Skip to main content Skip to main navigation

Puerto Rican Oral History Project records

Call Number



1960-1984, inclusive
; 1973-1975, bulk



42.2 Gigabytes in 445 files, total running time: 45 hr., 14 min., 51 sec. (series 1); in five manuscript boxes and seven audio cassette tape boxes

Language of Materials

Materials are in Spanish and English.


This collection includes recordings and transcripts of oral histories narrated by those in the Puerto Rican community of Brooklyn who arrived between 1917 and 1940. The Long Island Historical Society initiated the Puerto Rican Oral History Project in 1973, conducting over eighty interviews between 1973 and 1975. The oral histories often contain descriptions of immigration, living arrangements, neighborhood ethnicities, discrimination, employment, community development, and political leadership. Also included are newspaper clippings, brochures, booklets about Brooklyn's Puerto Rican community, and administrative information on how the project was developed, carried out, and evaluated.

Administrative History

The Puerto Rican Oral History Project began with grant funding from the New York State Council on the Arts. Awarded in 1973, the purpose of the grant was to conduct interviews with Puerto Ricans who settled in Brooklyn between 1917 and 1940. Sixty-nine individuals were interviewed as part of the original scope of the project with each individual assigned a number identifier from 1 to 69. The number of participants later expanded due to the continued interest of project interviewer John D. Vazquez. Mr. Vazquez, the Director of the Department of Puerto Rican Studies at New York City Community College (NYCCC), taught an oral history course in the Spring of 1975 that required his students to interview Puerto Rican residents of Brooklyn: these interviews are also included in the collection.

Of the first sixty-nine interviews, nine were conducted between April and August 1973 before the project was shelved until 1974. The 1973 interviews were usually conducted in paired teams by Elba Correa, Mayda Cortiella, Pedro Rivera, Tomas Rivera, Ms.Torres, and Ms. Ruiz. Other than their names, little information is available about these interviewers. When the project resumed in January of 1974, it had difficulty retaining staff. Project coordinator Anthony Cucchiara hired two college students to conduct interviews. These students left the project after one month having conducted only one interview. They were replaced by Roberto Rosado, an instructor at NYCCC, who was able to carry out two interviews before leaving the project in May 1974. In June, another instructor from NYCCC, Monte Rivera, another NYCCC instructor conducted an additional seven interviews over the course of one month before resigning. Finally, Jaime Barreto, a Brooklyn Public School Coordinator, and John Vazquez conducted the remaining fifty interviews that comprised the project's original scope.

Interviews were conducted in Spanish, English, or both. In 1974, Maria C. Ramos and William Santos were hired to transcribe and translate interviews. These transcriptions are handwritten. Additional interview transcriptions come from a typed series which were done by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College when the interview tapes were on loan to that institution in 1984. Typed transcripts are in the language of the interview, without English translation. There is some overlap between handwritten transcriptions done by Ramos and Santos and those from the Hunter series resulting in interviews with multiple transcripts attached to them.

The interview with José Ramón Giboyeaux in the original scope was transcribed only. Two interviews in the original scope were found to have no extant content on audiotape or in transcription. It is not known whether interviews with Rosendo Acosta or Gregorio Martínez were erased by accident or entirely redacted on purpose.

Of the interviews done as part of Mr. Vazquez's course at NYCCC, four participants carried over from the original sixty-nine. Transcripts of two interviews in this series were possibly made as a result of the loan to Hunter College. Besides these two transcripts the rest of the interviews recorded for Mr. Vazquez's course are not transcribed. In 1983, four additional interviews were added to the collection, in transcript form only.

For specific information on language and availability of transcription for individual interviews, please see the Index file in Box 1.


The collection contains digitized content of ninety-six interviews, printed transcripts for sixty-four interviews, printed ephemera including newspaper clippings, brochures, booklets, and administrative materials. The collection is arranged thematically into five series: 1) Oral Histories, 1973-1975, 2) Oral Histories, 1975-1983, 3) Transcripts, 1973-1975, 1983, 4) Puerto Rican Community, 1960-1983, and 5) Administrative materials, 1968-1984. Interview recordings were originally made on compact cassette tapes and are housed separately.

Series 1: Oral Histories, 1973-1975 makes up the bulk of the collection. There is audio for sixty-six interviews and a transcript only for one interview, all conducted for the original scope of the project. A complete listing of each interview with a biographical note, scope and content note, and subject headings follows. Interviews are also described in the Past Perfect archives catalog, including the audio and transcription where available. Digitized oral histories in Series 1 are in alphabetical order by narrator name.

Series 2: Oral Histories, 1975 is a series of audio recordings for twenty-five interviews and transcripts for two of those interviews, all conducted as follow-up to the original scope of the project by students of John D. Vazquez. Digitized oral histories in Series 2 are not arranged.

Series 3: Transcripts, 1973-1975, 1983 is a series of handwritten and/or printed transcripts for fifty-nine of the sixty-nine original participants and an additional six transcripts from interviews conducted outside the original scope of the project. For a complete listing about translations, participants, and dates of the interview, please see the Index file in this series. Abstracts of the interviews conducted with the original sixty-nine are also included in this series. Folders are organized according to the project number assigned to each narrator. Each folder contains all available transcripts for that interview. See separate appendix for inventory of recordings. Transcripts in Series 3 are arranged according to the original project number assigned to each narrator. Those transcripts outside the original project are in chronological and alphabetical order.

Series 4: Puerto Rican Community, 1960-1983 consists of printed ephemera related to the Puerto Rican Community. Items include brochures, booklets, and fliers for Puerto Rican Studies programs at academic and cultural institutions in the New York City area and in Puerto Rico. Newspaper clippings in this series are divided into those focusing on New York's Puerto Rican community and press on Long Island Historical Society's Puerto Rican Oral History Project. This series also includes a booklet published in English and Spanish entitled "Danger in Puerto Rico." The work is by Ramon Colón, one of the original sixty-nine interviewed for the project. Folders in Series 4 are arranged chronologically and thematically when appropriate.

