Eugene "Gene" Rivera

Oberlin College Library
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Index
00:01:11 - Music as integral to Gene's Childhood

Play segment

Partial Transcript: It's difficult to say, "the first time" because there was alway music at our house. Records, because we had no radio and no television programing that was in Spanish. However, I can tell you an interesting story...

Segment Synopsis: Mr. Rivera narrates the time when his dad had just found an apartment, amongst such difficult times to find a home as a Puerto Rican family due to discrimination. Rivera goes on to discuss how he attended many music performances in Lorain since the city was in a central spot in relation to Chicago and New York which are two hot spots for music and latin jazz.The Rivera's family downstairs neighbor, knew a Trio musician, Johnny Rodriguez who stayed at their apartment after a gig in Chicago. Due to this connection, the Rivera family who were performing a Baptism in Lorain. Johnny Rodriguez got to perform trio music for the baptism after party. This was the first time Mr. Riviera saw a reel to reel tape recorder which was integral to the performance. Later on in this section, Mr. Rivera talks about the complexities of the parrandas. He mentions how there had to be some cultural negotiation between the Puerto Rican community in Lorain and other communities that may have been unfamiliar with these musical celebrations.

Keywords: Chicago; Gig; Guitars; Housing; Interstate; Maracas; Music; New York; Puerto Rico; Radio; Record Player; Recordings; Reel to Reel Tape; Tape Recorder; Trio

Subjects: Albums; Baptism Party; Clubs; Cuba; Johnny Rodriguez; Latin Jazz; Lorain Housing; Mambo Kings; Puerto Rico; Records; Tito Rodriguez; Trio Music

00:19:15 - El Gran Combo in Lorain: A Memorable Experience

Play segment

Partial Transcript: By now it is 1964 and I am already a teenager, maybe a junior in High School. They had announced that they were bringing El Gran Combo to the Puerto Rican Home. Now, as you know El Gran Combo is a huge institution in Puerto Rico and plays around the world. At that time they were starting.

Segment Synopsis: Cortijo y su Combo was a musical group that represented the beginnings of salsa and brought Afro-Puerto Rican influences from the genres bomba and plena to latin jazz. Cortijo and his group were the first Afro Puerto Ricans to appear on TV. When this group broke up, El Gran Combo emerged. Mr Rivera, has experienced many performances but around the year 1964 during his junior year of high school, he was impacted by the visit of El Gran Combo at the Puerto Rican Home in Lorain.

Keywords: 500 años; Afro-Puerto Rican; Boogalu; Cortijo y su Combo; Dance; Humor; La Taverna India; Mario Hernandez; Political Songs; Salsa; Suit; Television; Vietnam

Subjects: El Gran Combo; Performance; Puerto Rican Home

00:34:16 - A Friendly Performer: Yomo Toro

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Yomo Toro, cuatrista, he would just talk to you. He would sit down and talk like a jibarito from the mountains. Very humble, nice, talking about jokes. He reminded me of my uncle.

Segment Synopsis: Mr Rivera recalls his experience meeting the artist Yomo Toro. Toro was an amazing cuatro player that reminded Mr. Rivera about his family and the jibarito personality.

Keywords: Cuatro; Humble; Jibarito

00:37:43 - The Founding of The Puerto Rican Home

Play segment

Partial Transcript: The Puerto Rican Home was a project of the entire community. We call ourselves La Colonia. I say we because I was part of it as a child and as a teenager but my parents where the adults, the beginners that put together the Puerto Rican Home.

Segment Synopsis: The older generation of La Colonia used to have a lot of dances that would be shut down before midnight. In search of a venue and place where the community could get together to celebrate their music, they found a bowling alley which then became The Puerto Rican Home and center for music and the latino community in Lorain.

Keywords: Codes; Police; Stock

Subjects: Dances; Puerto Rican Home

00:42:06 - La Liga Puertorriqueña

Play segment

Partial Transcript: La Liga Puertorriqueña was formed to meet the socio political needs of the Puerto Rican community. They were accussed of having communist connections, an acusation that they denied.

