS MEMORY. I LEFT 51 1/2 YEARS AGO. AND I’VE REPLAYED THAT DAY
OVER IN MY MEMORY MANY, MANY, MANY TIMES,
ALMOST EVERY DAY. IT WAS THE 24th OF OCTOBER
OF 1960, AND WE CAME OVER ON A FERRY
CALLED THE “CITY OF HAVANA.” AND THAT DAY I WAS 11 YEARS OLD, AND I COULD SENSE THAT
SOMETHING WAS DIFFERENT FROM HEARING,
OVERHEARING CONVERSATIONS AMONG THE GROWN-UPS. Narrator: THE PEREZ FIRMAT
FAMILY HAD TAKEN THIS FERRY TRIP TO MIAMI DOZENS OF TIMES BEFORE TO STOCK THEIR PROSPEROUS
WHOLESALE STORE IN HAVANA. BUT CASTRO HAD SEIZED
THEIR PROPERTY, AND THE FAMILY FLED WITH
WHATEVER THEY COULD CARRY. OVER THE NEXT 3 YEARS, MORE THAN 200,000 CUBANS
WOULD FLEE TO MIAMI. AT FIRST, THEY WERE WELCOME… Man: IT WAS EASY FOR THE U.S.
TO BE WELCOMING OF CUBANS WHO WERE LEAVING
IN THE 1960s. THESE ARE PEOPLE WHO WERE
COMING FROM MIDDLE CLASSES, UPPER MIDDLE CLASSES, THE ELITE. THEY WERE WHITE. I MEAN THESE WERE
GREAT IMMIGRANTS FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF, YOU
KNOW, PREJUDICES IN THE U.S. Narrator:
AT THE HEIGHT OF THE COLD WAR, CUBANS WERE REFUGEES
FROM A COMMUNIST REGIME AND MOST IMPORTANTLY,
THEY WEREN’T STAYING FOR LONG. Gustavo Perez Firmat: FROM
THE CUBAN EXILE POINT OF VIEW, THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT
WILL NOT ALLOW A COMMUNIST REGIME
90 MILES OFF THE SHORES. NOW, THEY HAD GOOD REASON TO
THINK THAT BECAUSE UNITED STATES HAD INTERVENED IN CUBAN AFFAIRS,
YOU KNOW, ANY NUMBER OF TIMES BEFORE, IT’S NOT AS IF UNITED STATES
HAVE TAKEN A HANDS-OFF POLICY TOWARD CUBA. Narrator:
THE PEREZ FIRMAT FAMILY HAD COME TO MIAMI TO WAIT… FOR THE FALL OF FIDEL CASTRO AND FOR LIFE IN CUBA
TO RETURN TO NORMAL. DAYS OF WAITING
GREW INTO MONTHS. THEY LEFT THEIR HOTEL
AND MOVED INTO A HOUSE IN WHAT WOULD SOON BECOME KNOWN
AS LITTLE HAVANA. GUSTAVO, SR. GOT INTO
THE USED CAR BUSINESS, AND FOR THE FIRST TIME,
THEIR MOTHER GOT A JOB AS A SECRETARY
AT HER CHILDREN’S SCHOOL. Perez Firmat:
IT WAS SORT OF EXHILARATING TO BE ABLE TO WALK TO SCHOOL
BY MYSELF. TO WALK TO THE BOY’S CLUB
IN CUBA, I BASICALLY LIVED
WITHIN THE CONFINES OF MY HOUSE AND MY GRANDMOTHER’S HOUSE
WHICH WAS NEXT DOOR. AND I WASN’T ALLOWED TO PLAY
BY MYSELF ON THE STREETS, STUFF LIKE THAT. IN MIAMI, MY MOTHER WAS TOO BUSY
JUST, YOU KNOW, FINDING A JOB, ET CETERA, SO SHE COULDN’T LOOK AFTER US
IN THE SAME WAY. I ROAMED AROUND,
AND IT WAS GREAT. I FELT FREE. Narrator: UNTIL THEY COULD
GET THEIR BEARINGS, THE FAMILY RELIED
ON U.S. GOVERNMENT RELIEF. SPAM WAS BREAKFAST,
LUNCH, AND DINNER. AT THE PEREZ FIRMAT TABLE, THE CONVERSATION INEVITABLY
TURNED TO THE TOPIC OF CUBA. THERE WAS THIS CONSTANT
SORT OF BUZZ IN THE AIR, BECAUSE WE–WE WERE SURE THAT WE
WERE GOING BACK AT ANY MOMENT. AND EVERY DAY IN MY HOUSE, THE RADIO WAS TUNED TO THE CUBAN
RADIO STATION CALLED LA RELOJ, WHICH HAD THE NEWS
BY THE MINUTE. Narrator: THE BUZZ WAS THAT
EXILED FATHERS, UNCLES, AND SONS HAD GONE OFF TO TRAIN IN
THE JUNGLES OF CENTRAL AMERICA. AN INVASION WAS IN THE MAKING
