Gilberto Cintron Life In The Rear View Mirror

I was born in 1954. That is the decade that America started changing. It was the decade of Brown V. Board of Education, it was the decade that Rock N Roll music took over the air waves, and the Motown sound was getting established. My mother and father arrived in New York City in 1950. My older sisters, Aida, Maggie and Lucy were brought to New York in 1956. That is the year that the newly established New York City Housing Authority opened a new development in East Harlem New York, The Thomas Jefferson Houses. I was two years old when we moved in. My family was one of the first families to move into that development.

I attended kindergarten PS 102. It was 1960. One of the most popular TV shows at the time was Davy Crockett. A story of a white man hired to hunt down and kill Indians (Native Americans). Of course being that young I had no idea of the political innuendo, but it was a very popular TV show. In kindergarten I had two teachers Mrs. Aberamson and Mrs. Mysell. These teachers really loved working with the children and would give us gifts once in a while. I received a Davy Crockett raccoon tail cap. I really loved it and I really loved those two teachers.

The 1960's were a very tumultuous decade. This was the decade of assassinations; President John F. Kennedy, Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King, Jr. presidential hopeful Robert Kennedy and Nation of Islam leader and community activist Malcolm X. It was also the decade of the hippie movement was born, college takeovers by student, and the era of Bull Conner, the racist
American politician who served as a Commissioner of Public Safety for the city of Birmingham, Alabama, during the American Civil Rights Movement. It was under his orders that the use of fire hoses and police attack dogs were used against civil rights activists.

From these events and forward my memory does serve me. Even as a young child I knew what they were doing to the Freedom Marchers was wrong. Bare in mind that childhood in the 1960's was much different than childhood these days. Children were not in-tune with current events like the kids are today. There were no computers or 24 news shows on TV in fact television consisted of three major networks, ABC, CBS, NBC and a few minor ones.

The Black Panther Party was a community based organization formed to change the treatment of the black community by whites. Founded by young black college students, The Panthers fought back when confronted by the white racist police. Whereas historically black people were subservient to white people, after reconstruction black people secretly started organizing. Is was horrible for blacks, lynchings occurred almost daily. By the 1960's they were a little more firm in there stance, however many still paid deference to white people while protesting non violently under the leadership of Martin Luther King. The Black Panthers changed that. They began to purchase rifles and to walk the streets carrying them. This was legal for the second amendment guarantees its citizen's the right to bare arms, in California one is allowed one to walk around with an unconcealed weapon, i.e. rifle. This action was in response to the constant brutalization at the hands of the police. It was during this time that blacks began to act differently. This new generation of black people refused to be subservient any more. Malcolm X while a Black Muslim started educating the black masses. He was the one saying that it is OK to defend yourself from racist "By Any Means Necessary". After his assassination, there was a void in that type of leadership. Luis Farrakhan attempted to fill that void and while he and the Black Muslims had many adherents, he was not as charismatic as Malcolm X had been.


Waring their hair naturally, the "Afro" hair do became very popular. This new generation of blacks refused to be labeled negro and began espousing self determination. It was during this time that James Brown had a hit song "Say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud". Of course the media portrayed the Panthers as a gang in an attempt to justify the white police action. No longer did black people allow themselves to be fire hosed or attacked by dogs. The black community had awoken. It was a sleeping giant that once awake would never go back to sleep.

Meanwhile on the East coast Puerto Rican's were getting similar treatment. In 1898 the small Island Nation of Puerto Rico became a colony of the United States. It was ceded by the Spaniards after losing the Spanish American war. This Island was important to the US because it was strategically situated to protect the US from invasion by any hostile nation. American corporations began buying up the land and building businesses. The industry with the biggest share of land was the Pharmaceuticals. The entire Eco system of the island became turbulent. These large American company's became the islands biggest employer. Puerto Rico was the biggest exporter of sugar. Many Puerto Ricans were farmers. Puerto Rico had never been a self determining nation because prior to 1898 it was under the rule of the Spanish Crown. For 500 years the island had no self determination. When it was ceded to the US, the islands inhabitants were elated, and dancing in the streets. The assumption was that finally free from the Spanish, Puerto Rico could form it's own government and have self determination. The US, however had different plans. The geography of Puerto Rico consists of the Island of Puerto Rico and five other, smaller islands. One of these small islands, "Viegues". The US military took over that island, displaced it's populace and began constructing its military base.

