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Ana Dones

Oral history interview conducted by Morton Marks

September 23, 1988

Call number: 1989.004.01

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DONES: We had seven children. My mother had seven children. There was five sisters, two brothers. In Puerto Rico my parent doesn't approve the boyfriend that I had so they send me over here. So this was in 1951.

MARKS: What city are you from?

DONES: San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico.

MARKS: Where is that?

DONES: This is a town in the northwest.

MARKS: North of, Mayaguez?

DONES: No, no, no, no, no. North of San Juan; near San Juan; forty-five minute from San Juan. It's a beautiful town. We are from Muñoz Marín. We all know this man very much, my parents and all my antecedents, we like him. We come from 1:00very Democratic town. When I came here I was 18 years old, I came here looking for I don't know. I really don't know what I was looking for because I had this boyfriend. I want to marry him. My parents don't want him. Then I came here and I'd like to continue my education in here, you know. Since I came here those years when you under 18 you were supposed to go to school and work.

MARKS: You came here all by yourself?

DONES: Yes. I came here with a girl that came from my town. My parents made her. They don't like the idea, but I came.

MARKS: Did you know anybody in New York?

DONES: No. Nobody. Just the girl that I met in the town. So I went through rough times.


MARKS: Where did you live first, in Manhattan?

DONES: Yes. I lived 3149 Broadway, 135th and Broadway. I never forget this address. Her husband was Italian and I was looking for a job so he says, "Well, you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to bring you to Brooklyn to a friend that has a factory. They make blouses." He used to bring me every day on the train and he used to tell me, "Look at the train that you got to take because I don't want to be taking you all the time." One time he was mad because I was looking other way and I was a young girl. I said to myself, "Well, I guess I'm going to find somebody so I can stay with and then I have to travel." When I was working the factory I was looking for something better because I don't feel good 3:00in that factory with other women. I would like to continue education. I thought in here was so nice, but that was difficult, very difficult to adjust.

MARKS: Did you speak English at the time?

DONES: No. No, I didn't speak English. I still have an accent in my English. I said to myself, "The real bilingual person has an accent in English." But that time I didn't speak English, but in Puerto Rico you learn English, the books. When I came here the books was in English, plain geometry, solid geometry, all that. The only book that was in Spanish was the Spanish history.

MARKS: I heard even at UPR some of the books are in English.

DONES: Yes, yes. When I was going to Luis Munoz Rivera High School in Puerto 4:00Rico all the books are English. The only one that was in Spanish was the Spanish book. So I don't speak English, but I know, I understand. When I came here I remember the Palladium Club. This girl, when I came here, she thought that she bring me over here just to work in--When you come from good values in your family, I wasn't looking for that so she get mad. She said, "I come. I bring you here just to be with me. Let's go to the Palladium." I says, "No, no, no. I'm not going there because I don't know what it is." She get mad.

MARKS: Those were the mambo days, right?

DONES: Yes. I said to myself, "If I follow this girl I think I'm going to be in a big mess with her," so I says, "No, no, no." That's why I changed my direction. So I have to make this story short. I found this woman and I tell her 5:00my worries. I says, "Look, I'm living in a place that the lady and the man is okay with me. They're very good to me, but the girl doesn't approve of me because I don't go out with her. Things like I'm not supposed to." She was doing a lot of things. So she says, "Alright, I'm going to find you a place that you're going to live. This is a religious place and you're going to be safe there." I says, "Good." But that time I made 26 dollars. That was the salary. 26 dollars.

MARKS: Working five days a week?

DONES: Yes, five days a week. But if I made a dress for 10 dollars it was a beautiful dress, like a 100 dollar dress at that time.

MARKS: You were sewing blouses? You were sewing blouses?

DONES: Huh? Yes, we was making blouses. I was a floral girl in there.

MARKS: Was it mostly Hispanic?

DONES: Most, yes. There was most of them Spanish. I moved to this place that I 6:00liked the environment. The lady--I was skinny, I was 80 pounds--and this girl, the last name is Delgado, so I look like them. So, the lady--Anytime anybody comes to the house, "Who's this girl?" She says, "Oh, yes. She is my stepdaughter." That's how she introduced me. I was 80 pounds. I think less than that. I was living there. I had a good time until I find my boyfriend in here. I went to visit my friend and I find a boyfriend. This man, I go cuckoo when I met him. We got married. We got four kids.

MARKS: This was the man that your family didn't approve of?

DONES: No. This is another one. That one was left, that one. I got married with this guy.


MARKS: What year was that?

DONES: This, this was when my son born 1953. This was about, what, like the end of 1952.

MARKS: Your husband was born in Puerto Rico, also?

DONES: Yes, he was born in Puerto Rico. He's from Isabela, Puerto Rico. I went to Puerto Rico to meet his family. They were good people, but he was no good. He was unfit. I got married because I had the necessity to get married because I was living in this place and it happens that one of his daughters was coming from Puerto Rico. She says, "Alright. You've got to move out because my daughter is coming." I says, "Well, then I have to get married fast," because I don't like the idea to live in a place alone, you know. I was afraid to live alone. I got married. I got four kids. I remember when I used to walk with my kids from 8:004th Avenue, 5th Avenue, 3rd Avenue, that it was nice and peacefully. No drugs.

MARKS: You had moved here right after--

DONES: Yes. Well, remember, I met this girl and these people lived in 270 48th Street. It happened that this lady where I used to live is now the grandmother of the principal of the school in P.S. 169. That's her grandmother. I have a book that I'm going to show you with all her story of the kids and everything. They make certain books so they gave one to me. They dedicated one to me because they make me, they feel like I was part of the family. So I used to walk with my kids. I used to come to Sunset Park. I used to go window shopping. No gates, no 9:00nothing. I used to tell one girl, "Watch my kids until I go inside to buy this." Now you couldn't do that.

MARKS: Were there a lot of Hispanic merchants at that time in the '50s?

DONES: No, no, no. If you want to find a plátano you've got to go far.

MARKS: No bodega?

DONES: No, bodega. No, no, no, no. This lady she has a shop they used to call Teresita's shop. It was on 48th Street and 3rd Avenue. I think there was one or two Spanish stores. We used to go on Sundays with the lady to Orchard Street to buy these stuff and resell it over here. That was very good time. The people now are very different.

MARKS: What were the schools like for your kids?

DONES: I was telling her that my kids used to go P.S. 140. This is the 60 Street and they have a Spanish editor, Mr. Velez. I used to go there because I belonged 10:00to the PTA meetings and all that. I always like to be active in organizations, activities and all that. I like to be involved in everything. So I used to sit there, but the principal of the school was Mrs. Mulhern. She was a lady that she was drinking and drinking, I was telling her. And she never listens. She says, "You know something? Any time you come here you have a problem." I said, "Well, if you don't take care of this business in here there's going to be difficult for the students and everything." So they go for P.S. 140. The school was okay.

MARKS: Were there a lot of Hispanic students there, a lot of Spanish students?

DONES: Well. Yes, most all the time. Most all the time. This is always a Spanish community, most, most.

MARKS: I've noticed, like I saw Amaury Corujo. For some reason a lot of people 11:00from Moca and Hatillo. It seems like those two towns; Sunset Park, a lot, a lot of people.

DONES: Yes. I was showing her the plaque that they gave me. That Hatillo Star Social Club. I used to be the president of the club. The guys used to play in Red Hook and in Shore Road and we used to make dances. We had a club and everybody gets together there. We invite the cops, even so we invite the cops to participate. We got baton twirlers, the girls. I'm going to show you the pictures that I've got here. We got very much involved. The first thing that I involved in here was sports because I always think that sports keep the people mind very good. But by that time you don't have to be so worried about drugs because the kids have other interests. Now the kids, the young people, they only think of drugs, drugs all the time. Well--


MARKS: What was the name of your club?

DONES: Hatillo Star Social Club. It was on 56th Street and 5th Avenue. We used to make dances. I take my kids and the other one take the kids. It's not like a place, it's like a social club. We all get together and we respect each other. We had a good time.

MARKS: It was named Hatillo?

DONES: Hatillo Star.

MARKS: Most of the people were from Hatillo?

DONES: Yes. Yes. Even though I was telling her--she's from Hatillo--I was telling her that twice I went to Hatillo with the club. Hatillo is a beautiful place, beautiful country, beautiful town. The people, they are very nice.