Segment Synopsis: The Puerto Rican Home became the center for smaller organizations such as La Liga Puertorriqueña who was accused of being communist during Senator McCarthy's time. After these accusations the organization had to deal with these pressures and look for legal help to certify that they were not enforcing communist ideas during these meetings.

Keywords: Accusations; Communism; Meetings

Subjects: Civil Rights; Communism

00:45:49 - Inauguration of the Puerto Rican Home

Play segment

Partial Transcript: That is how it emerged and in 1956 it was it inaugurated. According to the new paper there was a congressman, a county commissioner, the mayor...

Segment Synopsis: After all of the communist accusations that La Liga Puertorriqueña and other smaller organizations faced during this time, The Puerto Rican Home was inaugurated under the promise and that there would be no communist involved in this new organization. This inauguration marked the beginning of what would become a politically and community involved organization for latinos in Lorain. As we learned earlier in the interview, this bowling alley was radically transformed to meet the needs of the community. These needs varied from meetings to concerts to regional domino tournaments to softball events. In terms of the dances, these attract people from Youngstown, Buffalo, Detroit and Chicago.

Keywords: Boogalu; Bowling Alley; Communist; Concerts; Congressman; County Commissioner; Dominoes; El Gran Combo; Lares Carpenters; Mayor; Meetings; Softball

Subjects: Community Events; Inauguration

00:55:06 - Police Brutality

Play segment

Partial Transcript: We had sadder events. Sadder because it was the first time that the police killed a Puerto Rican from our community.

Segment Synopsis: Amongst the dances, there were brutal incidents that would then be commemorated at the Puerto Rican Home. Mr. Rivera narrates different occasions in which the police got involved with the Puerto Rican community and it ended in death and legal issues.

Keywords: Funeral; Handcuffs; Police

Subjects: Police Brutality

00:58:37 - Meetings at The Puerto Rican Home

Play segment

Partial Transcript: In the smaller homes there were meetings such as Las Damas, The Women's Club met there. Other meetings like political meetings, "meet the candidate" type of thing. Whatever issue you wanted to be aware you could go there for free.

Segment Synopsis: The Puerto Rican Home hosted many meetings. Mr. Rivera recalls one of his favorite moments at The Puerto Rican Home. He recalls being on his bicycle and knowing that Nelson Rockefeller was at an event there when he was running for President as well as the baseball player, Jackie Robinson.

Keywords: Bicycle; Governors; Meetings; Rockefeller; Vine Ave

Subjects: Meetings; Nelson Rockefeller

01:01:35 - Johnson and Johnson Foundation Meetings

Play segment

Partial Transcript: It became the center of the midwest. I was in a meeting in the midwest, years later, of a group of people who met at the Johnson and Johnson Foundation wingspan living in Wisconsin. That foundation had conversations that would take on differnet issues in the United States.

Segment Synopsis: Due to the political involvement that Mr. Rivera took part in The Puerto Rican Home, he participated in meetings hosted by the Johnson and Johnson Foundation. During one of the meetings that took place in Wisconsin, a man from Chicago stopped Mr. Rivera once he knew that he was from Lorain. This man remembers traveling to Lorain as a child where his father would participate in cock fights. This is an example of how central Lorain city became for the latino community all around the midwest.

Keywords: Center; Chicago; Midwest

Subjects: Cock fights; Johnson and Johnson Foundation; The Puerto Rican Home

01:06:49 - Years in Kent State: A Visit to The Puerto Rican Home

Play segment

Partial Transcript: The college thing is that I did go there (The Puerto Rican Home) on another occasion and I took a couple of students.

Segment Synopsis: Mr. Rivera decides to bring some of his peers from Kent state to have a beer at The Puerto Rican Home, but he did not have a lot of money at the time. Skeptical of this visit, a leader and friend of the family who worked there called him over. In this small conversation he asked what this visit was about and gave him a life lesson.

Keywords: Drinks; Leader; Life Lesson

Subjects: Kent State; The Puerto Rican Home

01:09:18 - Political Power: Elections at The Puerto Rican Home

Play segment

Partial Transcript: This guy, Lule Medina, who was the president of the Puerto Rican Home at this time

Segment Synopsis: Lule Medina, who was president of The Puerto Rican Home at the time, took the task of counting the votes that had gotten him elected. Medina compared them to the amount of votes that had gotten the councilman Elected and noticed that he had gotten a greater number of votes on behalf of the Puerto Rican community. This was a revelatory and empowering moment for the Puerto Rican community because they realize the great say that they had in their community. By 1962, Lorain had elected Evelio Rosario as their first Puerto Rican councilman.