AND WOULD HAPPEN ANY DAY NOW. ON APRIL 17, 1961, 1,400 U.S.-TRAINED CUBAN EXILES
LANDED IN CUBA. I WOKE UP THAT MORNING APRIL 17 AND THERE WAS MY FATHER
AND MY UNCLE IN THE FLORIDA ROOM WHERE THE 3
OF US BROTHERS SLEPT, TUNING IN TO
SHORTWAVE RADIO TRANSMISSIONS, AND THEY WERE CERTAIN THAT
THE INVASION WOULD SUCCEED. Narrator:
FOR THE NEXT 3 DAYS, THE LIVES OF CUBANS IN MIAMI
HUNG IN THE BALANCE. HUNDREDS CROWDED IN CHURCHES
OR MET IN PARKS FOR CANDLELIGHT PRAYER VIGILS. WITHIN 72 HOURS, CASTRO’S FORCES EASILY DEFEATED
THE EXILE INVASION. THE FAILURE OF THE BAY OF PIGS WAS A DEVASTATING BLOW
TO CUBANS’ HOPES OF RETURN. IN MIAMI, IT WASN’T JUST CUBANS WHO WERE UNHAPPY ABOUT THEIR
PROLONGED STAY. NON-CUBAN LOCALS
AIRED THEIR GRIEVANCES IN A MIAMI TELEVISION REPORT. Newsreel narrator:
AMERICAN ANTAGONISM IS GROWING NOT BECAUSE THE REFUGEES
ARE CUBAN OR LOOK CUBAN, BUT BECAUSE
THERE ARE LOTS OF THEM. IF MIAMIANS ARE AGITATED, IT’S BECAUSE
THEY’RE ASKED TO ACCEPT LATE-NIGHT SIDEWALK DISCUSSIONS
AND LOUD-PLAYING RADIO… Woman: MANY OF THE
LOCAL RESIDENTS FEAR THAT THEY SIMPLY CAN’T
ACCOMMODATE THESE NEW ARRIVALS WHO ARE COMING IN
IN SUCH LARGE NUMBERS AND AT SUCH A RAPID CLIP. Newsreel narrator: WHICH
MIAMIANS FEAR WILL CREATE SLUMS NOT UNLIKE NEW YORK’S
PUERTO RICAN DISTRICT. Maria Cristina Garcia:
OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS CAN’T ACCOMMODATE
THEIR CHILDREN. WE DON’T HAVE ENOUGH JOBS. OUR NEIGHBORHOODS
AND OUR SERVICES ARE STRETCHED TO THE LIMIT, AND SO, THERE IS A LOT OF
ANXIETY, A LOT OF RESENTMENT, FEAR. Narrator: IN THE WAKE
OF THE BAY OF PIGS, CUBANS SCRAMBLED TO JOIN
THEIR COUNTRYMEN IN EXILE. AFTER THE BAY OF PIGS,
EVERYTHING GOES UP FOR GRABS. THE EMBASSY IS CLOSED
AT THAT POINT, IT’S VERY HARD TO GET A VISA
TO GET OUT, REPRESSION IN CUBA
IS INCREASING. Narrator:
MARIA DE LOS ANGELES TORRES– NENA, AS SHE WAS CALLED– WAS GROWING UP IN A FAMILY
THAT SUPPORTED THE REVOLUTION UNTIL A CLOSE FRIEND WAS
ARRESTED AND EXECUTED. HE HAD JUST TURNED 17. AND SO I THINK THAT,
IN MY FAMILY, REALLY TURNED MY FAMILY AROUND AND ALL OF THE SUDDEN
WE WENT FROM CELEBRATING FIDEL TO REALLY BEING SCARED. Narrator: THEN A RUMOR
BEGAN TO CIRCULATE; A NEW LAW WOULD STRIP PARENTS
OF THEIR RIGHTS; CASTRO WOULD DECIDE WHERE AND
WHAT THEIR CHILDREN WOULD LEARN, POSSIBLY EVEN
IN THE SOVIET UNION. Nena Torres:
CLEARLY THIS WAS A PATTERN OF PROPAGANDA
AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT. BUT AS ALL PROPAGAND
THAT WHICH IS EFFECTIVE, ALWAYS CONTAINS
A KERNEL OF TRUTH. AND AS THE GOVERNMENT
SHUT DOWN THE SCHOOLS, BEGAN THE LITERACY PROGRAM WHERE THEY
ENCOURAGED ADOLESCENTS TO TEACH PEASANTS
HOW TO READ AND WRITE. ALL THAT TENDED TO GIVE
SOME CREDENCE TO THAT. Narrator:
FEARFUL OF LOSING THEIR CHILD, NENA’S PARENTS MADE
AN AGONIZING DECISION. A CLANDESTINE NETWORK INVOLVING
CUBANS AND AMERICANS, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH,
AND THE CIA, PLANNED TO TRANSPORT
