Interview and Portrait

JM: So, before we start, could you just say your name and how long you’ve been living in Williamsburg?

 

JC: My name’s Javier Cabrera and I’ve been living here all my life.

 

JM: Nice, OK. So, when did your parents get here?

 

JC: To be honest, I’m not sure. I know my father was probably around here in the thirties so… I’m trying to do the numbers… It’s gotta be like forty years ago.

 

JM: OK cool. Did they come from somewhere?

 

JC: Yeah, Puerto Rico. They both came from Puerto Rico, but not together. They met each other over here in a factory. That’s where my father ended up getting a job here. He served in the military and he was also studying over there. I think it was called The University of Puerto Rico. I know it was a university and it was in Puerto Rico, I just don’t know. But anyway, he came over here, he started working here, and then my moms came over here and she was working in the same factory and that’s where they met.

 

JM: Do you know what the factory was?

 

JC: It’s gone now. You see that was actually… not that long after September 11th, 2001. He was the manager. The OWNER of the factory -- I think his name was like Dick -- that’s all I remember. And I think it was on North 3rd. I was looking into that but I never found out the answer to that. I can’t even ask my mother, y’know? She’s getting older, her memory isn’t that good. And I think, kinda like me, there’s certain things we don’t want to remember and I don’t think she wants to -- she’ll put in effort to remember certain things, but I’m not gonna find out the answer I guess, unless I really put some effort into it, a lotta time, but I’m busy as is.

 

JM: Alright, well you said something about not wanting to remember, which brings us back to how we hear a lot about how Los Sures/Williamsburg entirely...

 

JC: South side.

 

JM: Yes, the south side. We hear a lot, like there’s that movie that’s out now, Los Sures

 

JC: I didn’t get to see it but I know of it.

 

JM: It’s really good but, yeah, through that, you get the impression that Los Sures was kind of a rough place. Do you agree with that? Did you feel that way when you were growing up here?

 

JC: It had its moments. Again, because first I’m not that old. I’m one of the younger people in the group.

 

JM: How old are you?

 

JC: I’m 32 and, yeah basically it was calming down -- still bad -- but calming down when I was born. Like when that movie was documented, I think it was like the 60s/70s, back then it was very chaotic for a lot of people. There was a lot of division amongst nationalities and all that stuff. Nowadays it seems we’re a fan of religion but we still have that prejudiced mentality, bigotry, all that stuff. But, it’s definitely more calm and better. But it’s not perfect. There’s still issues. It wasn’t THAT bad. There were definitely bad seeds, though, which made no sense. Maybe it was because of the things that happened, who knows, but it wasn’t THAT bad overall. Like, in comparison to a lot of other neighborhoods, I think New York City gets a really bad rap, but I don’t think it’s as bad as what a lot of people think. I think the time that movie was documented, those times, that era, was way worse. I was lucky not to have been born around then. Maybe I wouldn’t be around.

 

JM: So, when you were a teenager… I’m trying to figure out the numbers. What were the years?

JC: My teen years were… the late 90s, early 2000s.

 

JM: Now, I was wondering, when you were a kid, when you were in high school/middle school or whatever, what were some fun neighborhood spots you’d hang out at? What would kids do?

 

JC: Basically just play sports. I’m not even sure if I can say the name of one of the basketball courts over here, it’s like a couple of streets from here. I didn’t even know it was a bad word. Even going into high school, I didn’t even realize the meaning behind it. Like, I kind of knew, but at the same time I didn’t really think about it too much and I was just calling it that name, and I was like “Oh wow.” There were incidents in that neighborhood but it never really got that violent or very bad. It never escalated to the point where it became violent at least for me. Other individuals, though, I saw things happen and it was like… you can’t really intervene. Like they think you’re gonna jump them and then you just stand by. And especially if it’s someone you’re not friends with, it’s kinda like ehh. At least I’m not taking out a cell phone and recording it like some people who are just trying to get some hits on some social media website.

 

JM: You can say the name of the basketball court.

 

JC: Well, it was called… Nigger Park.

 

JM: Ah.

 

JC: That’s what it was called. I believe it’s called Berry Playground, I don’t even know. But that’s what it was called, yknow? That’s what other people were calling it. See, I didn’t come up with the name, like, that’s what other people were calling it. “Oh let’s go to Nigger Park” and we’d just go over there and I didn’t think about it too much. And then I walked by there and was like “Oh that’s what it’s called.”

 

JM: Kids are fucked up.

 

JC: (laughs) They really are. You don’t wanna know.

 

JM: So you’d play sports… Just basketball?