MARKS: Did you go for the Fiesta patronal?

DONES: No, no, no. I never went. Two years ago I went to Puerto Rico and my niece she told me, "Titi, let's go to Hatillo," but this Fiesta is so famous that you don't have no chance to go into the town. It's so crowded that if you 13:00go, you got to stay outside of the town because everybody from the town, they go there. Hatillo is a small town, like my town.

MARKS: People from here go back, right, during the Fiesta?

DONES: Oh, yes. Like Laclayo and Quiro and all that, they go there.

MARKS: To back a little bit, what happened--if you don't mind my asking--with your first marriage?

DONES: Well, my first marriage--No, I only was married once. I didn't get married no more. Well, we had four kids. My husband, he went to the army and then when he carne back he was a nice looking guy. So he used to go out and have a good time. I stood with him. I had the four kids and I loved him. We--I come from values, you know, from principles. Like, my mother, one time I complained 14:00to my mother. I said, "Oh, ma. I'm going to get divorced. I can't stand this man." She says, "No, you're going to do like me. You married with one man and that's it. You don't change mans. In this family you don't do that." But my mother doesn't know the problem that I had in here. But I say to myself, "Well, that's the father of my kids. I don't want to change." So I stood with him until he died. He died in Puerto Rico. He died about nine years ago.

MARKS: Did you go back to work? When did you go back to work?

DONES: Oh. Then when I was living in this lady's house I was working in a factory, Century Oxford. This is on 60th Street and 2nd Avenue.

MARKS: They make metal things?

DONES: No, they make these.

MARKS: Eyeglass frames.

DONES: When I went there looking for a job the man says--he started looking at 15:00me and he says "You're too young. You better go back to school." I says, "Listen, I need to work." In my own words, "I need to work, but if you want to, if you want to hire me, okay, you hire me and I'm going to go to work in the night time." He says, "No, no, no, no." I says, "That's what I'm going to do because I need to support myself." I don't want to send, I don't want to tell my parents that I was suffering, that I want money because since I was a little girl I was very independent. So Mr. Engle that was the boss, he says, "Alright, Ana. You know what you got to do? You've got to go to school at least once a week." So I used to go to school Mondays.

MARKS: Where was this? Where did you go?

DONES: Bay Ridge High School, and there was only girls in there. Now they changed. So I used to go to school Mondays and then the four days I work in there. I keep it up until I was engaged.

MARKS: You worked making these things?


DONES: In Century Oxford? Yes. I was making eye frames and packing them. And then? Then I quit. Then I went to work--I went to work in shoulder pads on 5th Avenue.

MARKS: Were there a lot of these small businesses?

DONES: Yes, small factories. It was difficult to find a job in those--

MARKS: What year was this? This is in the '50s?

DONES: This was around--Well, my son born in 1953, my oldest one, Gregory. But I continued to work. I continued to work. I want to improve, to improve. Because my husband was in and out, you know. But I wanted to show my kids that we could do it.

MARKS: So you basically were raising them by yourself?


DONES: Yes. Mother and father to them. I always worked and showed my kids that you got to work. If you sit down there--I was telling her today, I says, "I feel so bad because I was working and working. Now I feel useless." I like to be sitting at a desk helping people. I like to, to be needed. Like that job I had in the foundation, I used to sit there and the people come to me. "I need this. I need that." I felt so good helping people. Now I feel awful. I tell David I got to go back to work. I can't stand to be in the house. I got stuck in here and now I can't. I like to work with people. We used to be active.

MARKS: So you stayed with this other place, the shoulder pad place?

DONES: Yes, then I worked there. Then from there the man moved. Then I went to 18:00work in a factory on 39th Street and 1st Avenue. Then I made 46 dollars by that time. That was a little better.

MARKS: Did you always live here?

DONES: No, no, no. I was, I was living by that time at 228 53rd Street. Yes, because when Gregory, my son that is now 35, he was--after six months that Gregory was born, my husband went into the army. So when he left, he left me pregnant. So I was working. I kept working. Then from there I work, I work in so many places that I don't remember.


MARKS: But always in Sunset Park?

DONES: Yes, always in Sunset Park. Always. I don't leave my [unintelligible]. This is good. I can work. You know something? I go walking here day and night, nothing happen to me. Nothing ever happened to me because I know so many people that I can walk on the street and I'm not afraid. A lot of people say, "I don't want to go outside because I'm going to get mugged." None of my kids and none of me get mugged. I think when you mind your business maybe that could happen. Who knows?

MARKS: In the '50s it was much--it was very calm, right?

DONES: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. The '50s was beautiful.

MARKS: When did you start getting involved in community affairs?

DONES: Then I start with the club, with the Hatillo Star. So I say to myself, "I think, I think I better get involved with something like civic."

MARKS: Can I ask you something? That Hatillo Star wasn't only for people from Hatillo?


DONES: No, everybody. Everybody.

MARKS: And you would sponsor dances and outings, and you would go on trips and things like that?


MARKS: Anything like--At holiday time would you sponsor holiday things, or like at Christmas time or anything like that?

DONES: Oh, we used to get the gathering in there and we'd celebrate Christmas and we'd celebrate the [unintelligible] when they win the championship, with all the family.

MARKS: Did you have music there?

DONES: Yes. Oh, yes, we got music. We dance. We sell food.

MARKS: What kind of music? Sort of typical?

DONES: Typical, typical. And sometimes disco because of the kids' music. So we mixed the music. Then we take the kids to the park. This was like a family affair every Sunday. I take my kids and everybody take the kids and we spend the time in the park. But we were always watching. That little park was good. Now I 21:00wouldn't dare to check it out.

MARKS: Drug dealings.

DONES: It's bad, yes. But that time there was--I don't know what's the matter with this drug in here. When I was involved in sports I said I had to go ahead and do something else. So I got involved with Antonia and her involvement with the district leader [unintelligible]. I helped her. I don't know if they tell you about the Puerto Rican Day parade that we started.

MARKS: Oh, you were involved in that?

DONES: Yes, I was involved.

MARKS: When did that start?

DONES: This started twelve years ago. I was the madrina one time that I'll show you. I've got a picture.

MARKS: That parade is along 5th Avenue?


DONES: 4th Avenue. We started on 4th Avenue. But this parade, we start this parade because you know the pioneer on Atlantic Avenue, the pioneer parade? Lidia Rivero, the commissioner, Lidia Rivero, we were supposed to have the parade in here on 4th Avenue. It was raining and they cancel. So, I don't know if they mention to you Mateo Hernandez. He died.

MARKS: I've heard his name.

DONES: He was the director of UPROSE, United Puerto Rico Organization of Sunset Park. So this guy and about three or four persons, they get together and they says, "Why do we have to wait for that parade? Let's make one of ourself." So we says, "Well, let's celebrate the Puerto Rican Day parade." So Hilda Delgado, she called me. She says, "Ana, you know what's going to happen? There's going to be a parade from the pioneers, but they cancelled because it was raining. So we're going to get together and we're going to celebrate the Puerto Rican Day parade." 23:00I am very patriotic. I says, "Good. I want to be involved." So I got involved with Mateo. We make the first one on 4th Avenue. It was beautiful.

MARKS: You had floats and you had different organizations?

DONES: Yes, yeah, umm-hmm.

MARKS: I've heard about the Pioneers parade, but nobody has really described it. What do you remember? The Pioneers parade was on Atlantic Avenue?


MARKS: How big? And everybody who was considered a pioneer would come out and--

DONES: Yes, and the oldest one, the oldest pioneer, the old one came. It was big, it was big. Now they don't do it no more two years because--

MARKS: Most of them have died.

DONES: No, because I heard Lidia Rivero was very sick.

MARKS: I saw her. She was too sick to be interviewed. She--I was going to speak to her last week, but she wasn't feeling well. She was the commissioner of the, of that?

DONES: Well, she was the commissioner of the, like, anytime--she's on the 24:00mailing list of the mayor. She's very active, this lady, in our community. So I made the Puerto Rican Day parade and had a good time. Then we says, well, we're going to do it every year.

MARKS: Are there any Pioneers in the Puerto Rican Day parade here?

DONES: Oh, yes. Don Juanita Sanabria is one of the oldest one in here. Francisco Lorenzo. You know Blackie in Monchito's? There was a dark guy in there, a young guy?

MARKS: I don't remember.