THOUSANDS OF CHILDREN TO THE UNITED STATES. NENA WOULD BE ONE OF THEM. Nena Torres: I REMEMBER WE LEFT
VERY EARLY IN THE MORNING. AND AGAIN THERE WAS A LOT
OF SILENCE AROUND THE TRIP, YOU KNOW. WE HAD NEIGHBORS THAT I WASN’T SUPPOSED TO TELL
THAT I WAS LEAVING. THE LAST THING
MY MOTHER TOLD ME, “TAKE A BATH BECAUSE AMERICANS
DON’T BATHE EVERY DAY.” AND I DO REMEMBER AT SOME POINT
GOING OUT TO THE PLANE AND THE GUARDS STOPPING ME,
BECAUSE SOME PEOPLE WOULD PUT, YOU KNOW, FAMILY HEIRLOOMS
INSIDE THE DOLLS, AND SO THE GUARD TRIED TO TAKE
THE DOLL AWAY AND I GOT VERY ANGRY,
AND SO I TOOK IT BACK, SO… Narrator: BETWEEN DECEMBER 1960
AND OCTOBER 1962, IN WHAT BECAME KNOWN
AS OPETION PETER PAN, 14,000 UNACCOMPANIED MINORS
WERE TRANSPORTED TO MIAMI UNTIL THEY COULD BE REUNITED
WITH THEIR PARENTS. WHILE HALF WENT TO LIVE
WITH RELATIVES AND FRIENDS, THE REST CAME TO A REFUGEE CAMP
FOR CHILDREN UNDER THE CARE OF
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH TO WAIT FOR THEIR PARENTS
OR A FOSTER HOME. NENA WOULD BE REUNITED
WITH HER PARENTS WITHIN MONTHS. Torres:
I MEAN, IT SEEMED LONG BECAUSE 4 MONTHS TO A KID
IS A LONG TIME. THERE ARE FRIENDS I HAVE WHO
NEVER SAW THEIR PARENTS AGAIN. SO IN THAT SENSE, WE WERE LUCKY. Narrator: IN 1962
U.S. RECONNAISSANCE PLANES DISCOVERED SOVIET MISSILES
IN CUBA, TRAVEL TO AND FROM CUBA CEASED, AND THOUSANDS OF PETER PAN
CHILDREN WERE STRANDED. Torres: YOU HAVE
8,000 CHILDREN HERE THAT HAVE NOT BEEN REUNITED
WITH THEIR PARENTS. THEY CAN’T GO BACK BECAUSE CUBA
WILL NOT LET THEM GO BACK AND THE UNITED STATES
DOESN’T LET THEIR PARENTS IN. Narrator:
THE WORLD HAD BEEN BROUGHT TO THE BRINK OF NUCLEAR WAR. THE SOVIETS REMOVED
THE MISSILES, AND PRESIDENT KENNEDY AGREED
TO NEVER INVADE CUBA AGAIN. [SPEAKING SPANISH] Narrator:
CASTRO WAS ENTRENCHED, AND NO ONE IN MIAMI
WAS GOING HOME JUST YET. SAN JUAN HILL IN NEW YORK CITY’S
WEST MANHATTAN, WHERE SCENES FROM THE SEMINAL
MOVIE “WEST SIDE STORY” WERE FILMED, WAS A TENEMENT SLUM
UNTIL IT WAS TORN DOWN. Gonzalez: THERE’S NO DOUBT THAT
THE RAZING OF SOME TENEMENTS THAT WERE REALLY SUBSTANDARD
HOUSING TO BEGIN WITH WAS NECESSARY FOR THE CITY
TO PROGRESS. MANY OF THEM WERE
A HELLHOLE OF AN EXPERIENCE IN TERMS OF DAILY LIFE. THE RAT INFESTATION AND THE
ROACH INFESTATION WAS ASTOUNDING AND THE INABILITY OF PEOPLE TO GET LANDLORDS TO REPAIR
THEIR BUILDINGS PROPERLY, THAT THEY WERE CHARGING RENTS
FOR, WAS A HUGE PROBLEM. Narrator:
IN THE SPAN OF 15 YEARS, HUNDREDS OF CITY BLOCKS
WERE RAZED… THOUSANDS OF FAMILIES DISPLACED. IN PLACE OF SAN JUAN HILL, THE CITY BUILT THE
PERFORMING ARTS MECCA– LINCOLN CENTER– AND OVER 7,000 PUERTO RICAN
AND AFRICAN AMERICAN FAMILIES WERE LEFT WITH NOWHERE TO GO. ITS CRITICS DUBBED THE POLICY,
“SPIC REMOVAL.” Sanchez Korrol: POLITICIANS PAY
ATTENTION TO PEOPLE WHO VOTE, AND IF THERE ARE NOT
BIG VOTING BLOCKS COMING OUT OF THOSE COMMUNITIES, THEN THEY ARE NOT GOING
TO BE LISTENED TO. AS URBAN RENEWAL IS BEING
