Latino New Jersey History Project
Latinos make up nearly twenty percent of the Garden State’s population. Professor Lilia Fernandez and Rutgers students have spent several summers exploring and documenting this population’s history through the Latino New Jersey History Project, a student-led, community-based research project. Launched by Professor Fernandez in 2016, the project aims to document the histories of New Jersey’s diverse Latino/a communities by identifying archival materials and conducting oral histories with local residents. Since the summer of 2017, Rutgers undergraduate and graduate students have been receiving training, doing preliminary research, and conducting oral histories with community members in New Jersey. (Under Interviews, click on the participant's name and then select the HTML or PDF version of the transcript to read.)
Jenesys Alicea was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1981. Her maternal grandparents were born in Puerto Rico and immigrated to the U.S. early in their lives. Jenesys grew up in North Newark and then Belleville. Her father worked in factories and in shipping and handling, and her mother eventually worked for Essex County. Jenesys went to Elliott Street School, Ridge Street Annex and Broadway Middle School in Newark and then, after moving to Belleville, to Belleville High School, graduating in the Class of 1999. She attended cosmetology school at Concorde in Bloomfield and has spent her career working in cosmetology. After first coming out as gay, she began transitioning in her mid-twenties with the help of an organization in Jersey City dedicated to helping trans youth. She identifies as a transgender woman. In the interview, she discusses her family history, childhood and life experiences, focusing in on topics including her Puerto Rican heritage, Latinx communities in Essex County, the process of transitioning, LGBTQ activism, trans-related health care, working as a freelance cosmetologist, and traveling to Puerto Rico.
Danilo "Dan" H. Figueredo was born in Guantanamo, Cuba in 1951. He grew up in Havana, where his father worked for the government. In the interview, he shares his recollections of the Cuban Revolution and the Bay of Pigs invasion. After Fidel Castro's ascent, Figueredo's father came under political pressure, and the family emigrated from Cuba in 1965, first to Spain for a year and then to the United States. With family members living in Union City, New Jersey, Figueredo and his parents settled in Union City, where he spent his middle school and high school years. In the interview, he describes what it was like adjusting to life to Union City, where his parents connected with the Cuban community and he eventually found a close group of friends in high school that included Bob Menendez. After graduating from Union Hill High School, he attended Montclair State University and majored in English and literature. He then earned a Master's in Library Science at Rutgers in 1978 and a Master's in comparative literature at New York University in 1989. He spent his career writing non-fiction and children's books and working in library science at the Union City Public Library, Newark Public Library, where he directed the Bilingual Program, New York Public Library, New Jersey Library Association and Bloomfield College Library. Among D.H. Figueredo's publications are Revolvers and Pistolas, Vaqueros and Caballeros: Debunking the Old West (Intersections of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture) and the bestselling children's book When This World Was New, which is based upon his arrival in Union City in 1966.
Madai Cruz Poole was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey on September 12, 1974. Her mother was born in Utuado, Puerto Rico, and her father was born in Salinas, Puerto Rico. Her parents immigrated to the United States when they were young and lived in the New Jersey-New York area, eventually settling in New Brunswick. Her father worked for Suburban Transit, and her mother worked in the Public Defender's Office. Growing up in New Brunswick, Poole attended the parochial schools Sacred Heart and St. Peter's Elementary School. For high school, she went to Rutgers Prep. Poole went to Rutgers College and double majored in Administration of Justice and Puerto Rican and Hispanic Caribbean Studies. She participated in Rutgers Unión Estudiantil Puertorriqueña and spent time in Latin Images Living-Learning Community. After working for many years in the pharmaceutical industry in marketing, she became the department administrator for Latino and Caribbean Studies in the Rutgers School of Arts and Science. In the interview, Poole discusses being an EOF student at Rutgers and then working as an EOF counselor, organizing support for her extended family in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, being a cancer survivor, and returning to Rutgers to work in the department from which she graduated.
This project is ongoing, and new interviews will be added periodically.