Ramon Colon, Puerto Rican, interviewed in 1973, talks about his WaterStories

Ramon Colon recounts his experience of traveling by boat to Brooklyn. He also discusses why Brooklyn Puerto Ricans often moved to 'El Barrio' instead of staying in Brooklyn.

Transcription of interview:

His arrival to Brooklyn.
“I came by ship. By the ship Coamo.”

How long did it take?
“I remember five days.”

How was it? The trip?
“It was pleasant and I was a little apprehensive because we were at war with Germany. I came as a stowaway."
Was it hard to get to New York?
“it was hard to get on the streets, so we had a connection on the ship… one of my sisters had a boyfriend in the Coamo and that’s how I got on it.”

What port in New York did you come to?

Talking about El Barrio

“The Puerto Ricans that came after 1940 made it the way it is today. Before that Puerto Ricans from Brooklyn went to Harlem and started settling in Harlem. In fact in my book about Carlos Tapia, he used to say, 'Why do they go to New York and they don’t stay in Brooklyn?' Well, the reason that they went to New York was that in New York they had a better chance of making more money, you know, or they were professionals that came to Brooklyn and they went there to advance themselves. There was better housing in Harlem than in Brooklyn… and they wanted to establish themselves there.”
“We had no problem getting housing but not quality houses… you see there is a difference in an apartment having a toilet in the hallway and a bath in the kitchen and an apartment having a private toilet and a private bath as you had in Harlem in those days.”

See Also:

In 1973 David Gordon of The New York Times wrote about the three Brooklyn students from Medgar Evers College who were conducting the interviews funded by the  New York State Council on the Arts under the guidence of the Long Island Historical Society (which became the Brooklyn Historical Society, and then in 2020 joined the Brooklyn Public Library and became the Center for Brooklyn History).  He also profiled the life of Ramon Colon.


Apr. 30, 1973

Item Relations

This Item is related to Item: Song Celebrating the SS Carolina
This Item is related to Item: Porto Rican Stowaways: 1911
This Item is related to Item: Jesus Colon: Stowaway. 1917
Item: Atlantic Basin: Where Puerto Ricans Landed in NY, 1906 to 1928 is related to This Item
Item: Brooklyn Waterfront: Berths or Boondoggle? is related to This Item


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