Keywords: Councilman; Democrat; Major; Republican; Threat; Votes

Subjects: Evelio Rosario; Lule Medina; Mayor

01:13:59 - Music and Political Movements

Play segment

Partial Transcript: There was always music. In 1959 we brought Mon Rivera to The Puerto Rican Home.

Segment Synopsis: In 1959, Mon Rivera visited Lorain and brought plena to the community. Rivera talks about plena and how this genre is rooted in narratives that talk about the diaspora and events that may have affected people from Puerto Rico. These songs include "Me dieron Lay off" which Mon Rivera performed. This song represents the common misfortune of Puerto Ricans being laid off from work and what this impacts their life economically (a story that we unfortunately often encounter).

Subjects: Mon Rivera

01:16:52 - Protests and Music

Play segment

Partial Transcript: What happened though, in the 60's. I was college age and the civil rights movement was happening. The Puerto Rican Home, for example, sponsored a bus for the NAACP organization to take people to the protests. The I have a dream protests.

Segment Synopsis: The Puerto Rican Home and the NAACP had arranged buses for the latino community to Travel to New York and participate in the "I Have a Dream'' protests. Mr. Rivera's Parents were able to go and participate in the civil rights movement. Mr Rivera then connects this narrative to the 2nd generation of Puerto Ricans and Lorain and their musical taste. During this time, motown, soul, jazz, and rock and roll attracted the young community. Songs of Protests included "We Shall Overcome" and "I'm Black and I'm Proud." This is also the time where the musical group Los Nombres was formed, a group that was influenced by these genres and movements

Keywords: Influence; Jazz; Motown; New York; Protest; Soul

Subjects: Civil Rights Movement; I Have a Dream; Los Nombres; NAACP; The Puerto Rican Home

01:23:23 - The First Generation and The Civil Rights Movement

Play segment

Partial Transcript: The language got on the way but hundred percent, all of them were on the side of the more progressive thinkers and the civil rights. They have had terrible experiences.

Segment Synopsis: Mr Rivera recalls stories involving racial discrimination against dark skinned Puerto Ricans upon their arrival in Lorain. He then connects these stories to many songs that spoke about these issues as they related to the community. The use of humor served as a coping mechanism in these songs as they narrate racial narrative that often deal with discrimination and the effects of it. Mr. Rivera also discusses how the first generation was often silent due to fear and how they were thought to fear protest with the use of propaganda.

Keywords: Bobby Capo; Cortijo; Fear; Humor; Progressive

Subjects: 500 Años; Civil Rights; Levanta Borinken; Pedro Albizu Campos; Racial Songs

01:32:06 - Afro Puerto Rican Music: Embracing Blackness

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Rafael Cepeda, he at that time was writing music for Cortijo y su combo. You had Bobby Capo, but Rafael Cepeda should be credited. He was a musician and writer from Loiza Aldea in Puerto Rico.

Segment Synopsis: This section focuses on Rafael Cepeda, an Afro-Puerto Rican composer who performed bomba and plena. Cepeda focused on blackness and embracing his identity and race through music.

Keywords: Blackness; Poet; Race

Subjects: Bomberos; Juan Boria; Rafael Cepeda

01:34:14 - A Confrontational Generation: Musical Fusion

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Our generation was more confrontational. You had the Young Lords that sprung up when we go to the 60's and the 70's in New York. You had the music. There began to be a fusion in music.

Segment Synopsis: Songs such as "Sabre Olvidar" by the band TNT, represent the beginning of musical fusion. This salsa song had a soulful piano solo which then was rare but spoke to the interest and experience of the second generation. This section also touches on songs that spoke to his generation during that time.

Keywords: Bilingual; Cleveland; Soul

Subjects: Musical Fusion

01:37:33 - Kent State Protest

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I was one of the students that was in the protest where the National Guard killed four students at Kent State University.

