Celeste Padua Artifact and Oral History


Celeste Padua Artifact and Oral History


Oral History


Oral interview with Celeste Padua


Christopher Campbell and Anna Fossi




Chris Campbell
Anna Fossi


Celeste Padua


Central Connecticut State University


Chris: Could you please tell us your name?

Celeste: My name is Celeste Padua

Chris: And how do you spell it?

Celeste: C-e-l-e-s-t-e P-a-d-u-a

Chris: Okay. And what is your date of birth?

Celeste: 07/12/1998

Chris: Okay, and are you originally from Connecticut?

Celeste: Um, yes, yeah.

Chris: Yes. Okay. And are you born and raised, you said?

Celeste: Yes.

Chris: Okay, and what item have you brought to show us?

Celeste: I brought a Jibaro hat. Um, so for like rural farmers in Puerto Rico, they usually wear this in the sun, and my father is from Adjuntas, which is like agricultural.

Chris: Cool. Did your father make that?

Celeste: Uh no, no, that would be cool though.

Chris: Uh, yeah, where did you get the hat?

Celeste: Well, he got it from Adjuntas which is where he's from.

Chris: Okay.

Celeste: They just sell them there, because yeah, it's like a traditional hat. Like, oftentimes, like kids will dress up and put these on or even just for like, certain dance sort of events people do.

Chris: So it's like a ceremonial thing now?

Celeste: Yeah. But you know, used to be like a agricultural hat
Chris: Right. Keep the sun off their neck kind of thing?

Celeste: Yeah.

Chris: Is this something that your father would have worn? When he lived there?

Celeste: Uhhh, no, it's a little more antiquated than that I would say.

Chris: You said it's a tradition now, so would you say it has cultural significance to the region? Or is it mostly a tourist thing now?

Celeste: I'd say it has cultural significance to the region, for sure.

Chris: What does the item mean to you?

Celeste: The item means to me? To me, it means that there are like, I guess, people from my past who were able to sort of, I guess, make the best of the situation, of like growing crops in the mountains, because that's essentially what they wore it for.

Chris: For sure. Yeah, absolutely. Do you have any personal stories associated with that?

Celeste: Um, mostly just seeing like, kids dressed up, or… yeah, as I said earlier, dances. Yeah it’s mostly that kind of ceremonial…

Chris: Cool, this last question is much more freeform. Is there sort of anything you want to share with us either about that, or your personal history or anything like that?

Celeste: My personal history?

Chris: Yeah, like your family history, your personal history, it doesn't necessarily have to be about the item. This is sort of just a catch all, collecting history kind of thing. So anything you want to share with us about it?

Celeste: Yeah, um, oh, that's, that's a big question. I think I have a lot of things to say about Puerto Rico in general.

Anna: Say whatever you want.

Chris: So the other thing we can do, because that is a very broad question. We do have just the generic oral history questions. So we can go through that and maybe be a little bit more targeted.

Celeste: Yeah, yeah. Okay.

Chris: That’s the other side of the paper.

Anna: Do you know what they grew there?

Celeste:What they grew? Mostly sugar cane, coffee.

Chris: And what are the hats made out of?

Celeste: Usually just straw.

Chris: Okay, cool. All right, cool. So yeah, like I said there’s going to be another freeform question at the end. So if there's something we don't cover, you can still do that. But at least we'll get you thinking along those lines. Yeah. You, your family history in the US. I know you said you were born here. But what was your family's history with coming to the US?

Celeste: My father was born in Puerto Rico and my mother was born in Manhattan, but, um, they moved to Puerto Rico I think a few years after she was born, so she was raised there. And he was raised there. And around the ages of like, 24ish they both came to the mainland.

Chris: Okay, cool. But when you say mainland was it originally somewhere else?

Celeste: Um, they met in Boston.

Chris: Oh, okay.

Celeste: They both ended up in Massachusetts.

Chris: Okay, cool. And how did they end up in Connecticut eventually?

Celeste: Because my father has family that lives in Connecticut.

Chris: Gotcha. Cool. And what was the experience for them? I know you said they bounced around a whole bunch, but sort of what was the experience like for them moving finally from Puerto Rico to Boston?

Celeste: Um, my mother talks about it a lot more. She has a lot of stories about like, just like having absolutely no money. And she'll like tell me how she used to work at this like pizza place and everything was kind of confusing because like, they speak English there, but it's not as you know, quick or colloquial as it is here so she was a little intimidated by that, definitely seems like a period of growth for her.

Chris: Yeah, absolutely. So in terms of adjusting when they moved here was the language the hardest thing or were there other difficulties they had?

Celeste: Um culturally, I don't think it was too difficult just because like, they had MTV. My mom was like, oh, yeah, I love Cyndi Lauper like by the time I got here, so I was okay. Yeah, but um, there there are certain things I think that they did not pick up on because I think my mother in general, like values education a lot. And I guess there's like a different perception here about, like, Puerto Rican people and education, whereas like, there, it's super, like, you know, engaged, but I guess a lot of people made assumptions about her, because of her background.

Chris: Right, for sure, and I’m sure the language barrier, probably.

Celeste: Yeah, yeah.

Chris: In terms of moving here, what was the reason they did finally decide to leave Puerto Rico to move to the mainland?