DONES: His father is one of the pioneers, too. He live in Marien-Heim.

MARKS: Is he still alive?

DONES: Yes. And then he had the Save our Children program.

MARKS: So the pioneers are really honored. I mean, people know exactly who they are.

DONES: Yes, we respect them. So anytime we make the Puerto Rican Day parade we 25:00always honor them and then they have something to say in the parade, we accepted it because the pioneers were the one that start the Puerto Rican Day parade.

MARKS: How far back are the pioneers? Have they been in Sunset Park for all this time or other parts of Brooklyn?

DONES: No, in Sunset Park.

MARKS: Always.

DONES: Always in Sunset Park.

MARKS: So the Sunset Park community goes far back, like maybe to the '20s.

DONES: Yeah, far back. Yes.

MARKS: So there's been a presence here, like all the way.

DONES: And like Plasencia. Plasencia is in here for a long time; a very long time. I been here about 35 years, 34, but I know people that go way back. This is our community. This our place. I feel more that we live in Sunset Park than in my own town, because I live more in here than my own town. Anytime I go, go 26:00out with kids, they says, "Ma, please. Don't start," because every block, "Hi, Ana." "Well, you keep walking. I've got to talk to this lady. I got to talk to here and there." So they get mad and says, "You make us stop every block and talk to people." I like to be involved with people, help people. That's why when I work in RAP Foundation and the program was terminated.

MARKS: Which foundation?

DONES: I was in--This was in 476 46th Street. Renewal Action Program. I feel so good in there, but when this happened. You know, so.

MARKS: When did you work there?

DONES: I worked there for seven years. My first director was Antonia Cabán, and then the second one was Ricardo Rojas. This is the one that unfortunately that happened.

MARKS: What happened?

DONES: Well, he was supposed to bring the proposal that time. And he--


MARKS: This was to improve housing in the Sunset Park area?

DONES: Everything, everything. Housing, section 8, homeless, food. That program, we did a lot with Chief [unintelligible]. There was people from South Dakota. One time people from South Dakota visit us, rich people. David was the executive director because our program belonged to the church, too; the First Reformed Church on 48th Street and 7th Avenue. These people, they came to visit us and then the lady was talking to everybody. But I was the oldest there and she came to talk to me and says, "Ana, I want you to tell me what happened in this program and what you do." I says, "Well, in here." What I didn't know this lady was going to come up with this. I tell her there's a lot of poor people in here and they need clothes. They need a lot of stuff." So about two months later I 28:00received so much clothes for people. My God, I was surprised when I opened those, those bags. So I start calling all my clients and my regular, "Come here. I've got clothes for you. Come here. I've got this for you." So this is, this is the satisfaction that you have to work with the community and the people.

MARKS: How did they find out about you all the way out in South Dakota? They heard--?

DONES: Okay. David was executive director, but David was a minister. The Reformed Church of America, they all get together and these people from South Dakota, David went to visit them and they came to visit David, but they never came to New York. These people, they come from all way back. They came to visit and they came to the office. They didn't bring them to the office and introduce them to us. So that's why the lady was talking to me. When they came here they was surprised. They says, "Oh, my God," the environment. They come from a very 29:00good place, and very clean.

MARKS: At the time Sunset Park was in bad shape, right? This was when the buildings were burning? What year was that?

DONES: No, this was about three or four years ago. The thing is just that the way you look at Sunset Park now, it's very depressing. Very depressing because a lot of people, they're raising the rents, $700, $600. A lot of people they're moving and selling their house to the Chinese people and Indian, you know, Korean people. You see Fifth Avenue. All this business in here, they most are, most are Korean and Chinese. I feel bad because pretty soon this is going to belong to the Chinese and Indian people.

MARKS: You've been here--When did 5th Avenue start becoming Hispanic, because now when you walk down there are so many signs in Spanish and everything. When 30:00did that start to happen, do you remember?

DONES: Well, this start to happen around, about 15 years ago. Because before, there was 5&10, there was Macy's. Now it's a lot of bodegas.

MARKS: And Dominican.

DONES: A lot of Dominicans. A lot of restaurants; Spanish restaurants and supermarkets.

MARKS: What happened to El Grande? That closed down?

DONES: El Grande, it's closed down. I don't know what happened in there, but that was a nice place. What happened here was--You went to Antonia's office? Antonia's office is so beautiful; a lot of luxury. My friend, she had the same office in 52nd Street and 4th Avenue. The Cofresi Travel Bureau. Shirley Estepa, you know her, right? She makes a lot of money there. The other day I went to the 31:00bank for her. Ten thousand dollars in three days, come on! Antonia doesn't make too much money. Well, the owner of this agency, he's Puerto Rican but high Puerto Rican; a lot of money. Yeah, [unintelligible]. So he said, the Spanish people, when they see a lot of luxury, they don't go in and that's not true. Not true. The only thing, when you're establishing a place, that's it.

MARKS: I like the style of that office. That's a very Latin American--The style is really nice.

DONES: Yes, but what's the use? She don't make too much money there. She's not contented there. She's not happy. She says she's going to leave the office because she don't make the money that it's supposed to.

MARKS: So what kind of work did you do with her, back? You did work with her?

DONES: I was a family worker for her. Like I told you, I used to take care of 32:00the social service problems. [unintelligible] food stamps, Medicaid, and I make translation Spanish to English to the people that they want to be American citizens, or just for the residents. I used to find place for the homeless. All this service; housing, section 8.

MARKS: At the time there were some, I think Amaury told me, there were some burned down houses. On some of the blocks they were starting to burn and people got together to preserve the housing and to improve it.

DONES: The thing is just that we have this program in here, the SPRC, Sunset Park Redevelopment Committee, and they built a lot of houses in here. This is a good development for the community, but the people started burning the houses 33:00and it's better that way because the kids take it as a shooting gallery. It's better to burn them down than to have all these kids destroying themselves in there. So that's why they burned the houses. There's not a building down there on 3rd Avenue.

MARKS: You said that 5th Avenue only started becoming more Hispanic about 15 years ago. Before that there were obviously a lot of Hispanics here. There was no special shopping. Like if you wanted to go to a bodega there were no-- You [unintelligible]?

DONES: No, no, no. I always remember that the girl that I used to live with, we used to go on the train and we could walk around and we're not supposed to talk Spanish. They don't like it. [inaudible] I says, "Why? This is my language." So 34:00a lot people don't want to speak Spanish because nobody around here speaks Spanish at all. This was American allover. The only thing you find is pizza, you find--and you don't find plátano. No. You have to go out of the community.

MARKS: To where?

DONES: We used to go to, like I told you. We used to go Delancey. We find clothes in there, but the other side they had all this stuff so we'll bring it to [unintelligible], yeah. So to find the plátano and all that, we had to go far.

MARKS: What was-- How did that happen on 5th Avenue that so many Hispanic merchants started buying stores? Is Monchito one of the first?

DONES: No, no, no. Monchito came to this community about not too long ago. Monchito's

in this community maybe 15 years ago because he used to live in Smith. I don't know if he told you. He started with a flower shop on 52nd Street and 4th 35:00Avenue. Monchito is the first flower shop, maybe the first flower shop that started in here because we got one; Margarita, that was on 53rd Street and 5th Avenue. I think Maria's M&M Flower Shop in here, her sister owned it. I think Monchito had something to do with the Spanish people in here those years back because, then we start communicating with the people and the people started coming in and moving in from other places.

MARKS: I see. In other words, they sort of established a foothold and then more people started coming in. When was that? I mean people coming directly from Puerto Rico or from other neighborhoods?

DONES: From other neighborhoods, and from Puerto Rico, too. Like I bring my 36:00sister. The other bring her brother. The other one bring the family, the mother and father. So we--

MARKS: About what year was this?

DONES: This was, this was about, well--Like I told you, when I came to Brooklyn that was in 1952--a couple of, three or four years--it was very difficult for us because of the language and the food and everything. But then they started coming in little by little. Just like that. Because the rent in here was very good. That park, a lot of people says, "Let's go to Sunset Park. No, I don't like that park." I say, "No. No. This is our park. We have to own what we got in here." So Sunset Park is a place that's historical for us.

MARKS: When you first came were the blocks mixed, Puerto Ricans and non-Puerto Ricans? Were there special blocks that were more Puerto Rican than others or was 37:00it all kind of mixed together?

