Orsini González and Ysabel González
DescriptionDr. Orsini Gonzáles (60) tells his daughter, Ysabel Y. González (29) how his parents met in Puerto Rico, about growing up in the South Bronx in the ‘60s, and how he met his wife, Ysabel’s mother.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Orsini González
- Ysabel González
Recording LocationCenter for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College
- 296 Fifth Avenue
- anecdotes (humorous but true stories)
- Antonia Pantojo
- Binghamton University
- birth of first child
- Bryant Avenue and 174th Street
- Childhood Games
- City College of New York
- Dean Doris Cintron
- family in-jokes
- family trips and excursions
- Marcos González
- Maria Vazquez
- memories of former times
- memories of growing up
- Morris High School
- New York city
- personal experiences
- Playa de los mojones
- Ray Hernandez
- school day memories
- south Bronx
- U.S. Army
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00:03 My name is Isabel Gomez Gonzalez. I'm 29 years of age. Today is October 1st 2009. We are a Hunter College in New York and I am the daughter of Orsini Gonzu00e1lez. I'm 60 years of age. Today is October 1st 2009. We're here at Hunter College at Central and I am the father of Isabel.
00:33 I'd like to first thank you for participating with me and this documentation of your history. And I'd like to start by first asking you about your mother and father. How did my grandfather Marcos Gonzu00e1lez Court my grandmother Rosa Casiano? Can you tell me a little bit about that?
00:57 Gladly this is something that happened in Puerto Rico in the town's Two Towns actually of Yoko and guanica my father being from guanica and my mother being from yauco and there were usually Friday night socials socialis that were going on and my father being 17 18 years of age and my mother 19 or so. She was just a year or two older.
01:32 Have the occasion of meeting at one of these socials and from there getting to know her. My father was a bit of a romantic and he played the guitar and he would often go and visit when he had a chance and he told me he would do this in by horseback. He would actually travel by horseback. He was pretty much an adventurer and he would play his guitar and slowly he was able to win my mother over.
02:06 And so they were married for how long before they decided to migrate to the United States occurred sometime in the early 1940s. In fact, and I'm not sure if they actually tied the knot officially but it's on record that they did get married approximately 1939 and my father eventually decided that because of the situation in Puerto Rico. He wasn't able to get a job. Let me just retrak. He was also in the Army at that time and he had been traveling and thinking of moving out of work to return of course through the adventures in the army of being situated in Trinidad and Island.
03:06 Which happens to be my sister's name? And the he migrated more less first. He came here to the New York City and stayed for maybe six months found an apartment and was able to secure a job through friends. It was a not really an exciting job. He knew we wasn't going to be permanent. And then later on he sent for my mother my oldest sister Trinidad then Judy then my brother Waldo. I was the last one. I stayed until I was more two and a half years of age. Maybe three and my aunt Tia Fela would in fact she was the one that brought me over by airplane. I I know I cried a great deal. She she will always tell that story of my crying and not wanting to leave her because
04:06 I thought that she was my mom at that time. But that's that's the DU migration at that point to New York or both in Puerto Rico. And when he came to New York, he was only male of his family. There were seven brothers and sisters actually sisters and he was the only male and for him. He had a responsibility of having to take care because he felt that it was necessary to do this. Although he was the youngest male and he would cut sugar cane and from cutting sugar cane or he went on to join the the service to nice States Army and through his contributions is so his wages there. He was able to in a how about his his own mother my grandmother and that that was one job that he hadn't
05:06 Puerto Rico when he came to New York City at various jobs, he educated himself using his hands and being a technician first working with television Centre. He would service televisions at one point then later on he was able Fortune enough to work as a machinist a machinist was a special job and I still have a lot of his ornaments in and then things from fun that job but he would work specifically with with with machines with us. Gruman which was a company that made airplanes and and things of that nature and so this was his specialty and he did this for over 20 years.