PLANNED FOR THOSE AREAS, I DON’T THINK THAT
THEIR POLITICAL POWER IS STRONG ENOUGH TO AVOID IT. Narrator: FOR THE 600,000 PUERTO
RICANS LIVING IN THE CITY, THE POLITICAL POWER THAT COULD
IMPROVE EVERYDAY LIFE WAS STILL FAR FROM REACH. IN NEW YORK, LIKE MOST THINGS, POLITICS CAME DOWN
ALONG ETHNIC LINES. Gonzalez: IF THE MAIN JOBS WERE
THE MAYOR, THE CITY CONTROLLER, AND THE PRESIDENT
OF THE CITY COUNCIL, WHICH THEY USUALLY WERE, ONE HAD TO BE JEWISH,
ONE HAD TO BE ITALIAN, AND ONE HAD TO BE IRISH. PUERTO RICANS
WERE AN AFTERTHOUGHT. Narrator: FOR ONE YOUNG PUERTO, SIDELINING HIS COMMUNITY
WAS NO LONGER ACCEPTABLE. Man: WE ARE NOT HERE
TO THREATEN OR TO BEG. WE ARE HERE TO PARTICIPATE, AND THE POWER THAT WE SEEK IS ESSENTIALLY
THE POWER TO PERSUADE AND THE POWER TO ELECT
AND TO BE ELECTED. [APPLAUSE] Narrator: IN 1960,
HERMAN BADILLO WAS TAPPED BY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
JOHN F. KENNEDY TO RUN HIS CAMPAIGN
FOR LATINO VOTERS IN NEW YORK. Gonzalez: KENNEDY INSPIRED
LATINOS THROUGHOUT THE NATION, ALL OF THE LATINO POLITICIANS
OF OUR ERA, THE PIONEERS, ALL STARTED OUT OF
THE VIVA KENNEDY CLUBS, BADILLO IN NEW YORK WAS ABLE TO SKILLFULLY RIDE
THE WAVE THAT WAS OCCURRING THEN AND SAW THE IMPORTANCE OF GETTING PUERTO RICANS
REGISTERED TO VOTE. Narrator: HERMAN BADILLO
ARRIVED IN NEW YORK IN 1941, AN ORPHAN SENT FROM PUERTO RICO
TO LIVE WITH CLOSE RELATIVES AFTER BOTH OF HIS PARENTS
DIED OF TUBERCULOSIS. AS A STUDENT AT HAAREN HIGH, HE
WROTE FOR THE SCHOOL NEWSPAPER, WHERE A FELLOW STUDENT WONDERED
WHERE HE SPENT THE SCHOOL DAY. Man: HE SAID “WELL, “HOW COME WE DON’T SEE YOU
ANYWHERE? “YOU OBVIOUSLY ARE VERY SMART
BECAUSE YOU ARE A GOOD WRITER EVEN THOUGH YOU HAVE A HEAVY
ACCENT, BUT THEN YOU DISAPPEAR.” I SAID “NO, I DON’T DISAPPEAR,
I GO TO MY CLASSES.” HE SAID “WHAT ARE THEY?” I SAID “AIRPLANE MECHANICS.” HE SAID, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING
IN AIRPLANE MECHANICS? THAT’S FOR BLACKS
AND PUERTO RICANS.” Narrator:DEFYING THE SCHOOL’s
PRACTICE OF RACE-BASED TRACKING, HERMAN SWITCHED
TO A COLLEGE TRACK AND GRADUATED FROM CITY COLLEGE
AND BROOKLYN LAW WITH TOP HONORS. NOW HE SET HIS SIGHTS ON
BREAKING UP THE EXCLUSIVE CLUB OF NEW YORK CITY POLITICS. Herman Badillo:
THE DEMOCRATIC ORGANIZATION, THEY WERE WORRIED THAT
THEY’D BE THROWN OUT OF OFFICE. SO, UH, THEY NEVER DID ANYTHING. IN FACT,
THEY DISCOURAGED PUERTO RICANS FROM BEING INVOLVED IN POLITICS. THE PROBLEM WAS THAT IN THOSE
DAYS THERE WAS A LITERACY TEST WHICH MADE IT VERY DIFFICULT FOR
PORTO RICANS TO REGISTER AND TO VOTE. Sanchez Korrol: MY MOTHER WAS
TERRIFIED TO REGISTER TO VOTE BECAUSE SHE THOUGHT THAT SHE WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO READ
THE ENGLISH PARAGRAPH THAT SHE WAS SUPPOSED TO READ. AND I REMEMBER TAKING HER
AND GOING WITH HER AND TELLING HER, “YEAH.
YOU CAN READ IT. “YOU CAN READ IT, MA,
YOU CAN READ IT. “IT’S GOING TO BE OKAY. YOU CAN READ IT.”