DONES: No. When I first came here the only people I found were from Hatillo. 3rd Avenue was all Hatillo. Yeah, Hatillo.

MARKS: I still see signs that say Hatillo. Do you know how that happened, like why Hatillo? Is there any, like--?

DONES: Like I tell you, one bring the other one and the other bring the other one because the town from Hatillo they're very close to each other. They help each other. Once a person from Hatillo live here, then they all say, "Let's go to New York. I help you." This and that. So they bring them to the houses and they move and, they go on their own. They help each other. Mostly in here is Hatillo. From 3rd Avenue, mostly, 3rd Avenue.

MARKS: Amaury took me around there and he showed me it was torn down. They tore down some of those houses and built factories. But when he came here he was telling me it was all Hatillo and Moca too, right?


DONES: Yes. Yes, and Moca, and Moca.

MARKS: But Moca is a tiny, little place near Mayaguez. So let's say, by the end of the '50s there were more and more people coming in from Puerto Rico. Were there people moving in from other boroughs?

DONES: All the boroughs, yes.

MARKS: Like from El Barrio and from the Bronx?

DONES: Yes. Let's put it that way. From Manhattan, you know.

MARKS: Monchito came from El Barrio.

DONES: Yes, Monchito came from El Barrio, and from Smith. I came from 125 Broadway. I always remember I used to go to Columbia University because my dream was to go to university and prove. I went to school.

MARKS: You finished at Bay Ridge High School?


MARKS: And then did you go to school after that?

DONES: Yes. Well, I took a training, a training to have this job.

MARKS: Which job was this?


DONES: As a family worker. You have to know a little bit about psychology because if you treat with different people you have to know how to treat them. When you work in the office and everybody came to your office, you have to know how to treat them. You have to know how to talk to them because a hungry person is not going to come laughing to you. A hungry person is going to come aggressive. "Look, I don't need--I have to eat. What are you going to do about it? I don't have any place to live. Get me a place to live." He not going to come laughing. He's going to come maybe crying or upset or aggressive. So we took a training. I owe this job to David and to Antonia.

MARKS: Where did you get trained? You went, ah [inaudible]?

DONES: They sent us to the city to have this training. Too much. Let's put it 40:00this way, when you are in a place like this in here, you learn a lot from people. Like you said, when you go to school it's just books. Well, you had experience from the street then this is better. When I went there to have this training, whatever they told me I know already.

MARKS: Just from experience.

DONES: Well, I tell Antonia, "Why do I have to go there? What they told me I know already." Antonia says, "It's mandatory that you go." I says, "Well, I'm going to twice but I'm not going to go there no more because they told me what I learned in the streets with the people."

MARKS: You mentioned that you worked with immigration. When was that?

DONES: We make translations and we help people to be American citizen, to become American citizen and to have their residence, their green card. I know a lot of 41:00people that come to this country, when they come here they come directly to me, there.

MARKS: They were coming from all over.

DONES: From all over. Honduras, Ecuador, San Salvador. I got a lot from San Salvador and Honduras.

MARKS: Are they political, sort of, like, refugiados?

DONES: Refugiados, yes. Sometime they come here with no paper at all. So I sit and talk to them and whatever I don't know I call Immigration Department, they let me know. So we help a lot of people in here.

MARKS: What amazes me is when I walk down the street, people from--I mean, it's gone from being mostly Puerto Rican to now being from everywhere. How do you think? When did that start happening? When did the Dominicans come in? You've seen the whole thing develop. So it was, of course, first Puerto Rican up until what year, until--?

DONES: Well, the Dominicans start coming here, let's put it this way, they start 42:00with a restaurant on 53rd Street and 4th Avenue. Then, you know. These people, like we do, they like to call, to bring the other people from their country.

MARKS: Montanez, is that that restaurant?

DONES: No. Montanez is the--Oh, no. This is on 54th Street and 4th Avenue. No, this is new, I'm talking the Havana, something like that. They start with the Dominicans.

MARKS: Did the Dominicans come directly from the Dominican Republic or were they already in Manhattan?

DONES: Dominicans invading. Some of them, they come from Santo Domingo because they help each other. Sometime they come from Manhattan. Like the Dominican Car Service. He--They don't come from Santo Domingo. They come from Manhattan.

MARKS: So word got out that Sunset Park was Hispanic, right, so the Dominicans 43:00started coming?


MARKS: This was about what year?

DONES: Well, when they start coming it was around about 10, 12 years that we seen all this.

MARKS: Is that when 5th Avenue started changing? Because I noticed that a lot of Dominicans seem to own stores on 5th Avenue.

DONES: Yeah. This is all 10 or 15 years that they start coming in. Now with the Chinese. They--They own the fruit stores.

MARKS: They specialize in tropical products, right?

DONES: Yes. They're very smart. They sell yautía, they sell plátano like we do. I remember one time that when we made the Puerto Rican Day parade we used to go to all these merchants and ask for money because we got to pay for the floats, so we gotta pay for [unintelligible] places. I went to this place, they're Korean. So I went to ask them for a donation. He says, "No. I give it to the Korean people." So you know what I tell him, "Listen. You don't give me 44:00nothing today, and you're not going to sell nothing in here because if I stay here in front of your business and I tell the people not to buy from you, they're going to do it." You know what he does? He call me and he says, "Here's a check." I says, "Listen. I don't need your money because this money is not for me. But if you make business with us, you've got to help us, too." So he says, "Well, I give it to the Korean people. I don't have to give it to you." I says, "Well, choose because I mean it." I mean it. If I stood there in front of his business and I tell any person that comes to the business and I tell him not to buy because you do that, no one would.

MARKS: And they sell mostly to Hispanics. Selling all the tropical foods. [unintelligible]

DONES: Yes, they're very smart. They sell everything nice and fresh and good. If you want a good plátano, you go there to those people. If you want to find 45:00yautía, gandules, aguacates, they have it. Amazing, and cheap. Better than the bodegas. So that's why the people buy from them.

MARKS: There are so many different groups here like Dominicans and Ecuadorians. Is there anything happening between the groups, or does everybody stay separate? Do the Dominicans have their own clubs? Does everybody establish their own?

DONES: No. They have their own clubs, yes. They have their own clubs. The Dominicans are with the Dominicans and we like to be with us. Not me. I get along with everybody. But this is the best way to live, to get along with everybody because if we live in a community that we all live in the same place, what's the use? Because we're going to find them in the funeral parlor. We're going to find them in the park. We're going to find them in the street, in the washing machine, whatever. So what's the use?

MARKS: Besides the Puerto Rican Day parade, isn't there a like a Hispana--?

DONES: La Parada de Hispanidad, yes.

MARKS: When is that?

DONES: La parada came from the Puerto Rican Day parade and a lot of people 46:00didn't approve of it because we was making the Puerto Rican Day parade, but two years ago the president was having a nervous--He works in the city now. He's a big man now. Then he made the parade, but we don't like it. He didn't come back. He took all the books and then for two years we don't make the parade, and then these people they get together; Monchito, Blanca Monroya and Querube. I want you to talk to Querube. They get together and they says, "Well, we're going to make another parada."

MARKS: For everybody.

DONES: And this is Parada de Hispanidad. For everybody. I like the idea.

[Interview interrupted.]

MARKS: So when is this parade, the Parada de Hispanidad?

DONES: They make it this year a week before the Puerto Rican Day parade in New York. They use the floats from there. The president is Gregory Ramos. He is 47:00planning, I say--let's put it this way--he's planning to run for president, the Brooklyn Borough president. Howard Golden, you know, I was talking to him yesterday and he was trying. But he's the president of the parade. I said to myself, "Well, we don't have the Puerto Rican Day parade for two years, then let's get together in here, too, to help."

MARKS: So the Pioneers parade is no more on Atlantic Avenue, right? That's--

DONES: --put in a lot of--No, they don't do it no more because I think this lady is very sick.

MARKS: And then the Puerto Rican Day parade goes along 4th Avenue.

DONES: No, we changed it to 5th Avenue. This is the flag from--

MARKS: And the Hispanidad parade goes along the same route, it takes the same route--?

DONES: Now we had it on 5th Avenue. This was when I belonged to the Hatillo Social Club. This is the man that I told you that he died. This is the queen for 48:00the Puerto Rican Day parade.

MARKS: You still elect queens? There is still a queen every year?

DONES: Every year, yes.

MARKS: She rides on the [inaudible].

