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Hispanic Communities Documentation Project records and oral histories

Call Number



1924-1992, inclusive
; 1986-1991, bulk



83.76 Gigabytes in 297 files, total running time: 38 hours, 19 minutes, 58 seconds (series 1).
2 Linear Feet in five manuscript boxes.

Language of Materials

Materials in English and Spanish.


Brooklyn Historical Society initiated the Hispanic Communities Documentation Project in 1988. Over fifty interviews were conducted to document the experiences of Brooklyn residents who arrived from Puerto Rico, Panama, Ecuador, and several other Central and South American nations in the latter half of the twentieth century. This collection includes recordings and transcripts of interviews conducted between 1988 and 1989. The oral histories often contain descriptions of immigration, living arrangements, neighborhood demographics, discrimination, employment, community development, and political leadership. Also included are photographs and printed ephemera.

Historical note

The Hispanic Communities Documentation Project was an initiative based at Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) in the late 1980s and directed by Dr. Morton Marks. In 1988 through June, 1989, the project sought to capture the cultural ethos of the Latino community in Brooklyn in a core collection of materials reflecting the Latino/a experience; through printed ephemera (e.g. handouts, fliers, clippings, restaurant menus) and the voices of community members themselves. At the heart of this collection stands a series of oral histories in which men and women of varying nationalities (Puerto Rican, Mexican, Ecuadorian, etc.) rendered the stories of their lives; as citizens of their place of origin, as immigrants in the United States, and as residents of Brooklyn, New York.

Though an official administrative history of the project does not exist, it seems to have been carried out as an expansion of the Puerto Rican Oral History Project, which BHS (then the Long Island Historical Society) initiated in 1973 and completed in the mid-1970s. Like the Puerto Rican project before it, the Hispanic Communities Documentation Project provides a substantial body of source material on the immigrant experience in late twentieth century America.


The collection is arranged thematically into six series: 1) Publicized oral histories, 1988-1989, 2) Post-project oral histories, circa 1989, 3) Transcripts, 1988-1989, 4) Puerto Rican community papers, 1973-1991, 5) Other Latino/a communities records, 1950-1992, and 6) Photographs, 1924-1990. Interview recordings were originally made on compact cassette tapes and are housed separately from the papers.

Series 1: Publicized oral histories, 1988-1989 The materials in Publicized oral histories constitute the bulk of the collection. The thirty-six interviews are arranged using the original order created at the time of the project, with narrators generally grouped according to their heritage. Interviews one through eight, and thirty-six, are with narrators from Puerto Rico. Interviews nine through thirteen are with narrators from Panama. Interviews fourteen through sixteen are with narrators from Cuba. Interviews seventeen through nineteen are with narrators from the Dominican Republic. Interviews twenty through twenty-two are with narrators from Mexico. Interviews twenty-three through twenty-five are with narrators from El Salvador. Interviews twenty-six and twenty-seven are with narrators from Nicaragua. Interviews twenty-eight and twenty-nine are with narrators from Guatemala. Interviews thirty through thirty-three are with narrators from Ecuador. The remaining interviews contain one narrator each from Colombia and Peru.

Series 2: Post-project oral histories, circa 1989 The materials in this second series of oral histories were not transcribed, abstracted, or indexed at the time of the project and have one of the following traits: Technical issues at time of recording, not a formal interview, no authorization from narrator, or restricted by narrator agreement.

Series 3: Transcripts, 1988-1989 makes up the physical bulk of the collection. The transcripts are arranged using the system of notation created presumably by Morton Marks whereby the transcript of each interview was assigned a three-part character string: H.O.H. = the abbreviation for Hispanic Oral History; 1 = the transcript's numerical position in the series of thirty-three; and [PR] = the acronym for the interviewee's nationality, in this case Puerto Rico. The nationalities represented in the transcripts also include Panama [PAN], Cuba [CU], Dominican Republic [DR], Mexico [MX], El Salvador [ELS], Nicaragua [NICA], Guatemala [G], Ecuador [EC], Colombia [COL], and Peru [PE]. In the container list names have been added to the preexisting folder headings for quick reference, but users are encouraged to consult the Abstracts of Transcripts in Box 1, Folder 1 for a brief biographical profile of each interviewee.