05:56 Traveling to Long Island in addition because we had a growing family. He would also drive a cab. This is one of the things that I treasured about him. I learned my work ethic through him because I saw him rise every morning at 4 travel to Long Island where he was working every day Monday through Friday and then on weekends, he would also get up early and take to the streets of New York City and drive his taxi cab for maybe 14 or 20 hours during the weekend. And this is one way in which he was able to help us through difficult times or even just paying the rent or helping us with our own clothing. So you were born in Puerto Rico and raised in the South Bronx, New York. What about these men?
06:56 Do you cherish I'm at why why do look fondly upon if you do for the pain we upon these memories memories of my childhood. I think I filled with playing in the streets stickball or stoop ball or passing by a fire hydrant in the summertime and the getting spray by my friends because it was so refreshing being able to go up to the top of the the tenements to roof and at night whether we are walking our dog Morris or just being up there hanging out as they would say it looking at the stars and taking in the fresh air. That was one memory that I treasure. I also treasure the moments that my father would take us all into his car and this would be mom Rosa and my two sisters Trinidad and Judy and Walter and myself
07:56 And we would go off to a little spot in the Bronx and a right. Now. It's part of the I guess the East River we used to call a la Playa de los morones and that was hilarious because translated to it is is not your typical name that you would name a river but the smell probably was what got its name because it did smell of those stinky. That was one memory because we would constantly go out there and until late in the evening time and enjoy ourselves because my father was one that didn't believe and US playing in the streets. In fact those times that my brother myself would go out and play stickball or stew Paul were times when my father was working. So my mother not wanting us to be there would allow is to go out.
08:56 And play Dark Horse going to school that was another part of my childhood that I treasured going to the library and spending many hours reading books and socializing after your experiences at College at Binghamton college or university. How did you become involved with Aspira? Well, actually I speed up what came before Binghamton and this was something that of course my oldest sister Trinidad being the spearhead and everything. She was always did the leader was involved with ice P. During the early 1960s are in fact a 1958. Trinidad was involved with my speed on them from there as an elementary school student myself. I
09:56 Not see the benefits of of what my older sister Trinidad and also Judy were able to get I speed up with something very special to us. It opened up a lot of the words. And as I said before education was an important part of our lives and that a speed of opportunity in elementary school. Just hearing about it for my sisters and then actually going to Morris High School and being a member I've felt so proud of of being an SP Dante and taking part in all of the different celebrations and Club activities as a freshman. It was a great experience. And then from there. I'm going off and participating in a speedo by way of the clubs that were situated and the different boroughs first in the Bronx and then in Manhattan and of course in Manhattan.
10:56 The place that we all were situated 296 Fifth Avenue was the original hospita headquarters. And this is where we met all of our friends from Brooklyn from Staten Island from Manhattan from the Bronx and there was a network network of friends at that point which opened up many doors and we still have that friendship to this day.
11:26 Aspira is a name for a Spire in the English language arts to Aspire in Spanish. I speed up to us. I'll simply means to reach for a higher level and for us Antonio pantojo who was the founder of a speed on which was a city organization meant to trying to educate and give more educational opportunities for the Youth supporter Eakin used at the same time during the 60s. There was a lot of social upheaval revolutions if you will the young Lords the Black Panthers and I speed up being that entity where Educational Opportunity was stress. Certainly there were those among those who felt angry at the time.
12:26 Young and annoying that the times were ripe for the doors to be open. We also felt that things need to be done. We voice these things by way of political action voter registrations participation and clubs and which we manifest in our cultural interest the ability to to just have this vehicle through a speed up as a forum Citywide and then later on and moved on to Chicago to Philadelphia and other parts of the United States. It was amazing for us.
13:12 I'm correct in saying that that's where you met my mother. Well, you asked me originally about Binghamton and being an undergraduate there. I didn't meet her through I speed up your your mother really was situated in the University of Puerto Rico while I was here miles away and the Bronx not knowing that the later on we would meet in 1974 working for a speeding because as a graduate of one of the schools in New York City and then going on to Binghamton, I realize that giving back to the community and by way of education and and helping out those who came after whether they be in junior high school and high school and participating in the programs and leading them and acting as mentors. This is where I met
14:12 Hilda your mother and my wife and from there with became a relationship. That's so gross.