AND SHE DID. AND STILL I REMEMBER
HER HAND SHAKING AS SHE SIGNED HER NAME
TO BE PUT ON THE VOTING RECORDS. Narrator: YET, FOR LOCAL
DEMOCRATIC PARTY BOSSES LITERACY TESTS WEREN’T ENOUGH TO
KEEP PUERTO RICANS FROM VOTING. AT ONE POINT,
I WENT TO A POLLING PLACE, AND THE GUY SAYS TO ME, “WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING
ABOUT THAT GUY BADILLO. SEE, HE’S BEEN BRINGING ALL THIS
GARBAGE TO REGISTER AND VOTE.” SO I SAID,
“WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO?” HE SAID, “I’M GOING TO CLOSE
THE POLLING PLACE AT 9:00 IN THE EVENING INSTEAD
OF KEEPING IT OPEN TILL 10:00.” SO I SAID “GOOD IDEA.” Narrator:
THE YOUNG LAWYER STAYED AND COLLECTED THE NAMES
OF 14 PUERTO RICANS WHO HAD COME ON TIME
BUT COULD NOT REGISTER. ON THEIR BEHALF, BADILLO SUED THE NEW YORK BOARD
OF ELECTIONS FOR DISCRIMINATION. I WON THE COURT VICTORY, WE HAD A HUGE INCREASE
IN REGISTRATION AND A HUGE TURNOUT, AND THAT CERTAINLY HELPED
KENNEDY TO BE ELECTED. Narrator: PUERTO RICANS
HAD VOTED IN RECORD NUMBERS, AND WOULD SOON SEE
ONE OF THEIR OWN BREAK THROUGH THE BARRIERS OF
NEW YORK CITY POLITICS. [BADILLO SPEAKING SPANISH] Sanchez Korrol:
WHEN HERMAN BADILLO BECAME BRONX BOROUGH PRESIDENT, I AM ALMOST SURE THAT
EVERYONE IN NEW YORK KNEW THAT A PUERTO RICAN HAD BECOME
BRONX BOROUGH PRESIDENT. HUGE. IT WAS HUGE. Narrator: HERMAN BADILLO
WENT ON TO WASHINGTON AS THE FIRST PUERTO RICAN
U.S. CONGRESSMAN. THERE HE HELPED CREATE AND PASS
LANDMARK LEGISLATION TO SUPPORT BILINGUAL EDUCATION AND GUARANTEE VOTING RIGHTS
FOR ALL AMERICANS. BY 1966, WHEN MANUEL CAPO AND HIS TWO
TEENAGE SONS, LUIS AND CARLOS, FINALLY REACHED MIAMI FROM CUBA, THEY WERE GREETED BY THE SIGHTS,
SOUNDS, AND PEOPLE FROM HOME. WE WANT TO WORK;
WE WANT TO MAKE SOME MONEY BECAUSE WE HAVE
THE FAMILY BEHIND AND ALL THE TIME MY FATHER WAS THINKING ABOUT
THIS IS A GREAT COUNTRY, THIS IS A COUNTRY
OF OPPORTUNITY. Narrator: IN LESS THAN A WEEK,
THEY WERE EARNING MINIMUM WAGE, $1.25 AN HOUR, 50-60 HOURS A
WEEK DOING WHAT THEY KNEW BEST. Luis Capo: MY GRANDFATHER,
MY FATHER, MY UNCLES, YOU KNOW, THE ONLY BUSINESS THAT
WE HAVE IS FURNITURE IN CUBA. I THINK THE FIRST TOY I GOT
WAS A HAMMER. MY FATHER GIVE ME A HAMMER
TO MAKE FURNITURE. Narrator:
THE BUSINESS WAS IN THEIR BLOOD, SO THEY SET OUT TO ESTABLISH
THEIR OWN FURNITURE SHOP ON THE SIDE. Luis Capo: WE WORK
8 HOURS IN THE FACTORY, AND WE LEFT THERE AND GO TO THE
SHOP AND WORKING 8, 10 HOURS. WE WAS WORKING MAYBE 15, 16, 17
HOURS A DAY FOR A LONG TIME. Narrator: THEY HAD THE TALENT,
THEY HAD THE SKILLS. WHAT THEY DIDN’T HAVE WAS
CAPITAL, COLLATERAL, OR CREDIT. Luis Capo:
PEOPLE SAY ABOUT CREDIT, “WHAT IS CREDIT?