Series 5: Administrative materials, 1968-1984 includes all retained materials that went into the funding and implementation of the project. Several folders in this series are devoted to information about the project's participants. Interviewer John Vazquez created critique forms for all the sixty-nine original participants. Those worksheets and any background information material collected on narrators are included here and organized according to the project number assigned to the individual. Background information on those narrators outside the original scope of the project are filed together and arranged alphabetically. These materials were most likely generated as part of course taught by Mr. Vazquez at New York City Community College. Any information worksheets filled out on individuals who were not interviewed are filed separately. Also found in this series is information on project personnel, financing, and other oral history projects. A file of project reports consists of updates from three different perspectives: project coordinator Anthony Cucchiara, interviewer John Vazquez, and student worker Julio Gonzalez. Folders in Series 5 are arranged chronologically and thematically when appropriate.

Scope and Content

The Long Island Historical Society initiated the Puerto Rican Oral History Project in 1973. Using funding from the New York State Council on the Arts, over eighty interviews were conducted documenting the experiences of Brooklyn residents who arrived from Puerto Rico between 1917 and 1940. This collection includes recordings and transcripts of interviews conducted primarily between 1973 and 1975.



Armed Forces; Citizenship |z New York (State) |z New York; Depressions |y 1929; Factories |z New York (State); Korean War, 1950-1953; Local transit |z New York (State) |z New York; Parades |z New York (State) |z New York; Political clubs |z New York (State) |z New York; Puerto Ricans |x Education |z New York (State) |z New York; Puerto Rican families |z New York (State) |z New York; Puerto Rican poetry; Puerto Rican women; Puerto Rican women |x Employment |z New York (State) |z New York; Puerto Rican women |z New York (State) |z New York |x Social conditions; Puerto Rican women |x Political activity |z New York (State) |z New York; Puerto Rican youth; Puerto Ricans; Puerto Ricans |x Cultural assimilation |z United States; Puerto Ricans |x Employment |z New York (State) |z New York; Puerto Ricans |x Health and hygiene |z New York (State) |z New York; Puerto Ricans |x Housing |z New York (State) |z New York; Puerto Ricans |z New York (State) |z New York; Puerto Ricans |z New York (State) |z New York |x Economic conditions; Puerto Ricans |z New York (State) |z New York |x Ethnic identity; Puerto Ricans |z New York (State) |z New York |x History |y 20th century; Puerto Ricans |z New York (State) |z New York |x Intellectual life; Puerto Ricans |z New York (State) |z New York |v Interviews; Puerto Ricans |z New York (State) |z New York |x Language; Puerto Ricans |z New York (State) |z New York |x Music; Puerto Ricans |z New York (State) |z New York |v Newspapers; Puerto Ricans |z New York (State) |z New York |x Politics and government |y 20th century; Puerto Ricans |z New York (State) |z New York |x Social conditions |y 20th century; Puerto Ricans |z New York (State) |z New York |x Social life and customs |y 20th century; Puerto Ricans |z New York (State) |z New York |x Societies, etc.; Puerto Ricans |z New York (State) |z New York Region |x Religion; Puerto Ricans |x Poetry; Puerto Ricans |x Race identity; Race discrimination |z New York (State) |z New York; Race relations -- United States; Racism |z New York (State) |z New York; Transportation; Wages |z New York (State) |z New York; Work environment |z Puerto Rico; Work environment |z United States; World War, 1914-1918; World War, 1939-1945

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers with varied restrictions according to narrator agreement. Oral histories can be accessed onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Administrative 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 Historyical Society's oral history collections. For assistance, please consult library staff at

Preferred Citation

[Apellidos, Nombre], Entrevista de historia oral por [Nombre y apellido del entrevistador], [día, mes, año], Registros de proyecto puertorriqueño de historia oral, [Número de identificación]; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Narrator Last Name, First name], Oral history interview conducted by [Interviewer First name Last name], Interview Date [Month day, YYYY], Puerto Rican Oral History Project records, [Object ID]; Brooklyn Historical Society.


Materials contained in this collection were generated through the efforts of the Long Island Historical Society (now Brooklyn Historical Society).

Separated Materials

Master cassette tapes are stored separately from the collection.

Related Materials

In addition to this collection, Brooklyn Historical Society has other oral history recordings also related to those of Puerto Rican heritage and Spanish-speaking heritage:

• Hispanic Communities Documentation Project records and oral histories, ArMs 1989.004

Also related to the activism of the Latino community, BHS has:

• The Antonia Denis collection, 1992.021

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

Related collections located elsewhere include:

• Guide to the Jesús Colón Papers, 1901-1974 at the Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora (1983-01), Ceñtro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Hunter College, CUNY, includes several related topics and organizations. Some papers are digitized.

• 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

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

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-21 11:13:24 +0000.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: Finding aid is written in English and Spanish

Processing Information

Collection received first full processing in the Spring 2009 by Morgen Stevens-Garmon, archival intern. Most recordings and transcripts for oral histories in Series 1 were digitized from 2008 to 2010. Series 1 oral histories received item-level processing and description in 2016 by Joe Teutonico, Mariama Diallo, and Cristina Fontánez Rodríguez, project interns, and Brett Dion, project archivist. Series 2 oral histories were digitized in summer 2016 by Brett Dion.

Due to privacy concerns, the specific dates of birth of all narrators or other named individuals were redacted from the audio recordings.

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
Center for Brooklyn History
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201