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Title Transcript of interview of Raul Morales of Hoboken; for El Centro Puerto Rican History Project, 2010.
Object Name Transcript
Catalog Number 2010.019.0001.07
Collection Puerto Ricans & the Catholic Church in Hoboken, NJ 1945-1975
Credit Museum Collections.
Scope & Content Transcript of oral history interview of Raul Morales of Hoboken; for El Centro Puerto Rican History Project, Jan. 8, 2010. Transcription on file: print copy; word document (doc & rtf); PDF. Text is in notes.

Date: January 8, 2010
Single cassette tape; dubbed to digital file: WMA & WAV formats.
Interviewer: Christina Ziegler-McPherson
Interviewee: Raul Morales, 1302 Washington St., Hoboken, N.J.
Place: 1302 Washington St., Hoboken, N.J.
Transcription made by Christina Ziegler-McPherson, 2010

Project: Role of the Roman Catholic Church in the Development of the Puerto Rican Community in Hoboken 1945-1975.

Notes archives catalog 2010.019.0001.07

Centro oral history interview protocol
Raul Morales, January 8, 2010
Interviewer: Christina Ziegler-McPherson
Interviewee: Raul Morales, 1302 Washington St., Hoboken, N.J.
Place: 1302 Washington St., Hoboken, N.J.
Transcription made by Christina Ziegler-McPherson, 2010.

Consent: do you give your consent to record this interview for the purpose of preserving the history of the Puerto Rican community in Hoboken?
Morales: I do.

Where we you born?
Morales: I was born in Puerto Rico.

Where in Puerto Rico?
Morales: Corozal, Puerto Rico, in 1-18-1949.

How old were you when your family moved to Hoboken?
Morales: I came to Hoboken when I was 18 years old [1967]. After my parents, my father was a father at the time, he in those years, he didn't want me to go into the Army, because my brother was already in the Army. And I was ready to go to college but he decided to send me to my brother here so I can be rejected from the Army and then go back to college in Puerto Rico. And that didn't happen because by the time they called me and rejected me here I was already working in a factory, like all immigrants do here, and I decided not to go back. And after 42 years, still here.

So, was your brother the first person in your family to come to the New York area?
Morales: My brother was the first one who came to actually to Hoboken, New Jersey, and my, besides my other brother, who was in the Army, he was in Germany at the time, or Vietnam, I think, yes. So my brother was the first one here.

So where did you live when you first came to Hoboken, what street?
Morales: Believe it or not, I used to live with my brother in the projects in Hoboken, actually 560 Marshall Drive, in the Sixties, that's when the project was really, it was not like now, you know, the project was working families and very safe, very good to live in there. Anyone that lived in the project in those days, they were living in very good housing in a very nice area in Hoboken.

How long did you live there with your brother?
Morales: I lived there with my brother until he bought a house in Jersey City, and after he bought the house, we moved to Jersey City. And then after a couple of years of living with my brother, I went and lived on my own, actually I moved into a furnished room in Hoboken on Garden Street. It was tough times, it was very hard for me to adjust to the United States, because I came here when I was already a grown man. So, it was hard for me, I didn't know the language, it was not, where I worked was not that many, there were no Hispanics there, there were only three, three people, my brother and another person was there and myself. Where they put me, where I was working it was nobody Spanish, so it was very hard for me. I used to go to the bathroom, I remember, and cry. And there was a guy there, Italian, his name is Sapio, Antonio, he's still my friend today, and he, between his Italian and my Spanish, we managed to understand, and actually, was one of the reasons that I stayed here, because honestly, in those days, if I would have had the money to go back, I would have gone back with no questions asked. So, but it happened and I'm still here.

What kind of factory work was this?
Morales: I was working, it was a factory in 9th and Madison Street, the name West Virginia Pulp and Paper, it was boxes, and I used to work in the finishing department, Sal [?] used to work in the shipping department, and actually I was working, making a little money, at the same time trying to learn the language. Even though I went to high school in Puerto Rico and I knew the language, but holding a conversation was very difficult for me. I knew what you call the perfect Spanish and it was very difficult. And here in those days, there was a lot of discrimination in those days, you know, people were being abused. I remember, the guys there that used to abuse or take advantage of somebody who didn't know the language. And it was hard for me and I think that's one of the reasons why I put up a fight and I decided I wanted to be somebody in this country. That I wanted to work and I wanted to do something. I can't complain, I think I've accomplished a lot in this country, thank God for that. I found a beautiful woman, who I marry in 1972 and we're still together, we have two beautiful children, my son is an attorney, my daughter works in the City of Hoboken in the senior program, I have a grand daughter and am a very happy man.

