This is an interview conducted by middle school students from the Museum of the City of New York for:
Who Is New York? Collecting Stories from Recent Immigrants was a week-long academic summer program for middle school students in August 2011 at the Museum of the City of New York. New York City now has the largest number of foreign-born residents in its history. Participants explored some of the reasons why 2.9 million immigrants have come to New York and how they have shaped the city we live in. To put this in historical context, participants learned about milestones in U.S. immigration history, with emphasis on immigrants who arrived after 1965, when Congress eliminated national origin quotas that had been in place since 1924. Participants also learned about the city’s ethnic neighborhoods by taking field trips to East Harlem and Jackson Heights, and by examining maps, charts, and demographics showing where immigrant groups come from and where they settle.
With the help of oral historians, participants conducted their own research by interviewing three recent immigrants: Hatuey Ramos Fermin, Jazmin Chavez, and Ufualè (Christine) Afola Amey. Through these oral histories, students got a glimpse of the great diversity that exists among immigrants, and how people’s personal histories fit into the larger history of immigration in New York City. Finally, participants discussed how pre-migration factors and the context of reception influence one’s acclimation to a new place. We have selected audio clips from the interviews and paired them with the participants’ drawings and written work, which can be viewed on each page of the Interviews section on this website.
We hope that you enjoy our work and feel, as we do, that the oral interviews enrich our understanding of the history and dynamics of New York City’s great diversity. Special thanks to our interviewees for taking the time to share their stories and perspectives with us.
Hatuey Ramos Fermin: Biography
HatueyRamos Fermin was born in the Dominican Republic and grew up in Puerto Rico. He went to graduate school in the Netherlands to obtain his M.F.A. in photography, and came to New York in 2007 to pursue his artistic career. He is a multimedia artist and an educator at various museums and universities. Hatuey uses photography, video, installation, graphics, performance, maps and text to investigate issues related to urban space. To learn about his work, click here.
A Poem for Hatuey
by Siobhan Kiernan
‘Immigrants don’t have much to say’
Language is the price we pay
I came here peacefully no force or fight
Sleeping peacefully through the night
I have a passport just like yours
It helps me pass the gate of war
Don’t judge me by the looks you see
But deep down I’m just plain me
I spoke with John Ahearn about Refashioning Moda. He asked if he could do a cast at the location and as we visited it later, the first thing John said as he walked into the Security Guard Training School was “The floor looks just like I remember it back then at Fashion Moda.” Then, John proceeded to show Craig Howard his work, including a photo taken at Fashion Moda of him and Rigoberto Torres in the process of making a casting. Pointing to the storefront window, John said, “I was making this cast right here at that window. I would like to do a cast in that same window again.”
John asked Craig if he would like to be cast, he agreed and then proceeded to photograph him. He asked Craig, “What do you say when someone comes in for the first time to your school?” He answered, “How may I help you?” John snapped a photo of him, then another, and another, phrase after phrase, pose after pose. He showed us the photos on his digital camera screen until one was chosen.
We met on Sunday, September 13, at 1:00pm at the location. John was with his two assistants — Kevin Crocker, who works with him since 1980, and his godson Christopher Blache. They prepared the space for the casting, and displayed on the wall very close to the storefront window a bust of rapper Kay Gee of The Cold Crush Brothers as an example. There is a bus stop in front of the place and while people waited they could see John Ahearn casting Craig Howard. I had interesting conversations with passersby. The process lasted about 3 hours. If you visit On Time Security Guard Training School, you will see the finished bust there.
Puertoriqueño, Hatuey Ramos-Fermin explica la situacion politica de los puertoriqueños que aunque son ciudadanos de los Estados Unidos no pueden votar para el presidente de los Estados Unidos desde Puerto Rico, solamente pueden votar para el presidente si viven en los Estados Unidos. Como dice Hatuey “es una situacion algo estraña.”