DO YOU HAVE CREDIT? WHAT DID CREDIT MEAN?” MY FATHER ONLY HAD THIRD–
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, WE WENT–CARLOS AND MYSELF
WENT UNTIL SIXTH GRADE. Narrator: THE CAPOS BROUGHT
THEIR GOOD REPUTATION FROM CUBA, AND A CUBAN FRIEND AT A BANK
PERSONALLY VOUCHED FOR THEM. THEY BORROWED $600
AND THEN ANOTHER 1,500 AND OPENED THEIR FIRST STORE,
EL DORADO. Luis Capo:
THAT DAY WAS 1967, JUNE 27. THE SAME DAY THAT WE OPENED
THE FIRST EL DORADO DOOR, THAT DAY, MY MOTHER
AND MY 3 LITTLE BROTHERS ARRIVE FROM CUBA. Narrator: THEIR STORE WAS ON
CALLE OCHO IN LITTLE HAVANA, THE HEART OF THE CUBAN ENCLAVE. LESS THAN A YEARAFTER THEIR, THE CAPOS’
ENTERPRISING ACCOUNTANT SUGGESTED GOING AFTER
BIGGER FISH, A FEDERAL LOAN FROM THE
SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION EARMARKED FOR CUBAN BUSINESSES. WHO WANT TO GIVE US SOME MONEY? WE HAVE NO CREDIT,
WE DON’T SPEAK ENGLISH, WE DON’T KNOW THE SYSTEM,
YOU KNOW, WE JUST LEARNING. HE SAID,
“LET’S MAKE THE APPLICATION AND LOOK SEE WHAT’S HAPPEN.” 3, 4 MONTHS LATER,
WE WAS APPROVED FOR $10,000. I CANNOT SLEEP AT NIGHT JUST THINKING THAT WE HAVE TO
PAY $197 A MONTH. ONE NIGHT I ASKED MY FATHER, “WHAT IF THEY SEND US BACK TO
CUBA BECAUSE WE CANNOT PAY?” YOU KNOW? Luis Capo: $10,000 FOR US IS
LIKE A MILLION DOLLARS TODAY. THAT LOAN PUT US IN THE–
ON THE MARKET. Narrator: THE CAPOS INCREASED
THEIR ANNUAL EARNINGS FROM $8,000 TO $250,000
IN A SINGLE YEAR, SELLING FURNITURE TO CUBANS
NOW ARRIVING IN MIAMI AT A RATE OF 1,000 A WEEK. IN TIME, EL DORADO
WOULD BECOME ONE OF THE LARGEST BUSINESSES
IN MIAMI. Man: THE TRADITIONAL
ASSIMILATION THEORY RAN INTO TROUBLE IN MIAMI. THE CUBANS ENDED UP
A FAIRLY SUCCESSFUL GROUP WITHOUT SHOWING A GREAT DEAL
OF THE TENDENCY TO ASSIMILATE. Narrator: MIAMI WOULD
COME A LONG WAY, TOO. BUILDING ON THE CUBAN SUCCESS, A RESORT TOWN WAS TRANSFORMED
INTO A MAJOR AMERICAN CITY, A HUB OF INTERNATIONAL COMMERCE. BUT FOR ALL THEIR SUCCESS
AS IMMIGRANTS, CUBANS LOST WHAT WAS
MOST DEAR TO THEM. Carlos Capo:
MY FATHER SAY HIS DREAM ACTUALLY WAS TO GO BACK TO CUBA
AND GO AROUND THE ISLAND AND STOP IN EVERY PORT… AND SEE THE TOWNS,
SEE THE PEOPLE, SEE PLACES THAT HE NEVER SAW. Narrator: MANUEL CAPÓ WOULD
NEVER SET SIGHT ON CUBA AGAIN. THERE WAS THIS PROMISE THAT WAS
BEING MADE TO US EVERY DAY THAT WE WOULD GO BACK, AND AS THE YEARS WENT BY, THE PROMISE DIDN’T COME TRUE, AND WE’LL GET TOGETHER
EVERY YEAR, THE WHOLE FAMILY IN MIAMI, AND THE TOAST WOULD BE “EL AÑO
QUE VIENE ESTAMOS EN CUBA,” “NEXT YEAR IN CUBA”. BUT EVERY YEAR, THAT TOAST
BECAME A LITTLE MORE BITTER, IT BECAME A LITTLE MOURNFUL. Man: THE PRINCIPLES OF COMMUNISM ARE INCOMPATIBLE
WITH THE PRINCIPALS OF THE INTER-AMERICAN SYSTEM… THIS IS WHAT OUR BELOVED
PRESIDENT, JOHN F. KENNEDY, MEANT WHEN LESS THAN A WEEK
BEFORE HIS DEATH HE TOLD US… WE MUST USE EVERY RESOURCE
AT OUR COMMAND TO PREVENT THE ESTABLISHMENT OF
ANOTHER CUBA IN THIS HEMISPHERE. Narrator: IN APRIL 1965, AT THE HEIGHT OF THE COLD WAR, 42,000 U.S. TROOPS INVADED
THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC. EVENTS LEADING
