Andrea Velez Oral History Interview


Andrea Velez Oral History Interview


Oral history interview


An interview with Andrea Velez


Kaia Schwartz


April 30, 2023


Alex Dueben and Kat Council




Oral History Interview


Alex and Katrina


Andrea Velez


Central Connecticut State University


Alex- Okay so, thank you for coming in

Andrea- You're welcome

Alex- Thank you for sitting down with us, even if you had some pressure, we’re okay with it. You're okay with that, you did so voluntarily. But just to start, your name?

Andrea- Andrea Velez

Alex- Okay, when were you born?

Andrea- January 6th 1976

Alex- Okay, and where are you from?

Andrea- So, I was born in Hartford, but my family, and I can show you my ancestry dna, came from Italy, and other places. So you have two sides to the family so, but the majority was Italy. So it wouldn't have been me or my father or even his father. It would have been before that like my great grandparents. So they would've came from Italy.

Alex- Long even that you haven't heard of the stories from the people that did?

Andrea- Actually, I did

Alex- You did?

Andrea- Oh yeah, I knew my great grandparents up until uh 2001 was the last one that passed away. Only one set though. Only one set. So my fathers grandparents I knew. Actually wrote a book and got it published and its based on them. So they were really a big part of my life so I know their story somewhat. The other side I don't know but I do know through ancestry its helped me find some of their information coming from Italy. So it's not Latin America but Italy.

Alex- Oh yeah when you go online you can find out all of these little details that you never knew or were never said or forgotten.

Andrea- Oh yes, yes exactly, exactly. Yes, really cool information too like there was a photo. I think there was the ledger when they got on, when one of them got on the boat. You know you could see their signature from back in the early 1900’s. So that was pretty cool to see that. You know, so

Alex- Yeah just all that level of just written documentation that's still there and the people leave behind that we don't really even think about.

Andrea- Yes, I actually have so they left me, so they um had rented a home, at an older age, so when they passed away, they left me their rental, so that basically everything that was in that rental ended up being mine. Including a fireproof box that had everything in it. So it had notes in it, it had death certificates, marriage certificates, you name it, just artifacts. I probably would have brought that in but I didn't, he said it was Latin America so I was like well. Lot of really cool stuff that's very old. That I just have in this like fireproof box. So I do know their story somewhat, just because they were a big part of my life for a long time, and there's not many people who could say that, you know that they knew their great grandparents so I felt really blessed that I knew them so long.

Kat- Can you tell us the name of the book you published?

Andera- Sure, It's called the “The Plant Contest”, and it has, its english, but it has a glossary in there because there are some Italian words kind of thrown in a little bit, that I don't speak italian but I was raised listening to it and it's very similar to spanish so I'm currently learning spanish so similarities are pretty, yeah, there's quite a few. So um so yes I wrote the book based on them, it's a fictional story but it was based on like my life with them and how they loved to garden and I mean that was just, you know, like how they lived back then, everything was fresh, you know they didn't buy things, you know the stored cans and you know, that's how they were able to live to past 90.

Kat- Yeah my wife's grandmother, her mom, her dads mom, just passed away, she was 102. I was like I don't know how you did that, cause I would've been like at 86, listen I need to go

Andrea- Wow I know, 102 wow

Kat- Yeah it's insane

Andrea- I just want to know their secrets, you know.

Kat- For real, well now we will never know

Alex- Well you got to be close with them

Andera- I did, I got to hear their stories and spend time with them, and I didnt know how valuable that was then. At the time, I just did it because they were my family but now you look back and wow like I'm so glad I did what I did. You know because at a younger age you just don't realize how valuable those stories are until they're gone.

Alex- When your young your family's normal, it's only later you realize that not everyone had that chance.

Andrea- Exactly, yes, for sure.

Alex- So did you, did they tell you, or just through research did you kind of understand why they left Italy and why they came here?

Andrea- Um I think, I think it goes along with the general population of that time of let's get out of here because there's a better opportunity there. I think everybody is like kind of following the flock. Oh you're all going there, let's go. So I didn’t specifically hear from their mouth those words but it was an assumption I made um they just wanted to come here to you know to create a new life so to speak, and I'm kind of glad they did because I wouldn't be sitting here with you if they hadn't.

Alex- Were they from the south?