14:23 And what are some Milestones that you think are important in your life? And why are they important?
14:33 If I look back at my life with Milestone, certainly one that plays an important part is educational opportunities by way of graduating from elementary school graduating from junior high school high school college Masters, and finally my PhD and these are things that I treasured throughout the moment was always Indescribable. Certainly the time spent in school was long and enjoyable put the moment that I graduated from each of these points in my life became a milestone something that I treasured it was closing a door and then opening a new door and moving forward. I could say that education was a second.
15:33 When was was bearing a family having you having Eric your brother as well and having that marriage and having it. Phil many of of my aspirations and many of my goals as well as your mother. We were able to do things together both educationally politically and socially and what are some milestones in my life and how do you feel that? They are important to you and how you feel about each of them?
16:12 Well, I I can speak endlessly about your milestones.
16:24 I'm on my way.
16:50 Well, I think that was in Milestone. I was there took pictures. I I think that's one definitely that stands out in my mind cuz we didn't know who you are or what you were and then certainly along the way we see different experiences that you had everything from going through Elementary School through a junior high school through high school and then within each of those pairs.
17:30 The kinds of
17:33 Experiences that you had from becoming a shy quiet individual to now established.
17:48 And it's fabulous Rider.
17:57 Excuse me.
18:00 And through it all.
18:06 Having suffered through York
18:11 Being bipolar
18:18 Going through your struggles.
18:22 Struggles that panel my struggles in comparison to yours. I always thought that being a born from the streets and and coming from the streets all know when we're talkin about this in my teen that my life was linear and it was straight and there was no rough edges. Certainly there were rough edges.
18:58 I think compared to yours.
19:02 Impound because you really suffered a great deal.
19:09 Trying to figure out what was going on with you.
19:14 And it was for us your your mother and I
19:20 A trial to see if we can help you in any way we felt helpless and it's so many different ways.
19:30 It interrupted your education.
19:34 After University of Washington in St. Louis
19:39 10 years ago
19:43 It made you have South bounce about yourself.
19:47 Who You Are
19:49 But I think you rediscovered who you were through your writing.
19:55 We always encourage.
19:58 We felt that that was the way that you can really ReDiscover who you were and lo and behold it has come true for your own sake not for anyone else's and you've been able to through your own writing and being able to share this with others your experiences.
20:24 And I think Dad has has made us the happiest and we really truly, you know, thank you for for being hot with our presence within our presence because without you all so we wouldn't feel our own struggles as well. I'm finally I would like to know why do you think this process of documentation of like these Converse these types of conversations that were having is so important and especially for Latinos to document these conversations and our history and our culture and our heritage. Why do you think those things are so important?
21:13 Well, we haven't heard them growing up in New York City. We didn't hear the New York Puerto Rican experience. We've heard of the American Experience of the Irish of the Italians. And even there they were limited and nature but learning about other groups of people. That is good. But learning about your own Roots is even better because an understanding
21:47 What we are where we came from also houses in our future Direction and certainly this is true the turmoil that we have with living in urban centers New York City or Newark or any other Urban centres certainly being able to to hear the messages and to hear the stories. I think is unites us gives us a sense of pride of who we are and this is why I think this project is is very important and why I jumped at the chance to to voice my views of this is important for us to document right now or just to share right now. Is there anything else that you would like to share? I mean, I thank you for forgiving me this opportunity.
22:47 Delete all these stories, but it's so important to sometimes just sit one-on-one with one another and talk about these things and you don't demonstrate our appreciation of our gratitude for one another for a you know, being there for one another and and also, you know sharing that we do understand where you're coming from then and do understand each other's you know, we have empathy for one another as family members and as you know as my father, I really I really appreciate everything that you've done for me.