DONES: Yes. So this is my sister, her husband, my friend, and this is when I was the madrina of the parade.

MARKS: Are most people in the Puerto Rican Day parade; everybody lives in Sunset Park or do they come from other parts of Brooklyn, too?

DONES: Well, we like to get the queen from Sunset Park, but we bring people from outside, yes.

MARKS: Like from Bushwick.

DONES: Oh, yes. I don't think you know these people, but you're going to know that one. This is Mondale and this is Senator Olga Mendez. You know Olga Mendez? She's--

MARKS: No. So Mondale visited the community during--?

DONES: --the senator. And this is a judge Vidal Santaella. This is when I make one of the queens; pre-teen, Brooklyn. That's with me and Monchito. I don't know 49:00if you want to see this. This is my whole family in Puerto Rico; my mother, my brothers, my nieces. And this is where I used to work. And this is part of the Pioneer parade in Atlantic.

MARKS: This is the first photo I've seen of the Pioneers.

DONES: This is Rafael Esparra. Remember. He was the commissioner of Spanish business.

MARKS: Besides Lidia Rivero, do you know who else has collections about the pioneros? Is there anybody else that you know who has a lot of these old photos?

DONES: This one.

MARKS: Who is this?

DONES: Oh, yes. This one, this one. This is Malavé, you know, the big man. And this is the big man in there, too. These two people. This was Louis Gato, the 50:00president of the Hatillo Star Social Club. That was when I was the madrina. This one in the blue room of the mayor. This is a councilman, Victor Robles. Do you remember [unintelligible]?


DONES: You're not involved in politics. I know.

MARKS: Not too much. You know who helped me, Luis Osorio in the borough president's office.

DONES: Oh, yes. He is off the ballot. They took him off the ballot. I know him.

MARKS: I spoke to him. He helped me when I was organizing this. He gave me some names. I just saw him on another photo from one of the parades. I saw Luis Osorio on one of the floats from Sunset Park.

DONES: Yeah? This is Antonia here. This was when I was there. This is the president of the Puerto Rican Day parade in New York, Federico Perez, I don't know if you know him.

MARKS: Where was this taken? This was here?

DONES: Yes. So this is everybody took it together when we received the proclamation from the, the--Oh, this man in here, he worked for the disciples. 51:00They have a program in here for drugs and teenagers with problems. He has an office on 57th Street and 4th Avenue. He could give you some--

MARKS: Have you ever done anything with Amaury, with UPROSE? Have you ever worked with them in any way?

DONES: Amaury is just a new director in there. He's leaving.

MARKS: He's going back to Puerto Rico, isn't he?

DONES: Yes. And this is Belda Gonzalez. I don't know if you know her. She was a Senator [unintelligible]. She's a Senator from Puerto Rico. A big lady. She's from my town.

MARKS: They visit here all the time, then? I mean there's a lot of-- I see.

DONES: No, we sent for her. We bring her here. And this is the team from Hatillo Star.

MARKS: There's Monchito. You would play other social clubs? Who would the team play?

DONES: [laughter] Other clubs.


MARKS: Other clubs? In Sunset Park or all over?

DONES: All over, and in Puerto Rico, too. So here's a lot of people. I don't know if you know Joe Montalto? Joe Montalto is a--was our Senator for two years, but he was indicted or something happened. I don't know. This is Mr. Plasencia here.

MARKS: He's one of the important pioneros, right?

DONES: Yes. This is Mr. Plasencia. This was the person of the SPRC, Sunset Park Redevelopment Committee. He's from Goya Food; Victor Mangual.

MARKS: Oh, Goya sends out a representative? They send a--

DONES: Yes, because they help us.

MARKS: Goya gives support to your activities?

DONES: Oh, yes. Yes. There's a lady from a magazine. There's Montalto right here. There's David over here, the one I told you. Antonia, Rey. We are all together in there. He is one of the founders of the Puerto Rican Day parade, 53:00Gonzales. He's working in court now. So there's a lot of people there. This is the committee from the Puerto Rican Day parade. This is when I belonged to the club, Hatillo Star Social, eh, Sport Club.

MARKS: Hatillo Star still exists, it still--?

DONES: No, no more. Now they have Hatillo Tigers only. We were active up to, maybe five, six years ago.

MARKS: In the Hispanidad parade, who were the other group--who participates in that? What are the Puerto Rican groups and what are the others?

DONES: The Cuban.

MARKS: Oh, there are Cubans here in Sunset Park?

DONES: No, no, no. This man Maldonado, Frank Maldonado, was the one that helped Gregory with the parade. He's Cuban.


MARKS: He lives in Brooklyn?

DONES: No, he live--he lives in New York, but he comes here to help Gregory every year.

MARKS: So there are different groups that--

DONES: Different groups that participate, yes.

MARKS: In other words, they come from outside to make a presence.


MARKS: Are there any Dominican groups from Sunset Park?

DONES: Oh, yes. The Dominican Car Service, they participate. Dominican Car Service, the man in there is very active in the community here. He likes to help. He bring the twirlers and people that dance in the street with the outfits.

MARKS: Every group has their own costumes?

DONES: Yes. It's very nice, let me tell you. Beautiful.

MARKS: What about from Ecuador?

DONES: Oh, yes, but not too much. There's not too much Ecuador in here.

MARKS: What about Central America?

DONES: Well, in here what I told you that who is living in here now is San 55:00Salvador. Ecuador, not too much. Mexicans. A lot of Mexicans, a lot of Mexicans.

MARKS: I heard that. Do Mexicans participate?

DONES: And Dominicans.

MARKS: Do the Mexicans participate in the parade?

DONES: Yes, they do, but I think this group that come, they don't come from Sunset Park. They come from outside.

MARKS: Outside of Brooklyn or another--?

DONES: From Manhattan and Queens.

MARKS: So they send people in just to be in it.

DONES: Yes, yes.

MARKS: In terms of--I'm trying to figure out the sequence of how Sunset Park developed. Like, OK, it was Puerto Rican and then Dominicans were the next group to come in?


MARKS: And then now I see--

DONES: And now it's Mexican.

MARKS: Oh, the Mexicans are the big group? When did--When did the Mexicans arrive?

DONES: Not a big group, the only thing that--they live in the houses. There's a lot of people. Like in here, right here.

MARKS: This is Mexican? I've heard that from Carmen Diaz.

DONES: About 20 people live in there in that apartment.

MARKS: I think she told me. And they all work and they all send money back to Mexico?


DONES: Yes. Yes.

MARKS: Are they here legally, illegally?

DONES: Well, I believe that, live and let live. Live and let live. Like these people that live in here, the other day she was laughing because they were 'making a lot of noise and she banged on the steam and they shut up in a minute. But if they don't have no papers or nothing like that, it doesn't matter to me.

MARKS: How do you think they found out about Sunset Park? I mean, they came from Mexico.

DONES: Because, like I told you, one brings the other one.

MARKS: So somebody hears about it and then they start bringing. But they bring people directly in, not from other places in New York City?

DONES: No, directly from Mexico because like in here. [unintelligible] One time I went upstairs because they was throwing water downstairs and I was talking to this guy. I was talking to him in Spanish. I said, "Listen. I'm talking to you in Spanish." He don't understand what I was saying. I says, "Where do you come 57:00from?" He says, "I just came from Mexico two days ago." They come here, but they don't bother me.

MARKS: So most of the Mexicans here are very poor, really. They are barely surviving.

DONES: Yes, they are. What-- They use this system; they rent one apartment and they rent the whole house to different people. I bet you they are paying there $650.00, but the owner of that apartment, he don't pay nothing. All of them, they work and they share.

MARKS: They share. But they have real menial jobs. Like maybe dish washing.

DONES: Yes, yeah. They don't pay them too much, that's right. They use them.

MARKS: They work all over Manhattan. They don't just work in Sunset Park, right? They--

DONES: Yes. The ladies, they work in the factories. Machine operators. I bet you they don't pay them the way they are supposed to.

MARKS: These are local factories right around here?


MARKS: So there are always new people coming in to work in the factories.

DONES: Yes. Pretty soon we are going to have a lot of them, Mexican people, in here. Maybe they like it. I don't know. Everybody likes Sunset Park.


MARKS: When did the--? I know there are some Ecuadorians, right? I know, I think Monchito told me there was an Ecuadorian restaurant. I met a few Ecuadorians.