Andrea- They were from, so, I have some southern Italy in my DNA but I also have um Northern Italy, but specifically My great grandfather, my dads grandfather, on his fathers side, was from um a province in Italy called, Protala Palina and it's in the um abrutis region. So italy has regions and it's in the Abruzzo region so it kinda like kinda across on the Eastern side of um Rome. So like almost like diagonal a little bit. I think the Adriatic sea is on that side. So actually still have family there um I tried to communicate with them, it's a little hard because they don't speak English but you know you can do translations of course phones are great for that but I'm able to communicate with them through facebook messenger and um you know I'd love to do like a facetime with them we just need like a translator next to us. Yeah they're still there and they tell us “come whenever you want. We have a family home here” That's what they do in Italy, they just, they have these homes they set aside for when you go visit. Like someday someone will, you know they used it but they like come on come stay in the home and oh my gosh the food. I honestly don't think I'd come back if I went there. I don't think I would. So it's just knowing that they're there and they're not all, you know they're not all in their 90s and there's, I have cousins my age. It's really cool knowing that you know. And what helped me find them was facebook. Who would've known right? Some people talk bad about facebook but you know it's good for some things, for finding people.

Alex- So do you feel, I mean, it seems like you identify as Italian

Andrea- I do, I do, I do, I mean I have other things other ethnicities in my ancestry because my moms side had a little bit of russian so that shows up in here you know its a very small percentage just because I think her mother had um was all italian but her father was partial italian and russian so you see that there but its not the percentages are really small. And the funny thing is ancestry keeps, it just updates, it keeps updating things, I have no idea how it works but, it updates your percentages. It's like oh, they must find matches and somehow it changes the percentages I'm not sure on how that works.
Kat- I just make fun of my sisters, because we're all from the same parent obviously um but I am more black than anybody else, like I'm like 97 percent nigerian where like my older sister are like 72 percent and my young sister is like 83 and it just kept updating so I'm like, now I'm like 98 or 99 percent and like what. But im like all the time I’m the blackest one in this family. So it was actually really cool to do cause then we learned um the ways in which we are all very similar and Conzina who has a different father um has Cambodian but like 10 percent Cambodian, like that is a lot of Cambodian.

Andrea- wow that is, my son, I did his DNA and he actually, and I'm going to read this to you because you're going to be like wow because it definitely came from my husbands side he's Puerto Rican. He has Cameroon, Congo and Western Bantu. He has Indigenous Puerto Rico of course, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Ghana, Northern Africa, basque, Mali, Bentigo, Nigeria, Cyprus, France. I'm like wow he's like one big like mixture but who would've known I would've never known this I wouldve just said Puerto Rican like we just, we don't realize, what that even encompasses so.

Kat- that’s a lot of different things, that’s kind of insane.

Andrea- It is, now I know where, you know cause he's got he’s I mean were not as pale as some people that we know, we got the like darker skin, like ivory skin you know in the sun like we turn basically brown so but we know that's definitely that side of the family from my husband and my Italian side is probably that as well so . It’s very interesting to see.

Alex- Basque?

Andrea- Basque. Did you say vasque

Alex- Basque

Andrea- So I don't even know oh it's actually located in spain

Alex- yeah that's northern spain

Andrea- Interesting so that's new. That just popped up on his because I did not know that.

Alex- yeah the basque is a whole country in itself

Andrea- wow that is so cool i had no idea. He's got France on there. So he actually his Portugal just went up to 10 percent which I only have 1 or 2 percent for Portugal, but he, my son, has a lot of Spain in him too. He has 12 percent Spain. So interesting. So yeah we're just a big mixture. Me and my husband.

Alex- Is there a story or some aspect of your life that's been really significant when you think about your heritage or culture?

Andrea- um, I think I think it's probably related to my great grandparents and food. Those two tied together quite a bit. They had a really big influence on my life as far as family gatherings and food. So um I think a lot of what I cook and a lot of what I do I think back and I think wow that came from them. You don't even realize it because you know honestly if my mother hadn’t carried things on either it probably would’ve stopped at her you know. But since she carried things on and that's not even her family, thats my fathers side you know, but since she's been in the family for so long I think that's part of carrying you know carrying heritage on is the cooking the food the gathering of families on sunday, you know sunday dinner. Um

Alex- Not just the recipes but what it means.

Andrea- Exactly yes, to get people together because food is how people come together so yeah. That's what I think of when I think of them.

Alex- I mean is there, is there anything else you want to add to the conversation? Something kind of along these lines you want to talk about

Andrea- Hm can you think of anything? I know I talk alot

Alex- For the record she is looking to her daughter who is shaking her head desperately going please do not involve me in this conversation

Andrea- She’s a little shy, me not so much.

Kat- So Andrea before we depart, can you just spell your first and last name just so we have it for the record.

Andrea- Sure, Andrea Velez

Kat- Thank you

Andrea- You’re welcome, I can't think of anything off the top of my head. No I mean i brought everything up on the ancestry that we wanted to talk about and i talked about my great grandparents and yeah

Alex- Well thank you so much for coming in

Andrea- Thank you!

Kat- Thank you this was really wonderful

Andrea- I know I'm sorry this wasn't Latin America but you know it worked right?

Kat- It did work, it was really interesting thank you!

Andrea- Yeah thank you!




Kaia Schwartz, “Andrea Velez Oral History Interview,” Latino History Harvest, accessed April 17, 2024,

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