23:25 Will certainly not the the only thing that I would have to say is is is looking at your own teacher and certainly all life is filled with me or trials and tribulations might seem like it's a cliche and and it's a struggle and but I think that you've laid the foundation and we all have tried to lay foundations for ourselves for you so that we can persevere in the future because we will be hit with with different kinds of of of of turmoil Stormy Lives and hopefully you will have laid your own foundations now so that you can withstand those in the future.
24:12 Rican in South Bronx. How are you treating life for me?
24:23 And I'm glad that you asked that is something in which I think Ralph Allison says this appropriately in The Invisible Man. I I did feel as an outcast invisible not being recognized. In fact, I think that this invisibility in this idea of who I was from the South Bronx carried with me in my travels were there it was a way to school or on vacation, then it was rooted in me and my speech and the way I walked and the way I dressed everyone could tell that I was from South Bronx. I didn't want to take that away from me. I didn't realize that it was something that was needed to be taken away. But certainly it was a sphere.
25:23 Of who you are people would know that you were from the South Bronx.
25:30 That Swagger that talk that
25:35 Mannerism that you had the food that you ate. These are things that I guess would say you are from the South Bronx. It was more telling I think outwardly by the clothes that one would wear whether it was patterned shirts t-shirts showing off as a male my my chest or or walking around with Converse sneakers all of the time whether it was to go to a movie theater or to just hang out in the street and that was a code for where you emanate where you came from and I think that was part of it the other part of of living in the South Bronx that that I felt was being what they they outside is recalled disadvantage the South Bronx I think was labeled very much so during the sixties in the fifties as being
26:35 Disadvantage more because of the people that resided in the South Bronx predominantly Hispanic Puerto Ricans African Americans and where I lived on 161st Street and and Prospect Avenue on one side. You had all Puerto Ricans and on the other side Union Avenue and 161st Street. You had all African-Americans but strikingly enough we were able to coexist. We we loved each other to this day. I would think that people that we grew up with around the corner still are our close friends Mickey who happens to be Judy. My sister's a best friend now is from the South Bronx or Bill happens to BP.
27:35 Heart of the South Bronx and African-American and for ourselves we grew up with Ray Hernandez who happens to be a well-known artist growing up on that same street knowing his children, although he moved to Florida and then came back and into the Bronx and now is in Upstate New York. This was part of being that small family of the South Bronx and then later on in my own professional career as a city college professor for the last 35 years. I lo and behold two of my colleagues from the South Bronx Dean Doris Cintron went to Junior High School with me and who also went to Mars high school with me is now the dean of the school of education at city college and also Maria Vazquez.
28:35 Went to Morris High School.
28:39 After I did in the honors program and is now dean of students at the City College of New York.
28:48 This I think is part of what made I think the South Bronx special it was wild and wooly my father want to move out as quickly as possible. And in the dark of night I recall back in.
29:09 1965 he made that move to move out of that particular place because of the dangers that he saw it coming. The drugs were going to be more prevalent than before the whole idea that gangs were really sprouting up my father decided to move away. But little did he know that he didn't move that far away from the South Bronx. We moved into Bryant Avenue and 174th Street, which is the fringes. I think of of the South Bronx, but none the less. We still brought with us the South Bronx South Bronx man playing basketball in the playgrounds, and I hone my skills.
30:01 As a basketball player there.
30:05 That was South Bronx being able to at least do these kinds of things doing these kinds of things was South Bronx. And when in fact I went up to Binghamton that Invisible Man.
30:29 We were only 3% minority there.
30:34 & Fire on the reunions that we go to and I just went back on our 30th reunions.
30:44 4003 Union I'm sorry 40th Union and there were approximately only 10 of us and by 10. I'm I'm talking about Latinos and African-Americans. This was the age of of affirmative action of social upheaval and going up to Binghamton brought the South Bronx and us and again, we were easily identified as South Bronx by the way, we dressed and the way we talk and our mannerisms and I felt like the Invisible Man I would say hello to people and they would ignore me and it wasn't until my junior year at the Binghamton that relationships were established with with people of other color white Civ if you want to call it.