TO THE U.S. INVASION DATED BACK TO 1961 TO THE UNREST TRIGGERED BY THE ASSASSINATION OF DICTATOR
RAFAEL LEONIDAS TRUJILLO, GUNNED DOWN BY THE OPPOSITION
IN A CIA-BACKED PLOT. FROM EXILE IN NEW YORK
WHERE THEY HAD SETTLED AFTER NARROWLY ESCAPING
TRUJILLO’S WRATH, JULIA ALVAREZ AND HER FAMILY
WATCHED WITH GREAT ANTICIPATION. Alvarez: PAPI FELT HOPEFUL, AND
HE WENT BACK ON A SCOUTING TRIP, AND PAPI SAW ALL THE UNREST,
AND THEN THE CIVIL WAR CAME, AND HE SAID NO. IT’S LIKE HE SAID,
“WE’RE NOT GOING BACK.” Narrator:
IN THE 3 YEARS FOLLOWING THE ASSASSINATION
OF TRUJILLO, 5 PRESIDENTS CAME AND WENT, AND THE COUNTRY’S POLITICAL
CRISIS ESCALATED INTO CIVIL WAR. THE AMERICAN MILITARY OCCUPATION
SUCCEEDED IN PREVENTING
THE FEARED COMMUNIST TAKEOVER. BUT THE NEW PRESIDENT,
JOAQUIN BALAGUER, WAS A FORMER ADVISOR
OF THE DICTATOR TRUJILLO, AND MANY DOMINICANS
WERE LEFT FEELING UNEASY. THE LIFE OF YOUNG PEOPLE
IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC WAS NOT SAFE AT THAT TIME. UNLESS YOU THINK
LIKE THE GOVERNMENT. SO I WAS ONE OF THOSE WHO DIDN’T
THINK LIKE THE GOVERNMENT. Narrator:
A YOUNG DOMINICAN STUDENT, ELIGIO PENA, WAS AMONG THOSE
WHO DECIDED TO FLEE. [CHANTING] Narrator: HE HAD NO PROBLEM
GETTING A VISA. THE UNITED STATES
WAS USING IMMIGRATION AS A SAFETY VALVE
TO PREVENT FURTHER UNREST BY GETTING RID
OF THE OPPOSITION. MOST DOMINICANS
CAME TO NEW YORK. BUT THE CITY THAT
HAD ATTRACTED PUERTO RICANS ALMOST 25 YEARS EARLIER
HAD MUCH LESS TO OFFER NOW. JOBS WERE DISAPPEARING FAST, AND NEW YORK WAS ON THE VERGE
OF BANKRUPTCY. Cristina Garcia:
THEY’RE MOVING INTO THIS AREA JUST AS THE ECONOMY
WAS CHANGING, SO THEY HAVE TO EITHER FIND JOBS IN OTHER
NON-TRADITIONAL INDUSTRIES OR CREATE OPPORTUNITIES
FOR THEMSELVES THROUGH ENTREPRENEURSHIP. Narrator: THE 20 YEAR-OLD ELIGIO
WAS UNDETERRED. HE WORKED AT A PUERTO RICAN
BODEGA FOR A YEAR, AND THEN WITH THE HELP
OF AN UNCLE, BOUGHT IT. Gonzalez:
THERE WAS NO OUTSIDE SUPPORT, THERE WAS
NO GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIES. THE DOMINICAN COMMUNITY
HAS BEEN VERY RESOURCEFUL IN COMING UP WITH NEW STRATEGIES FOR POOLING CAPITAL IN A WAY TO BE ABLE TO BUILD UP
INDIVIDUAL BUSINESS. Narrator: AT THE END
OF EACH WORKDAY, ELIGIO DROVE A TAXI
FOR AN ENTIRE SHIFT, BUT SOON HE CONCLUDED THE FUTURE OF HIS FAMILY
WAS HERE IN THIS COUNTRY, IN THIS CITY,
NOT BACK HOME. MY FATHER COME WITH THE ARGUMENT
THAT, “WE HAVE OUR OWN BUSINESS, WE HAVE A LOT OF LAND.” I SAID, “POP, WHATEVER YOU HAVE,
IT’S GOOD FOR YOU AND MOM. “BUT IF YOU DIVIDE WHAT YOU HAVE
INTO 17, “WE DON’T GET ENOUGH
TO STAY IN THE ISLAND. “SO ALLOW ME TO BRING THE OTHER
BROTHERS INTO UNITED STATES “BECAUSE THIS IS THE PLACE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE TO START
THEIR OWN BUSINESS.” Narrator: IN THE DECADE
FOLLOWING THE U.S. OCCUPATION, 150,000 DOMINICANS
CAME STRAIGHT TO NEW YORK. THEY WOULD BUILD
THEIR OWN COMMUNITY ON THE BANKS
OF THE HUDSON RIVER, A NEW CULTURAL HOME ON THE
NORTH END OF MANHATTAN ISLAND. JULIA ALVAREZ WOULD
HAVE TO CREATE HER OWN HOME AWAY FROM HOME. AS HER PARENTS SETTLED THE
