Photograph of a Government/Military Issued I.D.
Photograph of a child wearing a Yale football helmet

Maria 12.a1 001.jpg


Photograph of a Government/Military Issued I.D.
Photograph of a child wearing a Yale football helmet


United States Navy—Women
Women and the military
Puerto Rican women
Puerto Rican children


Maria Padilla immigrated from Puerto Rico to the Hardware City at just sixteen years old.  At the time, almost half of the Puerto Rican Community in the Greater Hartford area was under the age of eighteen.  As the influx of young Puerto Ricans continued to grow, the community faced racism fueled by the media. A 1967 study done in New York City revealed that Puerto Ricans were largely unrecognized until violence broke out.  When that violence was reported, derogatory terms like ‘pigs’ were used to describe them. They were blamed for the downfall of once great industrial cities, like New Britain, and worked tirelessly to break barriers. 

The children of immigrants like Maria are now playing a different role to ensure that the coming generations have better chance than their parents did during their period of immigration.  This is due to trailblazers coming out of the second generation of Puerto Ricans in America and setting an example for the future.  Trailblazers are young Puerto Ricans who excel in athletics, politics, and entertainment and who transform the scapegoat stereotype that had been projected onto their parent’s generation by the media.

New Britain has an exceptional number of these rising stars transforming the Puerto Rican Community.  In 1980, Maria’s friends William and Nelida Cruz immigrated to New Britain from Puerto Rico and got their start in the city in the housing projects.  Their son William Omar Cruz attended New Britain High School where he excelled at football earning three letters, the Connecticut Coaches Association All-State Award and the National Football Foundation and Football Hall of Fame Scholar-Athlete Award.  William went on to attend Yale University where he continued to excel as an athlete and earned his degree in economics in 2004. Upon graduating William moved to New York City where he found success on Wall Street.  

William’s cousin, Joanne Sanchez, is also a trailblazer for the Puerto Rican community.  Joanne’s mother immigrated to the United States as a single mother in 1978.  Joanne attended New Britain High School. She continued her education at Central Connecticut State University for one year before joining the United States Navy as a means to pay for college. Joanne graduated while in the Navy and has served for more than eighteen years.  During her time with the military she had an opportunity to serve under President Barack Obama at the White House. 

Stories like Joanne’s and William’s show the change in second generation Puerto Rican experience in the United States.  While Maria’s generation had to contend with stereotypes and fight for jobs and higher education, the second generation has used their means to break through. In 1968, Dr. John Macisco Jr., assistant professor of Sociology and Research Associate at the Center for Population Research at Georgetown University, evaluated the experience of first generation Puerto Ricans compared to second generation Puerto Ricans in America.  He found that second generation Puerto Rican’s reach higher levels of education and have more opportunities in the workforce because the barriers that had been placed on their parents by the media have been broken by the trailblazers.

When interviewed, Maria Padilla showed her images of Joanne and William with pride.  She mentioned that when people outside the Puerto Rican community hear stories about Puerto Ricans, they tend to be negative.  These two individuals are success stories, they bring pride to the Puerto Rican community in New Britain and represent an entire generation of Puerto Ricans who are quite literally living the American Dream.

Citations for supplementary sources and Context

Fishman, Joshua A., and Heriberto Casiano. "Puerto Ricans in Our Press." The Modern Language Journal 53, no. 3 (1969): 157-62. doi:10.2307/321901.

Macisco, John J, Jr. Assimilation of the Puerto Ricans on the Mainland: A Socio-Demographic Approach. New York: Center for Migration Studies of New York, 1968.

Normen, Elizabeth. “Maria Sanchez: Godmother of Hartford’s Puerto Rican Community.” Connecticut Explored. August 15, 2016, accessed May 10, 2018.

Palmer, Bill. Trailblazing Latino Americans. United States: Harding House Publishing Services, inc, 2012.

Yale. Accessed May 11, 2018.
Entry Author: Mallory Bordonaro


Unknown Family friend of Maria Padilla


Private Collection of Maria Padilla


Maria Padilla


Creation Dates: 12: 2012; 12a: 2007
Accession Date: April 29, 2018


Maria Padilla


Copyright to this resource is held by Maria Padilla and is provided here by CCSU for educational purposes only.


.JPG Image Files




Still Images


History Harvest 2018 Object #12a and #12b.


New Britain, CT; Connecticut; Puerto Rico; United States; 2007; early 2000s; 2012; 2018; 2010s; 21st century.

Original Format

Paper & Framed photographs

Physical Dimensions




Unknown Family friend of Maria Padilla, “Photograph of a Government/Military Issued I.D.
Photograph of a child wearing a Yale football helmet,” Latino History Harvest, accessed May 25, 2024,

Output Formats