Did you ever actually go to college like you had wanted?
Morales: When I came here there was a program in Demarest School to learn English. And now again, when I came here, it was like every other people that came here from Puerto Rico in those days, and I want to emphasize something. The people that immigrated to the United States in the Fifties and the early Sixties, 99 percent of those people were people from the farm, from the countryside, people that didn't have much education, they just came here to look for work, factories and work in the farms and make a little money, because there was no money. And that's why we was so much struggling for us, a lot of people that came here, they got very confused. Here, they got the program, the welfare program, so they were getting this little money monthly and they decide, 'I don't have to work, I make a little money.' But a big percentage of us decided we needed to work, that we needed to accomplish something. And now, that we're in the second and third, fourth generation, you see a lot of Puerto Ricans that are educated, that are doctors, lawyers, teachers, and everything else. People that, were in Puerto Rico that went to school, they have no reason to come here, because Puerto Rico is part of the United States, so at those time, everybody wanted to be in Puerto Rico because one of the things the United States did when they took over Puerto Rico, they emphasized education a lot, and they started building schools all over the place, there were no teachers. So I know in living over here, people that finished high school, they used to teach, they were teachers. So, that's why they didn't have to come here, the doctors, the lawyers, the teachers, they stayed there, there was no reason for them to come here. But the people that came here were just the less fortunate, there was nothing for them there except to work in the countryside, which was very difficult to make the living. So that's when I came, I decided to myself that I wanted to accomplish something. And I have, I can't complain, I work, I work in this factory, and after we got married, my wife and I got married, my wife was going to college, I didn't want her to quit school because I've always been pro-education, I worked three jobs, three jobs, my wife finished school, she got her Master's degree, she became a teacher in Hoboken, she's been in the school system for over 30-something years, right now she's a vice principal, but in those days, it was really hard. So when I was working three jobs it was very difficult for me, I needed to get something that was secure, so what I did was, I had the job at the factory, and I look for a part-time job and that's how I came to Applied Housing when Applied Housing started here in early 1973, 1972, '73. When I came, at that time my wife was pregnant, I look for a part-time job, I was a superintendent, a part-time superintendent, cleaning the building, taking out the garbage, doing extermination once a month. I was fortunate enough that I got a job, and that at least that covered my rent, it was very helpful for us. After that, I got laid off, because they eliminated, actually, I had a promotion in my work at the factory, I became a foreman, they called them foremen, the head of the department, they put me on the third shift, which was from 11 pm to 7 o'clock in the morning. When they eliminated that shift, since I was the, I guess the youngest foreman at the time, they lay me off. So that was in 1974. I went to the unemployment line, that was the only time that I've been in the employment line. I remember I did three lines, one to give my name, and then I had to make another line to make an appointment to go back. So anyway, I left, think was there 7:30, I came back around 10 o'clock in the morning to the house, so I went to the basement to take out the garbage and I was very depressed, very stressed out, because, what am I going to do? So, I went to the office, which used to be in 59 13th Street and I met Walter Barry, who is 97 years old now, and I met Walter Barry, and he used to not see me, because I was working. He saw me in the morning and he said, 'what's the matter with you, you're not working?' I says, 'no I got laid off on Friday.' And he said to me, 'you want to work for us?' I says, 'yes.' And he says, 'you're hired.' And that was my interview with Applied Housing. And after 37 years with this company I went from part time superintendent, I went to every position you can think of with this company, and today I'm the senior vice president of the company. Long way, yeah?

So when you started with Applied Housing, where did your family live in town?
Morales: Where did we used to live? We used to live in 1217 Washington, that's when I move in as a part-time superintendent. I used to live in 11th Street, in I think it was 152 11th Street, which was right by Park Avenue and 11th Street, and the reason I was living there, I used to live, when I marry I live in North Bergen, no, actually, Union City, 45th and Kennedy Boulevard, and I lived there for about a year. But I wanted to be a police officer, so I passed the test, because I was looking for something secure for me, so I passed the test but when I came to the interview they have, I had to live in Hoboken, otherwise, they wouldn't give me the job. So that's why I moved to 11th Street, and then that never happened, because that was the time of the riots in Hoboken and my mom, I couldn't do that to my mom. My mom was very, I was the youngest boy, and she didn't want me to be a police officer, she thought that police officers in the United States, it's like you're going to get killed tomorrow. So she didn't, she didn't want anyone, I mean, it was hard enough for her to be in Puerto Rico and over the phone and don't know anything about me to know that I'm going to become a police officer with a gun. That was very frustrating for her. That's when I looked for the part-time and I got into Applied Housing. Then we moved to 1217 Washington, and I was the superintendent there, cleaning the building, taking out the garbage, doing all this duties that were necessary for us to survive, I guess. And then I work as maintenance here, after maintenance, I was in charge of part-time superintendents, then supervisor of maintenance, then I became the chief maintenance, then area manager, then executive manager, then vice president, and today, is senior vice president. Not because I'm the oldest (laugh), it's just the title.

