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Martha Gallardo

Oral history interview conducted by Marcelo Herman

May 04, 1989

Call number: 1989.004.33

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HERMAN: What is your name?

GALLARDO: My name is Martha Gallardo.

HERMAN: Where are you from, where were you born?

GALLARDO: I come from Porto Viejo, Ecuador. I was born in [date redacted for privacy] 1971. I'm eighteen now.

HERMAN: And when did you come here to New York?

GALLARDO: I came here in 1983, July, but I came before that, when I was eight years old, then I went back.

HERMAN: Your family was traveling a lot?


HERMAN: Do you know why your family was traveling a lot?

GALLARDO: Yeah, they were planning to move here, to come here, but I don't know.

HERMAN: You never asked them?

GALLARDO: I think that most of the time, it was to sell things, you know, 1:00merchandise. That's why.

HERMAN: What part of Ecuador are you from?

GALLARDO: I was born in Porto Viejo, but I was raised in Guayaquil, that's the city.

HERMAN: That's the coast, isn't it? I hear it's nice. And when you first came, you lived in Brooklyn, in this area, Bushwick?


HERMAN: So you've been in Bushwick since 1981?

GALLARDO: When I first came here, I was in Queens, I used to live over there.

HERMAN: And what do your parents do?

GALLARDO: They work. My father works in a hospital, and my mother; she stays home.

HERMAN: She's a housewife?



HERMAN: That's a hard job too. And how do you like the neighborhood? Do you live very far from the school?

GALLARDO: No, I live in Linden, that's close to the park. Every day I come, I play handball, it's nice, I like it.

HERMAN: And your friends are from Ecuador? Do you know a lot of people from Ecuador, do you have a lot of friends from Ecuador?

GALLARDO: OK, most of the Ecuadorians that live in the neighborhood, they're old and they're my mother's friends. They're not young people.

HERMAN: They don't have kids?


HERMAN: Really? Why?

GALLARDO: I don't know. I spend most of my time in my house, and then I go play handball. That's every day.


HERMAN: Do you play handball in the school?

GALLARDO: Yeah, in Bushwick Courts. And in the park.

HERMAN: And that's part of the high school?


HERMAN: It's just a group of people that you get together with?

GALLARDO: Yeah. We have a team.

HERMAN: And who goes there, a lot of Hispanics, a lot of--

GALLARDO: No Hispanics.

HERMAN: No Hispanic people?


HERMAN: But I've heard there are a lot of Hispanic people in this area. Is that right?

GALLARDO: Yes, but they don't usually get into teams.


GALLARDO: I don't know.

HERMAN: They don't like handball in particular, or you think it's just -- they just don't do sports.

GALLARDO: Basically, they stay in the house. The girls, so it's only three girls on the team.

HERMAN: Only three girls? And where are they from?


GALLARDO: My sister and the other one, she's from Nicaragua.

HERMAN: These are the only girls, or the only Hispanic girls?

GALLARDO: The only girl s are Hispanic girls.

HERMAN: The only girls are Hispanic and the rest are all boys? Huh.

GALLARDO: We play against them.

HERMAN: And you beat them? Really, it's unbelievable. And how about your friends here in the high school? There are a lot of Hispanic kids? Is that right?


HERMAN: And what kind of, your friends in particular, where are they from?

GALLARDO: Dominicans and Puerto Ricans.

HERMAN: Really?

GALLARDO: Yeah, I don't have much friends here.


GALLARDO: 'Cause, I don't know, I just go to classes and sometimes they talk, 5:00but they talk about some things I don't like.

HERMAN: What kind of things? Like, not handball. [laughter]

GALLARDO: No, of course not. Their problems, or sometimes about guys, many things. I don't enjoy it, so I stay with my work.

HERMAN: So these friends, the ones you named, the Dominicans and Puerto Ricans, you can talk to them?

GALLARDO: You don't really have friends. You know those people.

HERMAN: Oh, you know those people. And your "friends" friends, where are they?

GALLARDO: The only friend I have here is a girl from Nicaragua, that's the only friend, and my sister.

HERMAN: Do you speak Spanish with them?



HERMAN: And how about with the rest of the Dominicans and Puerto Ricans? The ones that aren't "friends" friends but just friends?

GALLARDO: I know, them, yeah, they speak Spanish.

HERMAN: Spanish too? Spanish is very often spoken here in the school?

GALLARDO: Yes, in the neighborhood too.

HERMAN: And the kids that don't speak Spanish, they get annoyed? Or they're used to it?

GALLARDO: Here in high school?


GALLARDO: Sometimes there are a lot of problems with that, because it's like they set up groups, the Hispanics and the Black people, and those who speak English, they don't get along with each other.



