Puerto Rico

Felix Angel Lopez - Santos


By Juan de la Cruz

Felix López-Santos's early memories of his native Puerto Rico include watching everything float away from his front porch during the big San Felipe storm of 1928. After his Barrio Ceiba was washed away, his family moved to another town, San Lorenzo, where his mother became ill.

Moving to Connecticut seven years later was difficult for López--Santos, but he adapted to the new environment fairly quickly. He attended a predominantly Anglo school and learned English in his classes, where he was the only Latino student.

Angel Antonio Velazquez


By Ernie Garrido

Before he joined the Army in World War II, Angel Antonio Velázquez taught English at a junior high school in his hometown of Yabucoa, in the southeastern part of Puerto Rico. During the war, in the Panama Canal, his students were soldiers and his lessons revolved around the safety of handling tear gas.

Whether as a military instructor or as a private in the 346th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion, 345th Search Light Battalion, Battery B, the war experience for Velázquez was about protecting American infrastructure -- both human and territorial.

Carmen Conteras Bozak


By Katie Kennon

Carmen Bozak's only memory of Dec. 7, 1941 -- the day Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese -- is of a good friend and co-worker being stranded after her date heard about the attack on the car radio. The woman's date stopped the car in the middle of nowhere and told her to get out because he had to return to his base.

A policeman picked up Bozak's friend from a rural Virginia road and drove her to a nearby Salvation Army office, where she was given a bus ticket home to Washington, D.C.

Carmen Irizarry Albelo


By Sylvia Mendoza

When Carmen Albelo sailed from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to the United States in 1939, she envisioned a land of opportunity and freedom, not war, discrimination and loneliness.

"When I came here I thought I was going to have a better life, but it wasn't like that,'' Albelo recalled.

Higinio Albelo


By Luisito Caleon

The choppy seas north of Scotland were dark.

A dense fog enveloped the Navy ship loaded with ammunition destined for Normandy, the site of the beginning of the end of World War II.

The ship, on its way to help with the liberation of France, was stuck on uncharted rocks, and Higinio Albelo remembers he and his mates thought they were facing death.

"It was a 27-man gun crew. We were supposed to take care of the guns on ship and take care of the cargo. We were in a big convoy of close to 250 ships," Albelo said.