DONES: Oh, yes, but not too much.

MARKS: No? What about Peruanos, is there?


MARKS: What about the Salvadorans, Nicaraguans? No? Not too many.

DONES: In here it's Mexican, Dominican.

MARKS: That's the main -- and like a sprinkling of other groups.

DONES: Yes, the main, yeah.

MARKS: What do you see is the future? Do you think--? Also, I met a Dominican guy who had bought a house here. There are also Spanish speaking people coming in who buy houses, right? Do you think the future of Sunset Park is going to remain--? Because it seems so solidly Hispanic, what do you think is going to happen here?

DONES: I don't know. It's going to be a gentrification here.

MARKS: Which will force out the--

DONES: Well, listen. The people that--Poor people, underprivileged, let's say 59:00it, people that live by welfare, the money that they send them, they don't send money to pay $500.00 or $600.00 rent. So who's going to pay that? So they have to leave. Most of the people, I fill out a lot of applications for public housing because they can't afford to pay the rent in here. So in 10 or 15 years everybody is going to disappear from here. You know who's going to be here? The Chinese people. My friend Hilda, she owns a house on 53rd Street and between 3rd and 4th. She was selling the house for $130,000.00. The Chinese came to her and says, "I will give you $150,000.00 for it right now."

MARKS: In cash?

DONES: Cash! They don't need no bank. They don't need--My sister owns a house on 60:0057th Street, 454. My sister has a beautiful house. She takes care of the house very good.

MARKS: She's been here a long time, too, right?

DONES: A long time in the same block. She is about 25 years in the same block. One time a Chinese came to her, approaching her and says, "How much do you want for the house?" My sister says, "Half a million dollars." "I give it to you."

MARKS: Did she take it?

DONES: No. My sister said, "Listen. Get out of my house. This is my pride-and-joy. This is my American dream so I'm not going to sell it to you, so--" My sister was offended, because. I says, "Don't get offended. He just tried to make business. If you say yes or no, that's it." But my sister's house is well kept.

MARKS: Are Hispanic people in Sunset Park organizing to keep out--Are they trying to keep it Hispanic?


DONES: Good questions. The people in Sunset Park--I don't like to criticize because this is my family--but politically we are nothing in here. We get together. A couple of people get together in here to do something and another group in there, and another group in there, and we don't get together. We're very jealous of Sunset Park. If somebody came from outside, we don't like it. We give them the cold shoulder. But in here nobody's doing nothing and the people, they--don't know that later on we're going to disappear from here because nobody knows that Sunset Park is the best in Brooklyn. I don't know if Amaury told you 62:00that, but in here is a lot of people, professional people, people that work, people that--they are really concerned about the community.

MARKS: I met a Dominican guy who owns a house not far from here that he made himself who has a business in Manhattan, who likes living here. I mean--

DONES: Yes. You know the guy with the crazy glue? He bought a house on 45th Street.

MARKS: Do you have anything to do with the Sunset Park Restoration Committee? Do you know that group?

DONES: A man so, with money, what is he doing--Oh, yes. Sunset Park? That disappeared.

MARKS: It did?

DONES: Yes. That's the SPRC. We had this man Wilfredo Lugo. Wilfredo Lugo got together with the board, they established this Sunset Park Redevelopment Committee. Something happened there that I don't want to say, where Wilfredo disappear. And then these people came in, management, colored people. Now I 63:00heard that Sunset Park Redevelopment Committee and Management are in court. Now there's no Sunset Park Redevelopment Committee no more. So whatever happened to Mr. Lugo, I don't know, but everything was okay until something happened that he left the organization. Now these people, they are bringing people from outside to live in the neighborhood. This is the way I believe. I live here, right, and next door somebody moves. I'm not nosey, but I want to know who's living next to me. I want to know what these people are doing. If I see something funny, I don't fool around with that because this is my safety and this is my people and I don't want my people to do nothing wrong. If I can help, I help. But if I have 64:00to go further, then I do. This is what's happening in here. We are concerned, but to say something you have to be in politics otherwise it won't do nothing. Antonia was running one time for district leader, but she lost. Who challenged her? Her own people. It's like a fight. Then like this in here, everybody wants to be a leader. I like to be a follower because a follower sees more than the leader. The leader is so busy. They can command, but he don't know what's going on. In here is a lot of leaders. But we are concerned, all of us. Somebody die, 65:00everybody's in the funeral parlor. If something happens in Sunset Park, we're all there. We are concerned, and we don't like to leave Sunset Park. Well, pretty soon.

MARKS: What is--Is FAMA doing anything to--?

DONES: FAMA is an organization that is Jewish. Fritz Sanchez is a good man. Fritz Sanchez is leaving in one or two years. I don't know if they told you. FAMA and Raymond and the person of FAMA is there, the manager of Banco Popular, Echevarria. Then he really is concerned and I go to committees and everything. FAMA--October 2nd is going to be a festival on 5th Avenue. You could come around.

MARKS: But FAMA is partly Hispanic, isn't it?

DONES: Yes, part Spanish, but most of the merchants in here didn't want to 66:00participate. I always hear Fritz complaining. We make, like, every year--I don't know if you know that we fight for this park to be fixed for the disabled people. So they fix it and then we make like Olympics; a Special Olympics. This was every year we helped the sick people, too. So Fritz tried to do the best, but Fritz doesn't have too much cooperation with the merchants. I always hear him complaining.

MARKS: Wasn't there something like a Sunset Park sort of a festival--that Monchito told me about-- that you no longer have in Sunset Park, like with music and everything?

DONES: Oh, yes. One time Elba Roman. I don't know if you know Elba Roman. She's a district leader in Williamsburg. She came here and then she make a big festival in there. It was nice. But now the government doesn't allow no--to sell things.


MARKS: Right. They won't give a license.

DONES: Right. They says "no." So Monchito was going to make one this year. It was nice, but they says "no" because the permission is $2000.00. If you don't clean the park they going to keep those $2000.00. And the people like to sell things in there. So they says "No." We won't have a festival in there no more. It was good because all the people get together.

MARKS: Who sponsored that? That was sponsored by--

DONES: The festival? We had an organization here that Monchito was the founder and I was the treasurer. This was Alianze de Damas Unidas de Brooklyn. But this organization--I really don't talk about that. When we started that organization 68:00it was very good. The first charity that we make, there was a big fire in Williamsburg that some kids die, about three or four kids, they die. Then we collect clothes and money and everything. The second one, Belen, we had a meeting and she came. She collect from us money for the disable kids in Puerto Rico. [unintelligible] We send one of the girls to bring the money over there to the station. But Alianze de Damas Unidas de Brooklyn, we start very good to make charity, but then later on something happened that was--it went right to the wrong direction. The person was Mrs. Elba Roman.


MARKS: You don't want to talk about what happened?

DONES: No, 'cause, beyond that.

MARKS: [inaudible] But the Alianza still exists? It still--

DONES: Well, this lady she took the organization. She used it with Olmedo. She had a half million dollars for the day care center. The Alianza born in here, in Monchito's club. Monchito, me and Muniz, a couple of people that we got together, and then you're going to say "wow." You know what? She took that money. Yes, she had the money from Olmedo, the councilman at that time. She used that money, but you know where she make the day care? Where? Not in Sunset Park. 70:00And that day care is there.

MARKS: In Williamsburg?

DONES: In Williamsburg. I says, "Why?" One time I was in one of the meetings and I asked her. She says, "That day care is nice." I says, "The kids from Sunset Park are going to go play to Williamsburg?" I believe that that was not fair because that day care was supposed to be in Sunset Park. So there's a lot of things. A lot of people they get disgusted with the organizations. But that was very nice when we start. We started a good thing in here. I was so happy that I could help a lot of people.

MARKS: So the Alianza did mostly charity work, right, like mostly?

DONES: Yes yeah. But a whole different direction.

MARKS: What do you know about the school system? I mean, your kids all went to 71:00school here, right?


MARKS: Did they start putting in bilingual programs?

DONES: Oh, yes. I'm very happy with that because when my kids go to school they don't have no bilingual program. There was a little bit. This is 1960, yeah. Well, now Mr. Vazquez is a member of the school board here and then he did, did very good on the bilingual program. We have the president of the bilingual program, Edith Feliciano, and I was telling her that we have three principals of schools in here are Puerto Rican.