 

JC: Nah, originally I played baseball. The thing is, usually we’d play like at schools and stuff, at PS19, we’d play baseball. It’d be like a bunch of people playing baseball and it’d be different groups. It wouldn’t be like two teams, it’d be multiple people taking up a wall. You know, they’ll have the little square box on the bricks and that’d be there little playing spot. And there’d probably be like four or five of them. Sometimes I’d play football but I didn’t really pursue anything beyond that.

 

JM: Is there any place that you really loved, be it like a store or a restaurant or a deli or anything that was here when you were a kid that’s not here anymore? What’s the biggest loss?

 

JC: Not really because, to be honest, living the life I did, I didn’t really go out that much to go eat. It was more like saving money -- that was it. I mean, the pizzeria was to hang out, but it’s like “Do I miss it?” and it’s like “Not really,” like it doens’t really matter. As long as the people are there, we’ll just find somewhere else to go to.

 

JM: You said that you were a teenager in the late 90s/early 2000s. When did you start notcing that the neighborhood was changing, if any time,? What did that look like?

 

JC: The thing is, with me in particular, I was going through my own personal drama at that time but it wasn’t during my teen years. I was already an adult -- already in my 20s by the time I started noticing the changes, like things getting built. But it was in a slow pace, y’know? That’s the only thing. It was a slower pace. But then eventually it just went up really fast, like you’d notice the changes. We knew that buildings were getting built. We didn’t know what it was. We thought maybe it was for us or for other people. We didn’t realize. The thing is too, I just don’t understand why they didn’t move people from our buildings to those buildings, and then repair the broken buildings. Like, they could have done that. Instead they just kinda built new buildings and hiked up the price instead of like, trying to put it at the same price. I understand that it’s better, but at the same time, these buildings could have been in a better state but you didn’t bother to fix them. And then now, they’re trying to increase the price of it, and the value of it with these new buildings that are in better conditions, also because people can afford to go there and then you’re trying to just profit off the same people that you’ve been trying to screw over for so many years. I don’t understand that.

 

JM: That’s messed up. When these tall buildings started going up, these crazy condo buildings, did you notice an immediate change in the real estate? Did you notice people getting kicked out then? Or getting displaced?

 

JC: Well, that’s the thing; I was about to be displaced. I’m just lucky. And it actually interfered with my plans, because I already had to dedicate too much time to my mother because of her health conditions. It was multiple things. And then suddenly she comes out of nowhere -- you know, I was about to do some training over there in Manhattan and then I had to legit just drop it, because she comes with this letter saying “Hey, they’re trying to move us into a two bedroom apartment,” like “Wait, what?” I thought this was dealt with or whatever and she’s like “Oh yeah, it’s fine it’s fine,” then she wants me to go get documents -- she wants me to do all of this stuff, it was ridiculous. So you know, it’s just more distractions. It’s just a hassle. It really was unfair for me, because out of all the siblings, I’m the one who needed a little more assistance, I needed more push, but that was another case.

 

JM: So that was…

 

JC: That was like a couple of years ago. The thing is, I think this was going on for one or two years before that though. That conversation I just mentioned was from two years ago. They gave her this little paper, like one or two years ago, talking about “You can move into a new apartment blah blah blah,” something about a voucher I believe, and it was like… she didn’t wanna move. But then they increased the price of where we’re living, and then housing was not gonna support it anymore, like all of this stuff. It was ridiculous.

 

JM: You must have known a lot of people who took the offer, right?

 

JC: Not really.

 

JM: Not really?

 

JC: I didn’t. Obviously, definitely I know some people did because otherwise a lot of things wouldn’t have closed down. But at the same time, they’re living their life. A lot of people have their opinions about this neighborhood. They blame the people, you know, the community itself for how it is. They never try to improve it but they’ll blame us and then they just leave, thinking the problem will just go away because they don’t see it anymore. That’s a problem with a lot of people: what they don’t see cannot phase them. So it’s like, when they don’t see the problem anymore, they think it goes away, but in reality it’s still there. When it affects them, or it becomes their problem, that’s when they care. That’s really why this continues to go on.

 

JM: When you talk about “the problem,” what do you mean?

