A lot of people were migrating in the south end of Hartford by the Clay Arson neighborhood. Juanita Crispin moved to Hartford in 1986. And like many Puerto Ricans before her, she experienced severe culture shock.
“They realized that there’s winter here and OK, life is not as easy as people were trying to tell them back on the island,” said Crispin.
She struggled with dueling pressures to assimilate and celebrate her Puerto Rican heritage.
“Then I learned little by little that I can do both,” said Crispin.
Then she became invested in the history of Puerto Ricans in the capital city and began incorporating their stories into her lesson plans as a public school Spanish teacher.
“A lot of Hispanics that have come to Hartford have contributed to the history,” said Crispin.
Crispin began to learn that the Puerto Rican population began migrating here after the Spanish-American War and WWI.
“The Puerto Ricans were coming over here for better jobs,” said Crispin.
Drawn to agricultural industry. Many began working in Connecticut’s tobacco fields and they began settling in Hartford’s Clay Arsenal neighborhood.
“So they’re like OK, there’s farms in Connecticut. It’s not New York. New York was a little bit too much for some people,” said Crispin.
And their culture and diversity began shaping the city.
“Because there weren’t police officers, fire departments, nurses. How that was impacting their life. We lost kids like Julio Lozada because of the language barrier,” said Crispin.
So the city introduced Spanish-speaking first responders. She says her students at Global Communications Academy really appreciate learning their own history.
“Just knowing that the first Latino astronaut graduated from Hartford High and that he was from Costa Rica and half Asian – those are the things a lot of people don’t know about,” said Crispin.
And like the monument on the corner of Washington and Vernon Streets. The story of Puerto Ricans in Hartford is one she wants to share with the community.
“They can see… this is a description of the Puerto Rican migration to Hartford and what it means, the struggles and everything,” said Crispin.
News 8 is celebrating the histories – cultures – and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
Tune into News 8 Sunday at 5 p.m. for our special “Celebrating Hispanic Heritage” hosted by News 8’s Samaia Hernandez.