MARKS: Is P.S. 1, is that one of the schools?

DONES: P.S. 1, Blanca Oritz, P.S. 169, Nivera Aguirre, and Rodriguez (don't know his first name) in P.S. 94. So the bilingual program is perfect. It's nice. It's 72:00working very good.

MARKS: Are the schools predominantly Hispanic? Are they mostly Hispanic? They are.

DONES: Yes. Most of--P.S. 169 is more Italian, but they have a lot of Spanish kids in there.

MARKS: I heard that in Carroll Gardens, when have the parade, el Dia de los Reyes, it's organized through the schools. Is that true here, too? At the schools they organize something on el Dia de los Reyes?

DONES: Oh, yes, yes.

MARKS: It's through the schools where they go out on the streets.

DONES: Yes. That's a tradition for us. That's January 6th.

MARKS: But it's organized through the schools.

DONES: Through the principal and the PTA.

MARKS: Right. It doesn't happen otherwise? It's mostly for the kids?

DONES: Mostly for the kids. They dress them. We used to do that in my program, too. I'd dress like a queen, like a king, Antonia. We have pictures in there. Like kings, the Three Kings Day. They gave us presents, so we say, 73:00"[unintelligible] to dress like Three Kings Day," so we got dressed and we get the--we gave the presents to the kids.

MARKS: You know the Asalto Navideño? Is that only for men or do women go on the--?

DONES: No, Asalto Navideño is for everybody.

MARKS: 'Cause Amaury was telling me you have Asalto. Do you ever go on the Asalto?

DONES: Sí. Oh, sí. One time I went to Asalto to Mr. George Quintana. He was the president of the parade at that time. This is funny. We get together in Monchito's club. So we had the guiros, the maracas, and everything. So--Mr. Quintana owned a house on 48th Street and we went there and we started singing. So somebody called the cops.

MARKS: It was in the middle of the night, right?

DONES: So when the cops came. We know the cops in here. We get together with the cops, too, you know. They know us. He says, "I don't know what you are doing 74:00over there." I says, ''We are singing Christmas carols." What happened is this. "Is that it? That lady next door she called the cops and said there was something going on in here." I said, "This is what we are doing in here." So he left. So we started singing louder. We had a good time at that time.

MARKS: You get together. Do you stand outside somebody's house and sing?

DONES: Yeah. We sing.

MARKS: Do you sing Aguinaldo?

DONES: Aguinaldo, yes. And then the parranda navidena. So when we go--We'll bring the bottle. We'll bring whatever. We'll drink what they have and then we left another one.

MARKS: People invite you in and they have food and everything.

DONES: Yes. My sister used to have all that. She likes that, too. What we do now, we go to a place that they don't expect us because they are not supposed to know where we're going to go. So we bring the bottle. We'll drink the one they 75:00have, and then we'll have the other one for the next one to come.

MARKS: And this goes all night?

DONES: All night, all night.

MARKS: All over Sunset Park?

DONES: Well, I don't know if people do that, but maybe we go to this place one or two hours, then we leave and then we go to another place that we have in mind, another place. We have a good time. We do it to the people that don't really know. That really go for that, because a lot of people they don't go for that. We keep the tradition.

MARKS: I meant to ask you about your children. Are they living in different places?

DONES: Yes. My oldest one, he lives in California; Los Angeles.

MARKS: What does he do now?

DONES: He's an accountant. He lives--His wife is Mexican.

MARKS: He went to college here?

DONES: He went to college here in Brooklyn College and then he went to El Camino College in Los Angeles.

MARKS: So you put your children through school?



MARKS: By yourself.

DONES: Well, let's put it that way. My son went to college. I put them through college but they helped themselves, too, because by that time it was very difficult; the situation. So he went to college by himself. I give him that credit. He went to the army and then he came back and then he went to California. He went to college. He put himself through. Well, with my help, of course, but he did pay most. My other one, Wanda, she works in Lutheran Laboratory.

MARKS: She was trained as a laboratory technician?

DONES: Yes. She's doing alright. My two youngest ones are hanging in there.

MARKS: They are in Sunset Park?

DONES: Yes. They live in Sunset Park.

MARKS: What are your plans? What are you going to do? You're not working now?

DONES: I'm not working, but I'm waiting for November for David to call me to 77:00work in this place. I don't know. Mr. Felix, he offered me a job, but I says, "My job, my skills, my goal is to sit at a desk helping people, not to be in the school together with a lot of kids screaming and everything. I can't do that. No, no, no." And there I can help a lot.

MARKS: Where will the job be? Would it be--?

DONES: This is in Touro College, 53rd Street. David told me that in November the lady is going to go because she is going to have a baby. So she's going to call me.

MARKS: What would you do there?

DONES: I'm in recruiting; recruiting the students.

MARKS: It's really a neighborhood school. How long has Touro been there?

DONES: Yeah. A while. Touro is about three or four years.

MARKS: And they teach basic skills like accounting?

DONES: Sí. Yes. So far it's doing alright.


MARKS: Is it in Spanish? Is it taught in Spanish?

DONES: No, in English. Most of the teachers are Spanish. Spanish and English together. Activities from the park. Oh, this is one of the pictures. That's me in there with one of the kids. We used to give the gifts out and give them a kiss then. [laughter] This is my office.

MARKS: This is in the school?

DONES: No, this is the office where I was working. This is my office and this is--we have the twirlers, the kids.

MARKS: This is nice. So when the parade comes out it goes through the streets?

DONES: Yes. It started from 65th Street to 37.

MARKS: They don't use animals, do they, like they do in Manhattan. Like camels, 79:00they don't have anything like that?


MARKS: Believe it or not, I've seen that.

DONES: Yeah? Oh, you mean the Three Kings Day? No, no, no. Not on Christmas. On Christmas the only thing that we get together, we ask the merchants to give gifts to the underprivileged kids. Yes, El Barrio they do that. Let's put it this way. The Barrio is a place that has a lot of Puerto Rican people with tradition. Older people. They talk about the Barrio, but in El Barrio the people are closer. They follow the instincts. They like to be like "I do this because I think I'm in Puerto Rico." In Puerto Rico they don't use the camels or nothing like that.

MARKS: At Christmas time there is more like typical music?

DONES: Typical music, yes.

MARKS: Then in here, like Amaury formed that group, with Waldemar. You hear the 80:00old décimas.

DONES: Christmas time I get together with my kids. We put music, we eat pork, arroz con gandules, and we put the things; the Christmas tree. Amaury spend his time in there, la aquavita. This is on 57th Street and 1st Avenue. They all get together. They sing. They play guitar. But this is just for men.

MARKS: Oh, it is? But there are some aquavitas around the neighborhood, right? I heard they had controversies, they had music. Like people just get together informally.

DONES: Well, if we want to get together like in Christmas, then we go to Monchito because Monchito is the center of attraction for us. Like we need the club, we ask Monchito. Monchito is very patriotic, too. Like last year we don't 81:00make the Puerto Rican Day parade and I told it to Monchito. "Monchito, what's going to happen? We're not doing nothing. Let's do something today." Then we get together, I invite a lot of people and we make rice and beans, rice and gandules, coquito. So I tell everybody that they have to dress like jibaro; the flower in hair. So everybody get together and we have a good time. Monchito likes to do that. Monchito likes to work with people.

MARKS: Where is his club?

DONES: This is on 5th Avenue, 46th Street, yeah, by his business. When we want to do something special we go to Monchito. Monchito gives us a break because he likes it.

MARKS: But most of the special things happen around Christmas time?

DONES: Christmas time, yes. Sometimes in summer we get together, but in Christmas time mostly.

MARKS: What about El Dia de San Juan? Does anything happen here?

DONES: No, no, no. San Juan we go to Central Park. They make the feast--


MARKS: But nobody does anything here?

DONES: No, because San Juan is no more. In Puerto Rico now is De la Providencia. That's the patron of the old Puerto Rico. We all know San Juan, but mostly it's the Providencia, la Virgen de la Providencia.

MARKS: What is la Providencia? What month is that?

DONES: This is in December. No--They pronounce la Virgen de la Providencia like San Juan. Remember, that was St. San Juan? No, no more. Right? Now it's Providencia.

MARKS: She's replaced San Juan?

DONES: She don't know. She come from Puerto Rico three months ago.

MARKS: La Providencia replaced San Juan as the patron. So the big festival is now--

DONES: La Providencia.