nyt-puertorico-invasion From the time Europeans first landed on the Island of Puerto Rico it had never had it's own government. The native Puerto Ricans, the Taino Indians welcomed the Europeans with open arms. However once the rumor of gold being buried in the Forrest spread the Spaniards began forcing the people into compliance. It was not until 1948 that Puerto Rico had it's own democratically elected governor. Luis Munoz Marin was the island's newly elected governor. Now depending on one's political ideology or outlook Marin was either a blessing or a curse. It was Luis Marin that got the Islands status to recognized as el "Estado Libre Asociado" which loosely translated means the Associated but free State of Puerto Rico. It was in 1948 with the election of Marin that the US government initiated "Operation Bootstrap" a massive economic development project that transformed the island from an agrarian society into an industrial society. It was this initiative that destroyed the farming industry on the island forever.

In 1917 Puerto Ricans were made American citizens. That means that anyone born on the island of Puerto Rico after 1917 was automatically an American citizen. On paper this sounds wonderful, but for those residing on the island its a two edged sword. On the one hand a passport to travel from the Island to the main land is not required, on the other hand Puerto Ricans are treated as less than second class citizens.

When the turmoil of Operation Bootstrap took hold, many former farmers, now unemployed, emigrated to the US, specifically Brooklyn, New York. This first migration took place aboard an ocean liner named the "Marine Tiger." Packed like sardines onto this ship, Puerto Ricans were excited about landing were the streets are paved in gold. Upon landing on the shores of Brooklyn, New York the reality smacked them in the face. Not only were the streets not paved in gold, they received a hostile reception. As all immigrant's do upon arriving in the US, Ricans began forming their own communities. Many of these Puerto Rican immigrants found jobs in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Most however could find no employment. This was especially true for Puerto Rican men. Consequentially women found jobs in the garment district of New York City as seamstresses. Because of the long commute from Brooklyn everyday, it made sense to relocate to Manhattan. The community they settled on was East Harlem.

For those familiar with the Broadway show, and later the movie, Westside Story you will recall that the premise was about the rejection Puerto Ricans received when settling in a new community. You will also recall that a white boy fell in love with a Puerto Rican girl, a taboo in the 1950's. To protect themselves from the harassment, name calling and physical assault, Puerto Rican's formed gangs. Never mind that for decades prior to Puerto Ricans arriving on these shores, whites of every group formed gangs to protect themselves as well. While Puerto Ricans did not have to go through Ellis Island like prior emigrating groups, they did go through the same initiation those former groups received. In 2002, Producer-Director Martin Scorsese released a film with the title "Gangs of New York."

This movie, while a work of fiction accurately depicted the hostility between one group that was already in New York, and the new immigrants. Bare in mind that these were whites against whites, when Puerto Ricans arrive and are not welcomed by the host community and subsequently formed gangs to protect themselves, the news media from those days forward depicted and continue to depict minority communities as wild, uneducated and lazy savages. To be historically accurate, it was not minorities that were robbing banks across the country in the 1920's and 30's. It was not the minorities that organized crime and killed many innocent people over the illegal alcohol trade during prohibition.

A very partial list of White US criminals throughout history:
Jesse Woodson James AKA "Jesse James", Robert Leroy Parker AKA "Butch Cassidy" and Harry Longabaugh AKA "the Sun Dance Kid", Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger, George Francis Barnes Jr. AKA "Machine Gun Kelly", Alphonse Gabriel or Al Capone AKA "Scarface", Adelard Cunin AKA "Bugs Moran", Vito Genovese AKA "Don Vito", Charles "Lucky" Luciano, Joseph Charles Bonanno, Sr. AKA "Crazy Joe", John Gotti AKA "The Teflon Don", "The Dapper Don", "Johnny Boy", " Black John", "Crazy Horse" and of course the motorcycle clubs specifically the big four, "the Hells Angels, the Pagans, the Outlaws, and the Bandidos"
To be cont.