Series 4: Puerto Rican Community papers, 1973-1991 Puerto Ricans are the Latino/a group most represented in this collection. For that reason relevant items are assembled in Puerto Rican Community and arranged alphabetically. The bulk of the material derives from 1986-1991 and is ephemeral in nature. There are fliers and programs commemorating Puerto Rican cultural festivals, informational brochures (some in Spanish) on receiving health care, and miscellaneous publications such as those found in "Puerto Rican Studies Materials" (Box 3, Folder 7). This is the most substantive folder in the series; it contains bibliographies, a published monograph, and three back issues of Centro, the Bulletin of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College (New York, NY).

Series 5: Other Latino/a communities records, 1950-1992 contains a variety of material either connected to a particular Latino/a group or general in nature. The series is comprised of business cards, newspaper clippings, miscellaneous periodicals, sample menus from Brooklyn-based restaurants, a music cassette tape, as well as fliers, programs and booklets disseminated in connection with cultural and recreational events. The bulk date for these items is 1986-1990. All the clippings (Box 4, Folders 10-11) are photocopies and most were culled from Spanish-language newspapers in Brooklyn and beyond. The music cassette tape (Box 4, Folder 17) is entitled Marc Rizo Plays Caribbean Danzas and was produced by the Manhattan-based South American Music Project. The periodicals folder (Box 4, Folder 8) consists of the July 11, 1988, issue of Time and the April 9, 1990, issue of Newsweek both of which feature articles on the Hispanic population in America.

Series 6: Photographs, 1924-1990 includes photographic images that were commissioned as part of the Hispanic Communities Documentation Project, as well as photographs that were donated to the project by members of Brooklyn's Latino/a communities. A substantial portion of this series is made up of photographs taken by photographer Tony Velez in the late 1980s, which were commissioned as part of the project. These include images documenting events in Brooklyn's Latino/a communities, including religious festivals, parades, and other community gatherings. Also included are individual and group portraits of various community members. The rest of the series is comprised of photographs donated by various individuals, including family photos, images documenting community life and events, and community organizations. Collectively, these photographs span the years 1924 through the late-1980s.

Scope and Contents

The collection contains over fifty oral history interviews, thirty-three oral history interview transcripts, photographs, a VHS videotape, and a variety of printed ephemera, including newspaper clippings, fliers, handouts, programs, business cards, brochures, booklets and restaurant menus. The oral history narrators speak of the conditions in their homeland as they were raised and at the time of the interviews. They discuss the working conditions for themselves, their parents, and their children; contrasting experiences in their place of origin with their adopted nation. The narrators also describe the demographic shifts in their part of Brooklyn and the city at large, their support systems in political and religious organizations, and preserving and augmenting their cultures and ethnic identity.

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers with varied restrictions according to narrator agreement. Oral histories can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal. Research materials are open to researchers upon request and are accessible onsite at the Othmer Library.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. Please see the Oral History Note for guidelines on using Brooklyn Historical Society's oral history collections. For assistance, please consult library staff at

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for oral histories:

[Narrator Last name, First name], Oral history interview conducted by [Interviewer First name Last name], Interview Date [Month day, YYYY], Hispanic Communities Documentation Project records and oral histories, ARC.032, [Call number]; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Apellidos, Nombre], Entrevista de historia oral por [Nombre y apellido del entrevistador], [día, mes, año], Registros e historias orales de Proyecto Para la Documentación de las Comunidades Hispánicas, ARC.032, [ID objeto]; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Preferred citation for research materials, papers, and photographs:

Identification of item, date (if known); Hispanic Communities Documentation Project records and oral histories, ARC.032, Box and Folder number; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Documentation Project had three major components. Project staff went into Brooklyn neighborhoods and conducted oral history interviews with representative members of many Latino communities. The staff also collected from community members artifacts from the early, middle and late twentieth century that were significant to the Latino/a experience in Brooklyn. At the same time, the project photographer created a visual survey of the contemporary community.

Separated Materials

Master cassette tapes are stored separately from the collection.

Related Archival Materials

In addition to this collection, Brooklyn Historical Society has other oral history recordings also related to those of Latin American, Puerto Rican, and Spanish-speaking heritage, or related to the residents of the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn:

• The Puerto Rican Oral History Project records (1976.001)

• The West Indian Carnival Documentation Project Records (2010.019)

• New Neighbors: Sunset Park's Chinese Community records (1994.007)

• Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations oral history collection (2011.019)

For more information on these collections please visit our online finding aid portal.

Related collections located elsewhere include:

• Oral History Collection, 2013- at the Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora (100PR_OHPROJECT), Ceñtro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Hunter College, CUNY. Many oral histories are digitized.