FAMILY IN A NEW YORK SUBURB, JULIA WOULD CUT HER OWN PATH THROUGH THE CULTURAL MAZE OF
1960s AMERICA. Alvarez: A LOT OF THE THINGS
THAT WHEN WE GOT HERE, YOU KNOW, THE KIND OF, SORT OF LOCKDOWN IN OUR BUNKER
KIND OF ATTITUDE. NO, WE COULDN’T HAVE
GIRLFRIENDS OVER. NO, WE COULDN’T TALK
ON THE PHONE, NO WE COULDN’T, YOU KNOW, IT WAS JUST SORT OF–
THEY WERE STILL IN TRAUMA. YOU GET OUT OF THE DICTATORSHIP, BUT THE DICTATORSHIP
IS STILL INSIDE YOU. Narrator: AT 13,
SHE WAS SENT TO BOARDING SCHOOL IN NORTHERN MASSACHUSETTS. ABOUT 4 HOURS
FROM NEW YORK CITY, THE ABBOT ACADEMY
WAS A WORLD APART. Alvarez: THAT WAS THE OLD MODEL
OF IMMIGRATION TO– YOU CAME TO THE UNITED STATES, YOU CUT OFF YOUR TIES
TO THE PAST, AND THAT WAS THE PRICE YOU PAID
FOR BEING AN AMERICAN CITIZEN. WE WERE SO HOMESICK. WE WANTED TO GO BACK. Narrator: THE STORIES
OF JULIA’S DOMINICAN CHILDHOOD WOULD FILL THE PAGES OF HER NOTEBOOKS. Alvarez: AS THE LEAVES FELL
AND THE AIR TURNED GREY AND THE COLD SET IN, I WOULD REMEMBER THE BIG HOUSE
IN BOCA CHICA, THE WAVES TELLING ME
THEIR SECRETS, THE COUSINS SLEEPING
SIDE BY SIDE IN THEIR COTS, AND I WOULD WONDER… Alvarez: AND IT WAS ONLY
AS I GREW OLDER, I WOULD JUST GO BACK HOME
TO THE D.R., TO MY TIO’S AND TIA’S. YOU KNOW, AND GET MY SHOT
OF HOME, AND THEN GO BACK
INTO MY NORTH AMERICAN LIFE. IT CREATED A KIND OF
CULTURAL SCHIZOPHRENIA. AS MAMI WOULD SAY,
“EL PAPEL LO AGUANTA TODO,” PAPER HOLDS ANY THING, SO I PUT EVERYTHING IN THERE, AND IT BECAME FOR ME A PLACE
WHERE I COULD BE INTEGRATED. Narrator: THE TUG OF WAR
BETWEEN HER DOMINICAN AND AMERICAN SELVES WOULD PLAY OUT ON THE PAGES OF HOW THE GARCIA GIRLS
LOST THEIR ACCENTS. Alvarez: IT’S LIKE
YOU HAVE TO REINVENT YOUR SELF, BUT IT’S AN OPPORTUNITY
TO GO DEEPER AND DISCOVER MAYBE YOUR CALLING
OR YOUR PASSION. Narrator: JULIA’S FIRST NOVEL
WOULD LAUNCH HER CAREER AS AN IMPORTANT LITERARY VOICE
OF HER GENERATION. Alvarez: YOU KNOW,
THAT IMMIGRATION; I WOULD NEVER
HAVE BECOME A WRITER IF IT HADN’T BEEN FOR–
FOR THAT EXPERIENCE. THOSE MIXTURES ARE PART– IT’S LIKE YOUR FINGERPRINT. IT ALL GETS TO BE PART
OF YOUR IDENTITY. Announcer: NEXT TIME ON
“LATINO AMERICANS”… THE WORKERS WERE
LITERALLY LIKE SLAVES. Man: THEY’RE TREATED LIKE
ANIMALS, AND WE’RE GOING
TO CHANGE IT. CESAR NEVER GOT PAST
THE EIGHTH GRADE,
AND YET HE WAS BRILLIANT. Announcer: FROM THE FARMS TO THE SCHOOLS. Man: WE’RE TRYING TO
MAKE SCHOOLS BETTER, TRYING TO MAKE
THE COUNTRY BETTER. THE MOVEMENT’S MOMENTUM
CREATES MAYHEM. Man: PEOPLE BEING
CLUBBED BECAUSE THEY
WANTED AN EDUCATION. NEXT TIME ON “LATINO AMERICANS.” CREATE A VIDEO TO SHARE YOUR STORY ONLINE. EXPLORE LATINO CULTURE AND LEARN ABOUT LATINO HISTORY AT PBS.ORG/LATINOAMERICANS AND JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON TWITTER USING #LATINOSPBS. “LATINO AMERICANS” IS AVAILABLE ON DVD. THE COMPANION BOOK IS ALSO AVAILABLE. TO ORDER, VISIT SHOPPBS.ORG OR CALL US AT 1-800-PLAY-PBS. THIS SERIES IS ALSO AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD ON iTUNES.

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