Story Walk: "maybe"
Puerto Rican-American, 1st Generation by Emeterio "Pete" Otero
Pete Otero: Well I was born in 1947, and my dad, I, you know, he was maybe twenty-two years old when I was born, twenty-one, twenty-two years old. He was born in Ciales, Puerto Rico. Pops had a spirit about him of can do, and then when he came up here, he was always doing something, in fact he wound up getting his GED.
[speaker 2] What were you like when you were our age?
Pete Otero: You know the neighborhood I was growing up in, you know, we were probably the first Puerto Ricans in the neighborhood. So it took a little while even to get used to everybody. In fact, you know, it was in through eighth-grade in High School that I got in a little of a fight because of it, you know, it was, I was called “spic,”
[speaker 3] You said, one of the first Puerto Ricans, families, what was the neighborhood made up of?
Pete Otero: …it was pretty diverse, which really worked for me, because it was Native Americans, it was Italian neighborhood, it was Native American neighborhood, strong Polish, strong Irish, and like I said, there was only about ten Puerto Rican families in the west side that I knew.
[speaker 3] really.
Pete Otero: Yeah, yeah, so very different than what it is now.
[speaker 2] So I’ve also heard from Papi that a girl beat you up.
Pete Otero: This is true. And again, some of this stuff is blurry for me, why it happened. But it was, I was at School 73, I believe, and I was walking to school, and this girl must have been about my age, and we got into something, a little tit-tat back and forth, and she just whooped the snot out of me. Toughest person I ever had. And just whooped me up. That’s why I respect women because they can kick your ass.
[speaker 2] Could you tell us a story of when you were in the Army?
Pete Otero: Summer of 1967, Vietnam was going on…
[speaker 3] and by the way, boys, this is just a year and a half before I was born.
Pete Otero: Yeah. So I come in from a thirty-day leave, come back to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, they called a red alert, so we got on the plane, we got up, and they said “We are going to Detroit, Michigan.” The race riots were going on at that point, and the Federal government declared martial law for the city of Detroit. I go to the city and at night, the buildings are on fire. I could hear machine guns, it was a war. It really probably solidified for me my idea of social justice…
[speaker 3] Explain that…
Pete Otero: I mean, you know, Growing up in Buffalo, like I mentioned earlier, I was called “spic” and “nigger”. That’s just the way it was. And when I saw what took place in Detroit, it was just inequitable. So I quickly associated with the whole, if you listen to Martin Luther King and those kinds of things, that’s why I’m in education today, because I think education creates power, education creates a sense of equity, it also creates a sense of social justice. For me that’s important, yeah.