Celeste: Um, well, they both wanted more, like my father's an engineer. So he got a job in Massachusetts and my mother, she moved out because she just like, was considered an old maid in her family by that point, anyway, because she was like, 24ish, so.

Chris: Old maid at 24, wow. And so in terms of your family history, what does that mean to you in your life.

Celeste: My family's history in my life? It definitely brings a lot of things into perspective. Like, you know, I guess a lot of the privileges I have, you know, speaking the way that I do, and, you know, looking the way that I do, it's just very easy to remember that it's not like that for everybody, right?

Chris: For sure. And in terms of your, your cultural identity, how do you identify?

Celeste: I identify as, like, Puerto Rican American, I guess, or I, Puerto Rico is part of America and I have to explain that. That's like a whole thing.

Chris: It's amazing how many people forget that.

Celeste: Yeah.

Chris: And how strongly do you feel connected to that identity?

Celeste: That identity, like out of 10? Or?

Chris: On a scale of one to 10, very specifically? No, I'm kidding. You know, just is that something that's important in your everyday life, is being connected to that?

Celeste: Oh, yeah, for sure. Yeah, I mean, like, my parents are moving back and they have an apartment in Ponce. So I went and visited them when they were like, looking around the area and it was, it was kind of cool to see how things have changed over time because I visited as a kid and a teenager so there's something always to keep in mind and my mother is very politically involved. When we went there she like stood in front of like all the cops like protecting a private beach or something like very involved in like the, I guess the you know, social political kind of relationship it has with America, which is like not great, but yeah, yeah.

Chris: Yeah. And you said you visited, are there other other ways you try to stay connected to your roots?

Celeste: Oh, yeah. I mean, um, I'm actually in a band and sometimes I try to incorporate like, you know, I guess the influence of like salsa, reggaeton into some of the music that we play. I generally do like to you know, keep myself informed just like my mom about things going on there. You know, I do read a good amount about it like “War on All Puerto Ricans” it's a good book.

Chris: I've never heard of that book. I'm gonna check that out, that sounds very interesting. And are there stories from your cultural heritage, childhood, that are important to you that you would want to talk about?

Celeste: Hmm, uhh, I’m trying to think, that’s a big question, sorry. Cultures, stories?

Chris: So like stories and stuff that either, either you know, like, sort of like fairy tale stories or like personal stories, things culturally that are relevant.

Celeste: Um, I’d probably need more time to think on that.

Chris: Okay, sure. Yeah, yeah no problem. Well, I mean, the last question is a freeform one so it's quick, quick thinking. Well, I mean, also just don't be, like feel like you're, you're pressured to answer today. Obviously, more stuff can be added later if you want to talk to us, you have the professor's email address. Yeah, but yeah, the last part here is just is there other stuff that you wanted to bring up, family history, the story of how they came here, moving from Boston to Connecticut.

Celeste: Umm, hmm, I'm really trying to think.

Anna: I'm kind of curious about more of what your mom is doing in Puerto Rico.

Celeste: Yeah, she's, um, she's very involved with like, I guess, because they basically made Puerto Rico a tax haven for like rich people. So like, you know, Bitcoin millionaires are coming in and like, you know, trying to say that these beaches are private when they're really public. And generally just buying up homes and then making them Airbnbs and like displacing people who you know, lived there their whole lives. Um, stuff like that.

Anna: They're gentrifying it.

Celeste: Yeah, basically, but it's kind of, it's kind of crazy, because it's not like anyone even lives there. It's just like, you know, they're making it kind of a hotel, I guess. But, yeah, it's, it's really crazy to see like, even just from when I was a kid, and I was like, absolutely the whitest person there. And then, now that I'm older, I'm like, damn, okay, like, there's, you know, they see a lot less of, I guess, locals in like Old San Juan or like areas that are much more, like have consolidated wealth I guess.

Anna: Mhmm, I also I have some friends who are also like “white passing Puerto Ricans” and like, people don't believe them that they’re Puerto Rican, have you had kind of, that? If you’re comfortable talking about that.

Celeste: Yeah, sometimes. For sure, there definitely have been people who like, like,” Nah, you're like, you're joking.” I was like, okay, you want to talk to my mom on the phone, I don’t know, like, do I need to prove that? But you know, I? Yeah, generally, yeah, it doesn't really come up unless I bring it up.

Chris: And just so we have them on the record, we talked a lot about your mom and your dad. What are, what are your mom’s and dad’s names?

Celeste: My mom's name is Ivonne Mendez Padua. And my father's name is Reyes.

Anna: Can I ask how you spell your mom’s name?

Celeste: I-v-o-n-n-e

Anna: Okay.

Celeste: And then just Mendez. Yeah, she always makes sure to keep that one. That's her maiden name.

Chris: And how do you spell your dad's name?

Celeste: R-e-y-e-s. Yeah.

Anna: Perfect.

Chris: Awesome, all right, yeah. Thank you very much.


Chris: Yeah, it's been fun.


Christopher Campbell and Anna Fossi, “Celeste Padua Artifact and Oral History,” Latino History Harvest, accessed April 17, 2024, https://library.ccsu.edu/latinohistoryharvest/items/show/106.

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