31:44 Because the world that I knew the South Bronx that I knew was a world of Puerto Ricans dark skin Puerto Ricans are African Americans and being away to Binghamton brought that with me and the challenge that it presented and basketball became my way through Binghamton University.
32:12 Along with the studies, but
32:15 It was being able to stand out and be defiant to.
32:22 Stand up for what one wanted and what One Believes In and so we established in our junior year one of the first Puerto Rican studies programs in the Northeast. Although I can't say that the honor for us was the first in New York City you had City College that was in the Forefront and my brother participated because he was a city college student at that time and the upheavals and in 1968-69 to open the doors to more people of color certainly was the Forerunner for open admissions, which happened to take place from 1970 all the way up until 1998 when the doors were closed again and
33:22 The South Bronx the Harlem's that we know Spanish Harlem's that we know the black Harlem's that we know the brooklands that we know are all embedded. I guess they're all similar in that. Its young people wanting to make a mark coming and not being recognized and having to do anything in order to be recognized whether it's through education or whether it's through graffiti or whether it's through poetry hip-hop and reggaeton. All of this was brewing during the mid-1960s whether you were talking about gangs or groups of individuals. It was for a stake in identity a steak and being able to
34:22 Demonstrate that we were visible and Not Invisible and of course this struggle still continues that one would think that all of this would have dissipated and that no longer does it exist. But we see this we still continue seeing this with the the closing of doors and the new structure of allowing people of meritocracy in education where you have to earn your way through schooling and I'm not just talking about a university education, but we're talkin about elementary school kids who need to read and write and so we have the No Child Left Behind laws, and we have more structure and testing and making sure but at the same time that loving that energy in that want
35:22 I have people all kinds of people make their Mark and make their identity is important. I look at across because we also have family as well as you know in Chicago and Chicago is also a nice hot bed for the kinds of things that we're going on in urban centers and I look at your cousin Carlos and Carlos being from the streets uneducated and being the graffiti artist that he was and still is and being world-renowned traveling to Russia because people want to see his work traveling to Spain because people want to see his work traveling to England because people want to see his work and all of that emanated from his wanting to establish an identity and being recognized
36:22 Who he was and who he is at this moment. I think we all want recognition. We won't want validation whatever the person is and whatever social circumstance is we want validation in through our families through our connections and education through our communities. We want validation and their house has to be different ways of doing this.
37:00 Regrets, I think we all have regrets. I would be a fool to say that that I don't have regrets. I can start with the superficial love of not really being as Earnest is as I could have been in my educational do I work on that as much as possible? I have regrets that in in terms of a family that I wasn't able to make a greater ties with my family in Puerto Rico. Although I think recently with family members during the summer coming over from Puerto Rico and spending time with us and not only myself with my brothers and sisters and are having them come over has sort of writing that ship regrets that at this moment. I don't feel that I have given enough to Michael.
38:00 Unity as I would have liked, although I I think that in my future years, I will try to again right that ship
38:15 How would you like to?
38:19 I thought often about that and I I think first as an educator as a friend.
38:30 As a father as a brother each one of them not necessarily in that order, but certainly family is very important to me and I've given all ice and fact, I think I sacrifice.
38:48 My own profession for family
38:53 I feel that that is something that I would like to be known for our on my Epitaph of the river is going to be anything Britain. The thing that I would like to have written is that I was family first as an educator because in my many years of of Education both as teacher and also as a learner, I would like to say that I've touched thousands and that I've changed lives and that's how I would like to be remembered.
39:29 Okay. So again, I want to I want to thank you. That's definitely how you are. I think of you in my heart. I think of you as a very loving and giving and sacrificing not only as a father, but as an individual and thank you again for opening yourself up to me while I can think of no better person to open my soul and heart to than to my daughter and I thank you.