Hispanic Voices Series: Cynthia Espinosa Marrero, Puerto Rico

It is Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States and to celebrate our Latina sisters, we’ve interviewed a handful of participants for our Hispanic Voices Series to provide a platform to share while we learn a bit more about their background, family life and well… heritage.  

Welcome, Cynthia Espinosa Marrero from Holyoke, Massachusetts! 

What is your heritage/background? Puerto Rican

Do you speak your families native language? Yes, I speak Spanish

When did your family immigrate to the United States? My grandparents have been migrating to the US since the 60’s, but our immediate family moved back to the US from Puerto Rico in 2004. 

Do you still have family in Puerto Rico? Yes! many cousins, aunts, uncles and friends who are like family.

The first generation that immigrated to the US in your family, are they still living? Yes, one grandparent from each side

Did that generation openly discuss their reasons for coming here or dreams, aspirations etc? From my father’s side, my grandfather was an agricultural worker and saw more opportunities on the East Coast for his family. On my mother’s side, living on the East Coast as well was in some ways home. 

Storytelling the fabric of many ethnic cultures.  Do you have stories that you have been told or tell that you cherish?  My current career field is in Environmental Science, focusing on agriculture and food systems. I learned that our family was involved in agriculture back in the 60’s and 70’s and I thought it was incredible that after years of struggling at school about what I truly want to do, I ended up on the same field as my grandfather. Food is a big thing in our family, from sharing recipes, to cooking together or growing our food, food is the center of it all! Even with the harsh winter we get here in Massachusetts, we manage to still have a “palito de aguacate o cilantro” inside or some other food/plants growing inside to keep the warmth feelings and visuals of nature, food and our culture. 

Do you have any family heirlooms, recipes etc that you pass down through your family? So many! The biggest ones are sofrito, all homemade in the summer and coquito during the winter time!

What language was spoken in your home growing up? both English and Spanish. 

Did you find it difficult growing up here with parents who were not from here? I have the privilege that my parents did spend their childhood in the US, so I was able to learn their stories, but it was a challenge as they grew up in a different state from where we are now. 

Growing up, did you participate in any coming of age rituals? El party de los Quince of course! 

Do you have any children?  What do you hope to teach them?  As a mother of a 3 month old, I do hope to pass on some heritage traditions from both my culture/experience as a Puerto Rican mom, but also as my child being also half Cuban!

What is your take on the current administration and the outlook on immigration? Its extremely sad, discouraging and also just plain f*cked up. I’m very emotional in general, and it has been difficult to keep up with the news and to find hope. I usually follow more about raids in farm lands and how to support the farmers to get their rights. An amazing example of this work is Migrant Justice, Justicia Migrante. I have the US citizenship because my parents were given that in Puerto Rico, as part of the Jones Act, but Puerto Ricans are suffering, this was given to us with a big price to pay. It is a privilege to have this citizenship and you best believe I am and will do my best to advocate for those who are being attacked by this current cruel administration. 

Are there any organizations that you work with or donate money or time to that you would like to mention? Here are some organizations that I currently follow/donate to when I can!  Migrant Justice, Justicia Migrante, Soul Fire Farm, and Nuestras Raices .

Do you identify specifically to your heritage only or do you identify as part of a Hispanic community and culture overall?  I identify with the Latinx community and culture, but mostly with the traditions and stories of Puerto Rico. 

What worries you about Hispanic culture? I worry about the erasing of the African roots that are within the Latinx culture. I worry about the stress, health(physical, emotional and mental) disparities that are available for our culture.

What are you most proud of? I am proud of the determination, hard work, “Si Se Puede” attitude and family togetherness that makes us who we are!

What makes you laugh/happy? Everything about my culture. As a new mom, I’m just very happy to teach the new generation about our culture, traditions and stories to then see it go into the future. 

First Hispanic woman that pops into your mind…

Author: Isabel Allende

Singer: La India

Musician: Amara la Negra

Athlete: Monica Puig

Poet: Elizabeth Acevedo

Actress: Tatyana Ali

Activist: Dolores Huerta

Teacher: So many, that I cannot remember their names well, but I’m picturing them right now.

Mother: my mom Minerva

Sister: my sister, Stephanie

Dancer: Jennifer Lopez, when she started!

Scientist: Stephanie Castillo

Doctor: Jane L Delgado

Comedienne:Melissa Villaseñor 

Social Media Influencer: Cardi B

Model:  Yaya Da Costa

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