HERMAN: And how do they not get along.

GALLARDO: Sometimes they argue, sometimes they try to put them down because they don't know English, that's why.


HERMAN: Oh, the Hispanic kids try to put down--


HERMAN: Oh, the other way. And there are fights?

GALLARDO: Of course.

HERMAN: Physical fights? And among the girls?

GALLARDO: The girls. This is what happened. Since I come here, it was in the seventh grade, right? So it was like, over there in Ecuador they respect each other, no yelling or screaming, nothing, so it was a big change. It's like they tease you, and you stay quiet. But that was in junior high school, not now. When you get used to it, then you deal with it, right? But before, it was a lot of stress. I didn't like it.

HERMAN: You don't like it?

GALLARDO: I didn't like it.


HERMAN: Now you've gotten more used to it?

GALLARDO: Now I'm used to it, yeah.

HERMAN: And what other changes did you notice from high school there in Ecuador, and high school here?

GALLARDO: In school? They teach more respect, it's nice, really nice, and here, it's different, I don't know, some people like, I don't know how to explain.

HERMAN: They like what?

GALLARDO: Over there in Ecuador, right, they all be together, because it's, I don't know. But here, it's many people from many countries, even a poor country with another poor country, like suppose an Ecuadorian with a Colombian, they're 9:00going to start teasing each other, saying their country is better. Like that. I don't like that. Over there that doesn't exist.

HERMAN: Do you think among Hispanics there are also certain quarrels and certain fights, and among Hispanics from different nationalities?

GALLARDO: I didn't understand the question.

HERMAN: Among Hispanics, for example, some guys from Colombia, some guys from the Dominican Republic, just to use an example. Do they fight, do they get along? Or are they indifferent?

GALLARDO: Since they are alone here in this country, I think most of them are friends.

HERMAN: How about here in this high school? Do they stay friends? Do they join the same clubs? Do they hang out together? They don't?



HERMAN: They stay friends? They hang out together?


HERMAN: When do you finish high school?

GALLARDO: This June.

HERMAN: This year! What are you thinking of doing?

GALLARDO: I was accepted at Baruch College.

HERMAN: Where?

GALLARDO: Baruch College.

HERMAN: Oh really?

GALLARDO: Yeah, I went out there and I took the tests. I plan to go over next year.

HERMAN: That's good. What are you thinking of studying?

GALLARDO: A math teacher.

HERMAN: A math teacher? Are you good at math?


HERMAN: That's very good. And do you have a lot of friends, a lot of people from this high school are going to school?

GALLARDO: Nobody. Most of them applied to La Guardia College.


HERMAN: Why do you think they applied to La Guardia College?

GALLARDO: They speak Spanish.

HERMAN: They speak Spanish? Do you think the language is still a problem for a lot of kids?


HERMAN: But they don't have to learn English here?

GALLARDO: Yes, they have to learn.


GALLARDO: Everybody.

HERMAN: But people know English right? But still they would want to go to La Guardia because in theory they speak Spanish there?

GALLARDO: MM -hmm. [laughter]

HERMAN: That's funny. For you, do you think it's a problem, would you choose a school because they speak Spanish?

GALLARDO: No, it's too far, that's why. But I applied.


HERMAN: And do you work?

GALLARDO: No, I don't work. Yesterday I had an interview, and they told me on Friday I had to go over there to see if I' m going to work there or if they're going to send me to Manhattan.

HERMAN: What kind of interview, what kind of job were you looking for?

GALLARDO: Word processing.

HERMAN: Oh, really. Do you know how to use the--


HERMAN: Oh that's very good. And your sister, is she working?


HERMAN: Is she younger?


HERMAN: Is she going to school here, to school?


HERMAN: What is she thinking of doing? When does she graduate?


GALLARDO: She's in tenth grade.

HERMAN: Oh, so she's got a few more years to think about it. And you told me 13:00your father sells merchandise?

GALLARDO: My mother used to.

HERMAN: And your father works in a hospital. And when you decided to get a job, it's because you wanted to get a job or they sort of told you, you know, it would be nice if you cooperate.

GALLARDO: To help the family? No, it was my decision, I wanted to work.

HERMAN: Why, because you wanted to buy certain things?

GALLARDO: Of course, yes.

HERMAN: Do you go back to Ecuador, have you been back to Ecuador since you moved up here?

GALLARDO: No, we're planning to go in June.

HERMAN: In June? All your family?

GALLARDO: Si, yes.

HERMAN: And for how long? A month?

GALLARDO: Two months.

HERMAN: Wow, that's a nice vacation. Do you think you'll like it? Do you miss it?

GALLARDO: M-mm. I don't want to go.

HERMAN: You don't want to go? Why?

