Eva Fontanez was born in the Bronx, New York in 1959. Her parents were born in Puerto Rico and moved to the Bronx after having their first child. During her childhood, Eva Fontanez lived in the Bronx, in Elizabeth, Newark and Passaic, New Jersey and in Brooklyn, before returning to the Bronx. She grew up in a Pentecostal household in which her stepfather was a Pentecostal pastor and her mother, a seamstress by trade, raised eight children.
After graduating from Bushwick High School in Brooklyn, she briefly attended María Eugenio de Hostos Community College before entering the workforce. In 1980, she and her mother and younger sister moved to Las Piedras, Puerto Rico. After nine years of living in Puerto Rico, she moved to Plainfield with family members.
In 1990, she got a three-year grant-based job at Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) and spent the rest of her career there in variety of roles, including as staff in Student Activities and Multicultural Affairs. At RVCC, Ms. Fontanez served as the founding advisor of the Orgullo Latino Club and helped to start CRECER, a program that began in 1996 to encourage underserved youth from area high schools to attend college.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, she spent nine months in the San Juan area of Puerto Rico helping in relief efforts and working for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in a call center.
Pictured in the photo: Eva Fontanez (front, center), Kevin Rosero (front, right) and students from Orgullo Latino Club attend a Generation 51 march in Washington, DC in support of Puerto Rican statehood.
This oral history interview was conducted as a part of the Latino New Jersey History Project, directed by Dr. Lilia Fernandez.