Segment Synopsis: Mr. Rivera was part of the protest where the Kent State Massacre took place. 300 yards away from the National Guard, gunshots were heard and seconds later student protesters cried. Four students had just been killed while peacefully protesting at their university. One of these students was a man from Lorain who was running from a class to the other when the bullets were released. Mr. Rivera then talks about the song "Ohio" by Neil Young and how it validates the feelings of being angry and what it meant to be a political activist.

Keywords: Gunshots; National News; Radio Bemba; Teargas

Subjects: Kent State Protest; Massacre; Students

01:43:52 - Salsa, Race, and Pride.

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I think that the whole salsa songs. Again, they tuned up the volume on the issues but they continued the tradition of being very "lets not speak to loud here, about these issues."

Segment Synopsis: Mr Rivera talks about salsa during the 70's and how it was not explicit and vocal about rights and social justice. An artist that pushed these boundaries was Eddie Palmieri with his album "Justicia", as well as The Lebron Brothers who talk about blackness. During this time, Mr. Rivera was living in Puerto Rico and realized that there was a negative perception towards Puerto Ricans and how music served as a reminder of his value and pride.

Keywords: Radio

Subjects: Eddie Palmieri; Puerto Rico; Salsa

01:47:51 - Trio Music

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Trio music and Felipe Rodriguez... The words to the songs talked about love but they exaggerated it so much that they were just incredibly funny.

Segment Synopsis: Mr. Rivera focused on trio music and how the lyrics often exaggerated romantic feelings to the extent that they became funny. He provides the example, "Copas Rotas" a trio song that he heard at the barber shop and is a great example of this type of writing. As a young man who did not hear or realize the sarcasm of these lyrics, Mr. Rivera understood that falling in love was a torture.

Keywords: Barber; Jukebox; Love

Subjects: Trio Music

01:52:37 - The Barber Shop: La Fortuna

Play segment

Partial Transcript: We would go to the barber shop and of course there was only one Puerto Rican barbershop. La Fortuna, he called it.

Segment Synopsis: Due to segregation, Puerto Ricans had no other choice but to get a haircut at Luis' barber shop called La Fortuna. The name of this barbershop, "The Fortune '' meant that Luis had the advantage of being the only Puerto Rican barber. Luis had a lot of records that people would listen to in a jukebox. Every once in a while some romantic trio songs such as "Amor en el campo" would start playing and people would immediately label that request as a sign of being in love.

Keywords: Jukebox; Segregation; Trio Music

Subjects: Barber Shop

01:54:17 - Musical Division Among the Community

Play segment

Partial Transcript: There was somewhat of a division among the community in terms of music. This is due to the selection of the first Puerto Ricans to go to Lorain. They were selected to work at the steel mill.

Segment Synopsis: The recruitment of Puerto Ricans to work at the steel mill was not a simple narrative. This was a highly selective process due to the political turmoil that was going on in the coastal areas of Puerto Rico in the late 20's and 30's. These events included strikes on the sugar cane fields. Because of these political situations, they decided to recruit men from the center of the Island. Now, this is an important factor since it will have an impact in the type of music that travelled to Lorain. Music from the internal part of the island was very different from coastal music which is where enslaved peoples disembarked during the 15th c. This affected the taste and the musical divide between the first and second generation of Puerto Ricans in Lorain.

Keywords: Cayey; Coast; Diaspora; El Gran Combo; Pete Rodriguez; Ponce; Salsa

Subjects: Genres; Mon Rivera; Recruitment

02:01:38 - Radio Program

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I had a radio program on Sunday mornings in WEOL from 9:00-11:00 in the morning.

Segment Synopsis: Mr. Rivera found himself going back to the music that his parents enjoyed during his radio segment at WEOL. In a way this was a nostalgic sentiment that brought a sense of identity.

Keywords: Trio; WEOL

Subjects: Radio Program

02:04:32 - Mr Rivera's Advice

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I think you have to be open minded.

Segment Synopsis: Mr. Rivera encourages musicians to be open to fusion and change. He talks about the importance of being able to go back to the old music while embracing the future.

Subjects: An Advice