GALLARDO: 'Cause I've been there.

HERMAN: When were you there?

GALLARDO: When I was eight. I know that country. I would like to go to another country.


HERMAN: To another country? But do you have friends still in Guayaquil? Do you write to them?

GALLARDO: No, 'cause I never had a close friend.

HERMAN: Right--that you could write to. But when you go back to Guayaquil, you know some people, right? And what do you feel when you see them? Do you feel, these people have never been to New York, or they miss something in their life, or you just think, how nice a time they have with themselves. What do you think?

GALLARDO: Of them? It's hard to tell.


HERMAN: Do you enjoy your time with them?



GALLARDO: Because I think, my opinion, is that nobody [unintelligible] you really, really. They always want something to get out of you. Even including your family. You're alone in this life. You only have your parents, that's it.

HERMAN: So you're not expecting anything.


HERMAN: Right, right. What is your regular day? You came to school here in the morning until 3 o'clock.

GALLARDO: 2 o'clock. I come to the first class at 7:30, and I leave at 2 o'clock.


HERMAN: And then?

GALLARDO: And then I go home, eat, sometimes cook.

HERMAN: Do you help your mother?


HERMAN: You help her with what?

GALLARDO: In cooking. That's it.

HERMAN: Do you help her with the laundry, or with cleaning the house?

GALLARDO: Saturday and Sunday.

HERMAN: And then what do you do? You cook something or you eat?

GALLARDO: Then I play handball until 5 o'clock, and that's it for the day.

HERMAN: Do you go to any dance class? Do you like music? No?

GALLARDO: No, my sister likes music.

HERMAN: She hasn't transmitted that taste for music to you?



HERMAN: And what else do you like? Do you watch TV?


HERMAN: No? Your sister does.


HERMAN: Oh really. Your sister does all those things. What do you do on Saturdays? Do you go out?

GALLARDO: Yes, with my father.

HERMAN: With your father? Where do you go?

GALLARDO: It was his place that he took us. Harlem Valley.

HERMAN: Dance?

GALLARDO: Not, it's like a village upstate.

HERMAN: And what is it? What do they do, it's just a town?

GALLARDO: Yeah, it's like in old times, there's no factories, it's nice.


HERMAN: Oh really, it's kind of pleasant, to relax in. And you go with your father, and your mother and sister, or only with your father?

GALLARDO: Only my father.

HERMAN: And why does your father go there?

GALLARDO: Because from the hospital, they send him to visit. He works in a psycho, with crazy people. So sometimes the parents and the family wants to visit them, but they're far away from them. So my father has to take the family upstate. So he takes us.

HERMAN: That's where he works, in that place. And do you go to this hospital itself?



HERMAN: You hang out in the town? And what do you do when you hang out? Do you eat something? What kind of food do you like?

GALLARDO: I don't know what's happening to me now. I don't like nothing.

HERMAN: No food? Do you eat something?


HERMAN: Rice and beans?

GALLARDO: No, I don't know how you call this.

HERMAN: What is it in Spanish?

GALLARDO: Lentejas.

HERMAN: Lentils.

GALLARDO: You know that?

HERMAN: Yeah, you don't need to soak them in water, you can throw them in the pot.

GALLARDO: You have to soak them in water.


HERMAN: And you eat that in Ecuador? What do you call that?

GALLARDO: Arroz con minestra and carne asada.

HERMAN: And your mother does that food here? Do you eat outside your house, and what do you order?


GALLARDO: Bistec con arroz. But once I went to a restaurant far from here. It was only salads.

HERMAN: What about burgers? You don't eat that?


HERMAN: What else do you do? On Sundays, do you go to church?

GALLARDO: No, I was taking classes at the Jehovah's Witnesses, and sometimes we go over there.

HERMAN: Who's "we?"

GALLARDO: Me and my sister.


HERMAN: And your parents?

GALLARDO: They're not interested.

HERMAN: And they don't mind?

GALLARDO: No, they don't.

HERMAN: How did you get involved with the Jehovah's Witnesses?

GALLARDO: Because they always visit house to house, so I said, one time, ok let's see.

HERMAN: And your parents didn't mind?


HERMAN: Did you ever go to a Catholic church?


HERMAN: You used to go, or you still go?

GALLARDO: Once in a while, when I was small, with my parents, and then I stopped going.

HERMAN: And your parents still go to the Catholic Church?


HERMAN: And every Sunday you go to the Jehovah's Witnesses?


HERMAN: And why do you think you like to go there?

GALLARDO: It's different, it's much different, because they teach you things you 23:00didn't know before.

HERMAN: What kind of things?

GALLARDO: A lot of things.

HERMAN: Like things that they didn't teach you in the Catholic Church? And for example what?