I'm wondering how it was that Applied Housing became so important to the Puerto Rican community in Hoboken.
Morales: It became very important because when Applied came into Hoboken, Hoboken had a big population of Latinos, not necessarily Puerto Ricans, but Cubans, there were Mexicans, there were South Americans, but the majority of the Latinos in Hoboken were Puerto Ricans. It was to the point that in those days that when they did the population of Hoboken, it was about 55 to 60 percent was Latinos. So that's when Applied Housing came, they started renovating all these buildings and even though that the rent in those days, even though it was very cheap rent, everybody used to find the rent very expensive. Latinos thought they couldn't live there, they couldn't live there. And I remember I used to be the one who used to go and actually ask people to come and put their name on the waiting list to get an application. I was doing that, I used to go ask people to come. 'Oh no, we can't live there, because that's for the white people.' I says, 'no, no, this is subsidized and anybody that, you're going to pay a percentage of your income and that's going to be your rent.' And I remember that the market rent for a 2-bedroom, 3-bedroom, $241, $275. I didn't find that expensive. So, then Applied Housing showed up, Applied Housing in the beginning, since I was here and Latino, it's like, if they have an Italian in charge of something, all the Italians say, 'OK, because he's Italian, let me go there, I know he's going to help me,' blah, blah, that's how I became pretty known by everybody back then. People used to come to me and I used to help, I helped a lot of people. You can ask George Guzman about that. And then I became through Applied Housing, when I became a manager and I got involved with the community, I started doing community stuff. I was the second Latino on the Board of Education in the Eighties, I was there for about six years. I was, I coached kids, the Little Leagues, I was the Housing Authority Commissioner for a little while. You know, I've been involved with the Puerto Rican community, I was always involved with this group that we have, now it's the Puerto Rican Cultural Committee. Before it used to be the, it was a whole bunch of Puerto Rican organizations that they had here, not all of them were well done, they were just something to do, parties, do this, do that. My organization is a little different, my organization, we give scholarships to kids, we do the flag raising in City Hall for one week, we do a luncheon for the seniors, with Latino, it's no longer Puerto Rican, specifically Puerto Rican thing, I see it as a more Latino thing. Because we don't have that many Hispanics anymore in Hoboken. So we do it as a Latino thing. I just gave the first Christmas party for the seniors, I did it at the Elks Club this December past, and it was all Latinos and I was just great. Because I feel, I feel, I'm Puerto Rican in Puerto Rico, the Cubans are Cubans in Cuba, and so on, so on. When we all come here, we are all Latinos. And we all should be together. But that's something that never happens, never is going to happen. And that's why, I mean, I can say that, when Hoboken had 55 to 60 percent Latinos, we didn't have nothing in City Hall, we don't have no representation in City Hall, we didn't have no representation in the Board of Education in the Sixties. When everything started declining, because when Applied Housing came here, we started renovating a lot of buildings, one of the things people were saying on the street was that we were chasing the Latinos out. Applied Housing never chased anybody out. The people that went out, they took money and they just went away. They don't want to, because we always had the option of coming back, you know? But those people, they just took and (wiping hands) they go. So when the gentrification changes came into Hoboken, the people that lived in Hoboken were the poor people, whether you're Italian, Irish, Puerto Rican, whatever nationality you are, if you were very poor, it was very hard to live in Hoboken right now. You understand. But it's not that we're chasing any specific group out. We always try to, we always try to blame everybody else for our fault, you know, escape, escape. So they use Applied as that. But Applied Housing helps so many people, and I don't say just Puerto Ricans, in general, we have helped so many people here in Applied.

Why do you think the Puerto Rican community or the Hispanic population was so divided in that period that you're talking about?
Morales: One thing is, everybody wants to be the boss. See the Puerto Ricans were the first group here, we were the first group here, so we think we should be the face. The Dominicans, same thing, you have a group of Dominicans, they do things for the Dominican group. The only group that do things with everybody is our group, my group, because I emphasize that to everybody here, I have, members of my groups are, I have Cubans, I have everything, I said, the festival, I don't call it the Puerto Rican Festival anymore. I call it the International Puerto Rican Day, you know, international. The Cuban wants to be in charge, so because of that, all their egos in them, for those in politics, that's why they can never get together. One particular person that I helped from the beginning was Bob Menendez [U.S. Senator D-NJ]. Bob came to me when he was a mayor in Union City. When he was running for Assembly, I was the one who took him around Hoboken. And Bob blended with all the Latinos, he knew how to do that, he knew how blend with all the Latinos, and that's why Bob is where he is, you know. But you don't find too many of those, everybody accepted him, you know, the Puerto Ricans accepted him, the Cuban, actually, because he's Cuban, the Dominican, everybody accepted Bob, you know, as a leader. But you don't find that, it's like you find, how they call that, a needle in a nest, it's hard to do that. So he was fortunate to get that.