Oral History note

Las siguientes historias orales son conversaciones íntimas entre dos personas quienes generosamente han consentido a compartirlas con el archivo del Sociedad Histórica de Brooklyn e investigadores. Por favor escuche con la intención con que las entrevistas fueron compartidas. Investigadores deben entender que:

1. La Sociedad Histórica de Brooklyn se rige por los Principios generales y prácticas óptimas para historia oral como acordadas por la Asociación de Historial Oral (2009) y se espera que el uso de este material se lleve a cabo respetando estas éticas profesionales.

2. Cada historia oral depende de las memorias y opiniones del narrador. Dada la naturaleza personal de la historia oral, los oyentes podrán encontrar que algunas opiniones o lenguaje utilizado por los narradores es objetable. De acuerdo la misión de preservación y acceso ilimitado, cuando posible, la Sociedad Histórica de Brooklyn presenta estas opiniones tal como fueron grabadas.

3. Transcripciones creadas antes del 2008 sirven como guía a la entrevista y no son consideradas exactas. El audio debe ser considerado recurso principal de esta entrevista. La transcripción puede incluir comienzos falsos, tropiezos verbales, pronunciaciones incorrectas y repeticiones comunes en conversación. Esta decisión ha sido tomada ya que la Sociedad Histórica de Brooklyn da prioridad a la voz hablada y también porque algunos investigadores encuentran información valiosa en estos patrones verbales.

4. A menos que estos patrones verbales sean pertinentes a su trabajo investigativo, se les exhorta a los investigadores a que corrijan la gramática y hagan otras modificaciones cuando citen, manteniendo el estilo de oratoria del narrador mientras editen el material para los estándares de escritura.

Oral history interviews are intimate conversations between two people, both of whom have generously agreed to share these recordings with the Brooklyn Historical Society archives and with researchers. Please listen in the spirit with which these were shared. Researchers will understand that:

1. The Brooklyn Historical Society abides by the General Principles & Best Practices for Oral History as agreed upon by the Oral History Association (2009) and expects that use of this material will be done with respect for these professional ethics.

2. Every oral history relies on the memories, views and opinions of the narrator. Because of the personal nature of oral history, listeners may find some viewpoints or language of the recorded participants to be objectionable. In keeping with its mission of preservation and unfettered access whenever possible, BHS presents these views as recorded.

3. Transcripts created prior to 2008 serve as a guide to the interview and are not considered verbatim. The audio recording should be considered the primary source for each interview. It may contain natural false starts, verbal stumbles, misspeaks, repetitions that are common in conversation, and other passages and phrases omitted from the transcript. This decision was made because BHS gives primacy to the audible voice and also because some researchers do find useful information in these verbal patterns.

4. Unless these verbal patterns are germane to your scholarly work, when quoting from this material researchers are encouraged to correct the grammar and make other modifications maintaining the flavor of the narrator's speech while editing the material for the standards of print.

Collection processed by

Cesar Garza

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-09-21 17:33:25 +0000.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: Finding aid written in English

Processing Information

Series 3 through 6 were minimally processed to the series level and a finding aid was created by Cesar Garza in 2006. In 2010, the finding aid was revised and entered into Archivists' Toolkit by Matthew Gorham. Accession V1997.076 was added to the collection by John Zarillo in 2014. A sampling of recordings and transcripts were digitized in 2011-2012. The bulk of recordings and transcripts were digitized by Brett Dion in late 2016. Series 1 oral histories received item-level processing and description in December, 2016 to February, 2017 by Cristina Fontánez Rodríguez, Voices of Generations project intern, and Brett Dion, Voices of Generations project archivist. Series 2 remains unprocessed. The finding aid was input into ArchivesSpace by John Zarrillo in April 2017.

Where appropriate, diacritical marks used in the Spanish language have been applied to names referenced in the notes of this finding aid. In order to ensure that finding aid text remains searchable for all users, the marks have not been applied to record titles or to name headings.


Brooklyn Historical Society


Box: ARC.032 1 of 5 (Material Type: Text)
Box: ARC.032 2 of 5 (Material Type: Text)
Box: ARC.032 3 of 5 (Material Type: Text)
Box: ARC.032 4 of 5 (Material Type: Text)
Box: ARC.032 5 of 5 (Material Type: Mixed Materials)
Box: Slides by Accession 1, Box: 5, item: V1989.2.3.4-28, V1989. (Material Type: Graphic Materials)
Box: OS-24 (Material Type: Mixed Materials)
Center for Brooklyn History
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201