GALLARDO: For example, OK, I'm going to give you an example. Like, Hell. The Catholic religion teaches people that Hell is a place with flames; that you're going to burn there. That's the tradition. But in this religion, they don't teach that. It's like they show you the real meaning, that's what happened. It's really when you die, they put you in a hole. That's Hell. It's no kind of--

HERMAN: There are no flames.


HERMAN: And you like that.

GALLARDO: Yes, because I think it's the truth. Because they say that if God 24:00would do that, then He wouldn't be as nice as He's told to be.

HERMAN: All right. And your sister likes it as well?


HERMAN: And what else do they teach you?

GALLARDO: What else? OK, it's many things. What would you like to know about?

HERMAN: Well, in terms of the, are there a lot of Hispanic people in the meetings that you have at the Jehovah's Witnesses?


HERMAN: Do they talk Spanish?


GALLARDO: Even when they don't know English, they try. They speak a little funny. But they get the classes in Spanish. When they sit in an English one, that's fun. In the morning, they teach in English, and then in Spanish.

HERMAN: And you go to what?

GALLARDO: To the Spanish one.

HERMAN: --your sister. And the rest of the people who attend the meetings are Hispanic?

GALLARDO: No, not all of them. They're from Haiti, and from China, but they try to speak Spanish.

HERMAN: Really? And why don't they go to the English one?

GALLARDO: Yes, it is strange, but they do that.

HERMAN: And do you make friends there? Do you have friends from there?


GALLARDO: Inside, they talk to you, they try to be nice.

HERMAN: But have you made friends?

GALLARDO: Yes, one, but I hardly visit her, because she lives far, but sometimes I call her.

HERMAN: And where is she from?

GALLARDO: In Queens.

HERMAN: And she's American?

GALLARDO: No, Ecuadorian. I don't have American friends.


GALLARDO: There's no American friends here.

HERMAN: Oh, I see a lot of Americans.

GALLARDO: No, I don't see no White people.

HERMAN: In that table, I think they're all Americans. They're not Americans?

GALLARDO: I don't know. I used to go to Queens Vocational High School. Over 27:00there, a lot of White people.

HERMAN: Oh, but they're Americans too. There are Black Americans, and White Americans.

GALLARDO: I know, but you don't understand.

HERMAN: You mean that you don't have as many White American friends, because they don't live here? And why do you think you prefer to have White American friends? Do you think you got along better than when you lived in Brooklyn, than when you lived in Queens?

GALLARDO: Uh huh. There was a guy that I met, his name was [unintelligible], he was nice, but I couldn't talk to him because I hardly knew English. But he was so nice.

HERMAN: That left a good memory? Are you still in touch with him?

GALLARDO: No, when I left the school I lost the communication.


HERMAN: And with Black Americans, do you talk to them, do you have friends?

GALLARDO: Let me think. I know a lot of Black people. It's not like "friends" friends. I know to say "hi" to "bye," that's it. It's been like that. Because, suppose that you start being with that person and then you might get disappointed because of the things he does or the things she does.

HERMAN: And that couldn't happen with an Hispanic person?

GALLARDO: I guess so. I guess so.


HERMAN: And at the Jehovah's Witnesses meetings, are there a lot of Black Americans?

GALLARDO: Black Americans, Chinese, from Germany, a lot of countries.

HERMAN: All right, so anything else you want to add?


HERMAN: So have a nice trip when you go to--

GALLARDO: --Ecuador. OK, thank you.

HERMAN: Thank you.

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Interview Description

Oral History Interview with Martha Gallardo

Martha Gallardo, a student at Bushwick High School, was eighteen at the time of this 1989 interview. Born in Porto Viejo, Ecuador, she first came to New York City at the age of eight. She returned with her family to the coast city of Guayaquil, Ecuador but came back to New York to live in Queens, and finally (or at the time of the interview) to the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn.

In this interview, Martha Gallardo describes her student life, the relations between Latino/a and non-Latino/a students, and her interest in the Jehovah's Witnesses faith. Interview conducted by Marcelo Herman.

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.


Gallardo, Martha, Oral history interview conducted by Marcelo Herman, May 04, 1989, Hispanic Communities Documentation Project records and oral histories, 1989.004.33; Brooklyn Historical Society.


  • Gallardo, Martha


  • Ecuadorian Americans
  • Emigration and immigration
  • English as a second language
  • High school students| Hispanic Americans
  • Immigrants
  • Jehovah's Witnesses
  • Public schools |z New York (State) |z Kings County
  • Religion
  • Student life and customs


  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Bushwick (New York, N.Y.)
  • Ecuador


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Hispanic Communities Documentation Project records and oral histories