Oral History

Hilda Ramirez: I’m part of the steering committee for the Latino History Project of Worcester, who submitted the submission for the Worcester in 50 Objects exhibit.

Maritza Cruz: I’m also a member of the steering committee for the Worcester Latino History Project. I’d also like to add that we are all community people that initiated and founded this project.

Leon Cruz: I’m also a member of the steering committee of the Latino History Project.

Hilda: The concept is the journey and so what we mean by that is that many of us, including myself, come from different countries and settle in different areas of the United States. I personally came from the Dominican Republic when I was ten and settled in the New York area and then came to Worcester, and so there’s a lot of us who have come from different places and in particularly we’re really interested in knowing how people got here to Worcester. So that’s kind of the mission of our project, to document the history of Latinos here. And so we felt that the suitcase would be a great symbolism for the items that we tend to bring with us, and keep with us and maybe kind of share with the larger culture around. So a lot of our cultural items our passports are important to us, my passport is in there from when I was ten. Traveling I won’t get rid of it because I think it’s a symbolism of your traveling dn going to a new land and and new opportunities. The pilon was actually given to us in our project as an artifact for a woman who came from Puerto Rico. It is living here and so we had a discovery day at the library and she brought us the pilon as what she calls the “Puerto Rican blender”. These were the items that were used in the days to mix items, and these are still used today in our homes. The religious items are very important to us, I think, to a lot of us. Religion is a key part and component to who we are and even some of the historical notes that we’re finding shows that’s where people were gathering and the churches were the ones that were documenting the Latino presence in Worcester so it’s an important aspect. And then some of the rum and the musical items that are missing right now from here today but were submitted in the picture, we have many of them that were very very key. The Spanish guitar, the agwida, the maracas, all of those are symbolisms of our personalities who we are and why music is so important to us, and specifically that life, folk music from our countries is so critical and we’re still trying to preserve.

Leon Cruz: I would say, for me, it’s a journey, I came from Puerto Rico and I was twenty four when I move here. I think most people when they move from whatever country in Latin America to the US, they usually come here looking for better opportunities, educational opportunities, and there is this thought that we are going back home. Perhaps that is why Hilda kept her passport, it’s because they are going to go back home at some point. Even though home is here now and we are in a different journey all together, you know? Many of the things we have in this suitcase represent who we are, who we were when we moved here, who we are today and perhaps who we will be, or thinking who we will be again eventually. Many of my relatives that came here to the US before I came, you know, promised to go back. I have an uncle when he retired, he lived his life in the US in New York, and then he went back home. And he lasted like a year. He said “this is not home anymore.” He couldn’t get used to it after fifty or so years in the United States. That’s the pardon that is really, we are kind of traveling even though we are here and we are present, but there is that thought that “I need to go back. Once I retire, then I will go back.” I might do exactly as my uncle. Within a year I’m back in the US. And then I came directly to Worcester from Puerto Rico and this is where I have been living all these years.

Maritza: For me, I’m a little different in the aspect that my parents were the ones who migrated here from Puerto Rico. My father’s family actually had been coming here since the early 1900s into New York, and then went back and met my mother and married her and then they came to here. So the suitcase, it’s the symbolism of the aspora especially I think of the Puerto Rico community and you know all the Latinos because we’re all seeking better lives, that’s why we came here. As we came from New Jersey, again the suitcase came as we moved here to Worcester. I’ve been in Worcester since I was eight years old. There’s a sign that says Puerto Rican’s in Worcester, if I admit this, but way back growing up in Worcester, everything that’s in there and really hung on to that is because it’s part of who we are. Growing up here in the United States and here in Worcester, I still identify very strongly as a boriqua as a Puerto Rican American. All the things in there we use, so when I say that sign of Puerto Ricans in Worcester, which was a series done back in the early 70s, I was so excited and thrilled so I actually did take it, and lo and behold it became part of what our history project is. The little alter that we created there because of the symbolism of religion and faith and hope of a better life you know, a semi, a semi it’s one of the old gods, the old deities from the Caribbean, usually you find it with the dienos, the Caribbean Islands, Puerto Rico, the Dominocan Republic, Jamica and so on. You know, I still have that. Everything basically like what Hilda and Leo have said. You know, I still use the Puerto Rican blender, the pilon. We still use it in cooking wehre we mash up our fresh ingredients because you know cooking and food is something very important in our culture. We receive you in our homes, we receive you in food. We share that, and the music you know, it’s the same thing. We have seen now that the music is part of the mainstream America, what is salsa and what is bachata. That’s due to those of us who were here just preserving that and kept it going and made it a part of the United States culture. A lot in there we still utilize, so it’s all very cool.

Martiza: That’s always ongoing because we have such an influx of people coming in from different parts in the world and I think it’s a plus that Worcester has always had. Worcester is a city of immigrants, you always have people migrating here from all over the world and all over Latin America but also migrating here from different parts of the United States and we’ve seen that influx lately with people leaving large cities everywhere else and moving to Worcester. We make it our space, you know, we’ve made it our space, we’re part of the fabric of what there is.

Hilda: I would like to add to that that’s kind of evidenced in all the festivals that we see, right. All the different groups and new ones coming on board and continuing and evolving and I think that’s the exciting part as a Latino. You can also go to the Greek festival, you go to the different festivals.

Martiza: I went to the Southeast Asian Festival!

Hilda: Right! The Asian festival. It’s really nice because once ou go to these festivals you realize the massive numbers of people who represent those communities and that celebrate their culture and how they celebrarte it. And so it kind of brings it home to you to say “oh this is what we do, and that’s how they do it.” So it’s, I think, a great city for that.

Maritza: But we’re not that different. You know what I’m saying? We’re basically all the same it’s just a matter of how we do things and celebrate, you know? It’s great for sharing. I think we’re very good at doing that.

Leon Cruz: I think using the pilon, the blender piece though, is that I would imagine, assume that a lot of th houses we have a pilon but also a real blender. Because then you have both. If I was going to make beans then I would do the pilon but if I was going to make meat then I would use th blender to mix the same ingreidents and do it differently. Because we are a group, in general, that came late in the 20th century perhaps, we’re still coming in large numbers, then this is kind of important for us to keep who we are and what our culture is but also how we mix it with the Worcester culture in general. Then we learn how to navigate both in many ways and mix the two worlds when that’s great for it. That’s what Worcester can offer because it’s a big enough city that you can really stay who you but also become this new individual with an added culture or cultures that you are living with on a daily basis.

Martiza: Not assimilation, acculturation.

Leon Cruz: That’s the beauty of, at least that’s what I see as the beauty of Worcester.

Martiza: And we make it happen, you know? I think people here will make things happen. I think we’re a perfect example of that, we’re documenting our history here. We’ve seen others do that, the Lithuanians in Worcester and he Swedes in Worcester and now it’s going to be the Latinos in Worcester. We have acculturated not assimilated, which is wonderful.

Hilda: We just want to say that we’re excited that this got selected because of the symbolism of when the exhibit runs. I think it’s in October which is Hispanic history month. September 15th to October 15th is a celebration. So to us it’s really nice because we would like to see more Latino become part of a museum and vice versa so that we have that dualism going on and also the second piece of s is that we will be hosting a reception for our Latino History Project for a small exhibit that we have also. So I think this really supplements all the things that we are doing.

Martiza: At our annual meeting, this will be out third, September 23rd, we’re going to have a celebration at the museum, so anything you guys can do to help promote us with the general audience.


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Cite As

“LATINO SUITCASE,” Worcester in 50, accessed January 19, 2019,

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