MARKS: That would be more in Manhattan, too, right?

DONES: Well, La Providencia, when we make the Puerto Rican Day parade one time, 83:00it was going to come this way, and then we got our parochialist, St. Michael, and then the Basilica, Our Lady of Perpetual Help. So they was going to make a procession. So we were going to clash. So we clash with the church, too. The priest says, "No, this is better than the parade." I says, "No. Both of them; they are the same." So I says, "Well, let's compromise. So we get to this place and when we get there we'll stop and let you pass and then we'll go." We fixed it. Now we changed the date, this way we don't clash with them. For us, both of the events are very important. It's not that way. He's going to tell us what to do and we're not going to tell him what to do. Two different things.

MARKS: I have another question. Do you know anybody in Sunset Park; people who 84:00make mundillo or any of the old traditions, like lace?

DONES: My grandmother used to make mundillo. My grandmother used to make mundillo beautiful and that's very expensive. They do that in Puerto Rico, but I don't think in here they do that. They do that in Moca in Puerto Rico.

MARKS: Do they?

DONES: Yes, yes.

MARKS: Nobody does that here that you know of?

DONES: No. I really don't know who makes that in here.

MARKS: Moca was a center for mundillo? That's interesting.

DONES: That's what they told me because in Moca you can find the mundillo in there. You can even go to places that they show you how to do mundillo. My mother--My grandmother, beautiful. This is work with a big thing like this with pins and thread.

MARKS: It's very fine. Right? It's very fine.

DONES: Yes, it's very fine. And that costs a lot of money.

MARKS: What would they make, table cloths?

DONES: They make dresses, table cloths, curtains, but it's very expensive. The people are concentrating now in ceramic.


MARKS: Here or you mean in Puerto Rico?

DONES: In here and in Puerto Rico. They make a lot of ceramic in Puerto Rico.

MARKS: Like what kinds of things?

DONES: Like vases, ashtrays, llosa, yeah.

MARKS: Are there people here that you know of? We're trying to find people to include in the exhibit who do artesania. Are there people here who do ceramica?

DONES: Artesania, yeah. Yes. Well, 47th or 48th street and 7th Avenue, they are showing ceramic. Gladys, Monchito's wife, she used to go there. I don't know if she told you.

MARKS: Making ceramic in traditional designs?

DONES: Yes. Traditional, yes. Like pilones [unintelligible]. [Interview interrupted.] Jose Gonzales. Querube. Querube's a man that's long, long time in 86:00here. He owns a house on 43rd Street, I think. Manchito knows his address. Querube's not his name, but we call him Querube. He's a long time in here in this community. Another one that could tell you a lot in here is Blanca Monroig. She lives in Reeve Place. This is 69 Reeve Place. Talk to Monchito about that. He'll tell you. This man, Blackie's father, Lorenzo--the last name is Lorenzo--he could tell you a lot, too. He's an old guy. He live in Marien-Heim. You know Marien-Heim, the senior citizen's center?

MARKS: I passed it. On 4th Avenue, right?

DONES: Yes. One time he was the director of Save Our Children; with Hilda 87:00Delgado. Hilda Delgado is another person that she used to work in--we all have stories. Hilda used to work with Save Our Children and then later on she was with a woman's space. This is a battered women, 53rd Street and 4th Avenue. She used to work there for a long time. Something happened to her. She left the job and she's working now in the school, in P.S. 94. She could tell you a lot of things from Sunset Park, too.

MARKS: Also, Shirley Estepa, who I already met.

DONES: Yes, but Shirley Estepa is a lady that she don't live in the community. She live in Red Hook and she been here for 15 years. She could tell you something.

MARKS: I heard in Columbia Street they still have the casitas. Are there any casitas in Sunset Park? Bollos?

DONES: Bollos? No.

MARKS: Do you know what I'm talking about?


DONES: Yes, I know.

MARKS: I know that in certain parts of the Bronx people build casitas where they do certain kinds of activities. But there's nothing like that--

DONES: No, not in here.

MARKS: Because I heard of some on Columbia Street. Is there anything else you wanted to add about the community?

DONES: I don't know. I think I've said it all.

MARKS: But, at least, for the next several years, people--More and more people are coming in. Are people still coming in from Puerto Rico?

DONES: Um hmm. Oh, yes. I think the most that are coming in are from Santo Domingo.

MARKS: And the Cibao, from the north--I interviewed a man--of Dominican Republic.

DONES: Uh huh. They, they are bringing their music, their food.

MARKS: So merengue is the big music.

DONES: Merengue is one of the dance; the typical, typical dance.

MARKS: I noticed most of the record stores are Dominican because there is a lot of merengue.

DONES: A lot of bodegas, a lot of restaurants. We're disappearing from here, Puerto Rico.


MARKS: What's happening to the Puerto Ricans here? Are they going--Are they going to other neighborhoods? Going back?

DONES: I don't know. Like I told you before, we are people that we are concerned about the community, but most of the people they've got their own interests. Let me tell you, we do the community work in a different way. Education and civic. Everybody can't concentrate on the same thing, you know. So Felix is with the schools, we're on the civic and schools. We all get together, but we are concentrating on different areas. So that's why maybe we left the business to them and we concentrate on something else.

MARKS: They're much less involved in civics and local politics.

DONES: Right.

MARKS: That's my impression, too.

DONES: Well, politics in here, no good because everybody wants to be, but when 90:00the time comes everybody--like we are getting together now to reconstruct the Democratic Club, independent. But--

MARKS: When you said your town was "democratic", you meant the Democratic Party?


MARKS: That goes way back, Democratic?

DONES: Tradition. Like if you heard some people say, "I'm a Democrat," which means they're from Muñoz Marín. [unintelligible] Like my parents and my people. It's like a tradition because a lot of people there are Republican. I work in polls, the voting polls, and I work all over these schools and if there's five or six Republicans, it's a lot. Everybody is Democrat, Democrat. 91:00Democrat because they're used to tradition. Like this time I don't like Dukakis and I don't like George Bush. I don't like none of them. To give my vote I have to vote and I'm going to vote for Dukakis, even if I don't like it.

MARKS: Thank you very much.

DONES: You're welcome.

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Interview Description

Oral History Interview with Ana Dones

Ana Dones was born in San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, circa 1934. At the time of the 1988 interview, she had lived in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn for thirty-five years. Dones came to New York when she was eighteen years old. She first lived in Manhattan but worked in Brooklyn, so she settled in Sunset Park to avoid commuting back and forth. Dones held a series of jobs in nearby factories. Once she was married and had four children, she was devoted to her family. She also dedicated herself to preserving and building the Latino/a community in Sunset Park, from the days when she was president of the Hatillo Star Social Club, a community center that sponsored team sports and dances. She was among the founders of the Puerto Rican Day Parade, and once served as its madrina (godmother). She also worked for the Renewal Action Program, a service that provides food and shelter to the homeless. She was appointed treasurer of a women's charity group called Alianza de Damas Unidas de Brooklyn (The Alliance of United Women of Brooklyn). As of 1988, Dones was still very involved in community affairs in Sunset Park, and went to work as a student recruiter in a new neighborhood college.

As a resident of the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn for many years, Ana Dones recounts its transformation into a Latino enclave, including the changes on Fifth Avenue, the area's main shopping street. She recalls when she did not feel comfortable speaking Spanish in the neighborhood, when signs in Spanish and Latin restaurants were uncommon, and she had to go as far as Manhattan to find tropical produce. She also gives an account of the chronology of the Latino arrivals in the neighborhood, beginning with Puerto Ricans, many from the town of Hatillo, followed by Dominicans, Mexicans and South Americans. Dones fears that there are pressures that will change the neighborhood again, this time coming from the many Chinese Americans and Korean Americans who were buying homes and operating businesses in the neighborhood. Interview conducted by Morton Marks.

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.


Dones, Ana, Oral history interview conducted by Morton Marks, September 23, 1988, Hispanic Communities Documentation Project records and oral histories, 1989.004.01; Brooklyn Historical Society.


  • Dones, Ana
  • Pascualy, Jose


  • Clubs
  • Employment
  • Factories
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Parades
  • Political participation
  • Puerto Rican women
  • Puerto Ricans
  • Societies


  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.)
  • Puerto Rico
  • Sunset Park (New York, N.Y.)


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Hispanic Communities Documentation Project records and oral histories