I'm curious also about were many Puerto Ricans able to live in the housing projects initially or there wasn't space for them?
Morales: In Applied?

No, originally, in the public housing projects.
Morales: Down there? There it was mixed. It was more white than Latinos than blacks, I think the population in those days was 60-20-60-20, no, 60-30-20, no, something like that, 60-30-10, it was more white, less Latino but Latinos were more than the black, you know.

And that was when, in the Sixties?
Morales: That was in the Sixties.

Was there just enough space for people who wanted to live in public housing and that's one of the reason why Applied Housing became so popular or was it a matter of the quality?
Morales: I think Applied Housing, because Applied Housing was a unique, a unique system. The projects belongs, you know, to the government. Applied is private owned, Applied is not concentrated in one area, Applied has different buildings in different areas, so it's not that you have concentrated in one area all the buildings, or we would become the projects. Applied has different buildings in different areas of the city. We, we keep our buildings immaculate, I mean, we compete with condos in those days, now we're competing with new construction. But we would like different areas, it was way different than the projects and it was privately owned. So, we had the subsidy from the government, but we privately owned, we own our buildings. So maybe that was different, and that's why the people in the projects feel that if they live in Applied Housing they live in a better place, it probably is, because they live in different areas of the city, you know? But it's not that everything is the same. It's like you live in Hoboken but we're mixed up with everybody else. In the project, it's in one location.

I wanted to ask you a couple of church questions. Did your family attend church when you were growing up?
Morales: When I was in Puerto Rico, I was in church, I was Christian, and I was born and raised in church.

Was this Catholic Church?
Morales: No Catholic Church, what is it called? It's not Presbyterian, it's, yes, something like Presbyterian, something like that. Because when I came to Hoboken I used to go to the Presbyterian church in 9th Street. Now it's condos. So, actually I was in church in Puerto Rico, many, many, all the years I was very involved, I was president of the youth in there, we used to debate with all the churches. But when I came to this country, everything changed a little bit. Church in Puerto Rico, what I was used to in Puerto Rico, it was so respectful, it was like, you hear the pin drop in the church. When I came here my brother took me to a church in Jersey City and I felt like there was no respect, it was like, when you're in session, people are talking and this and that, and I was a young guy, I was a young guy, I started hanging out with my cousins, and then we went, but I always have my, my belief. I believe in God, my family, we don't go to church every day. Because my father used to say, my father said, 'you don't have to be a Christian, you don't have to go to church every day to be a Christian.' So I just believe I don't do nothing to anybody bad, I don't go out of the way to hurt anybody, I try to help as many people as I can. I'm not a person that has bad habits, I don't drink, I don't smoke, I'm just a family man.

Was your wife raised Roman Catholic?
Morales: My wife was raised in the Jehovah's Witness. For a little while, we had different beliefs, so I guess, we adjust to each other, and then she went to my church in Hoboken, we got married in Jersey City in the church. What was the name of that church? I know it was St. George Avenue in Jersey City, I don't remember the name of the church, Nasareno, the Nazarene, something like that.

When your children were young, did you go to church as a family?
Morales: Yes, yes, my kids, even when I got married. When we went to Puerto Rico, I visit Puerto Rico on vacation, I took my daughter to church, the pastor was my uncle at the time, he was the representative of the church at the time.

Did you go to the Presbyterian church as a family here in Hoboken?
Morales: We used to go to 9th Street but they moved the church, there were some problems with the pastors there, so I start declining to go to church. Thee one where I'm involved where I do things is Our Lady of Grace, I do things there with Father Tom. They do also the St. Ann's Church Feast, the St. Ann's Feast every year and I'm the one with the Latin Night in the feast for the last 15 years. I mean, I don't go there every day but I don't feel like I'm a bad person.

I'm curious about if you ever attended the Feast of St. John's in Puerto Rico or here in New York when you came to Hoboken.
Morales: No. I never did that.

Hoboken Historical Museum catalog information
7. archives catalog 2010.019.0001.07
Date: January 8, 2010
Single cassette tape; dubbed to digital file.
Interviewer: Christina Ziegler-McPherson
Interviewee: Raul Morales, 1302 Washington St., Hoboken, N.J.
Place: 1302 Washington St., Hoboken, N.J.
Transcription made by Christina Ziegler-McPherson, 2010.
People Morales, Raul
Date 2010
Year Range from 2010
Year Range to 2010
Search Terms 1302 Washington St.
Spanish American Catholic Center
227 Washington St.
El Centro
Classification Ethnic Culture
Social & Personal Activity
Domestic Life
Parades & Pageants
Cultural Activities
Courtship & Weddings