 

JC: Problems in general, like the lack of unity in the community. The fact that people are trying to go do all for themselves or maybe for their family, but it’s for THEIR family. They don’t really think of this community as a family, they just think of their own blood related relatives. They could be thugs, they could be pedophiles, they could be rapists, the list goes on. They could be bad seeds but they still defend those people and at the same time, insult others who are like that. That always got me. It just makes no sense. That’s why I’m only close to my family too, but maybe that’s the same situation as these certain individuals. Like, I stay close to just my legit family, the one’s I grew up with. Not the ones who just magically appeared as my father was dying. Like, “Who are you people?” I didn’t know who these people were, I didn’t even really want them there. They were really inconsiderate and disrespectful and they were never in my life. I don’t care that we’re blood related. To me you’re strangers. But then I found out, I had an idea about why my father wasn’t even close to them. You know, they live in the projects and I overheard some of the conversations, some of the habits that some of the kids had, some of the younger ones. Technically they were adults, kinda like around my age at the time. I was like 19 at the time. This was the early 2000s. I had kinda picked up the conversation, I had been in these neighborhoods, I know stuff, y’know, lingo and that stuff. So it’s like “Oh these two are into that. I see.” And then the little one would be like, what they were talking about, I was like “Chill.” You know? It’s the type of things you don’t want to hear. But then they get curious though. You don’t give them an answer, you know? Then they become curious and then they find out and then sometimes -- 50/50 -- they end up getting the same habits as those individuals and they end up living the same lifestyle as them. They end up making the same mistakes.

 

JM: Can you elaborate?

 

JC: Drugs, you know. In a solid, liquid, or gas form. That’s what I’m referring to. Like, abuse. These days, more people are starting to wise up, they’re starting to moderate their use. And it also depends on what it is. Some substances are a lot more strong than others and then you’re gonna have a difficult time breaking that addiction. That’s what the real problem is -- that addiction. When you start getting addicted and just forget it, that’s what you’re living for. That’s where the problem occurs. So yeah, I just try to keep my distance from them. That’s the other thing too, I was noticing the whole “Hey, can I get $5?,” Can I get $10?” I don’t want these complete strangers to come up to me and ask me for money. I already had that from these certain individuals also in the corners asking me for money. And sadly enough, being who I am, I was generous enough to give them that money. But eventually I was like “Oh” and once the money’s gone, seeing how they really treat me and what they think of me and how they kept in contact with me, which was zero. It was like “Alright, I see how it is.” I just keep my distance. I guess that’s just how it is down here. Not to say it’s not in every other neighborhood or other neighborhoods, but that’s how it was for me in the very least.

 

JC: You said you think the drug culture has died down a little bit, or decreased?

 

JM: I actually think it’s increased, but I think people wised up. They’re not abusing it as they used to. Like before, I think it was a lot stronger of an addiction. Nowadays they’re doing it with more moderation, they’re more educated. But I think it increased because I think there’s more acceptance. They’re more liberal minded individuals, they’re just more accepted to it. It’s also ignorance as well. And I don’t do drugs. That’s me though. I ain’t trying put anyone down. But that’s me, that’s my choice for my reasons. Anyway, for whatever reason, people think “This is what you gotta do when you live in the hood! You gotta smoke weed! You gotta drink 40s!” and all this stupid shit. “NO!” I just never understood a lot of these people. That’s why I never really clicked with a lot of these people. That’s why I’m always alone, cuz, you know, I already knew I was struggling: I live in this neighborhood, I’m struggling. I’m not gonna go rob people either, too. That’s the thing. I know some of these people are working hard, they’re trying to survive too. Like “Why the hell am I gonna go rob this person because they have something that I don’t?” Sometimes people rob people that they didn’t even need to. They have the same thing. They’re just envious. But it’s like, I just never understood that, where you’re living this life where you’re struggling and you know your family’s struggling, but yet you go pick up these habits. That’s gonna be financially heavy later on and you should know that just seeing the people. You just gotta see the people and then you’ll just know, like conversate with them. At least that’s what happened with me. Like, I didn’t go out and smoke five joints because I didn’t need to. And like I told you earlier, they would ask me for money. They were taking money from me. I was like “Yo that’s… damn. My freaking pockets are getting lighter because of these people,” like “I don’t even smoke” and I could just imagine if I had picked up this addiction. Like that would have been less money for me, and when I needed it to go buy something that I needed like food or whatever, then that would have been a problem.

 

JM: What was the drug of choice for the neighborhood? What was the biggest problem?

 

JC: It was marijuana. I know back then it was cocaine because I talked to people, the elderly people that passed by the neighborhood/they’re not in the neighborhood anymore.

 

JM: What school did you go to?

 

JC: I went to St. Peter and Paul’s school, which is on Berry street, a couple streets away from [Los Sures].

 

JM: That was elementary school?

JC: It was a private school. It was a Catholic private school to be more technical. It was actually across the street from that park I mentioned earlier. We’d go from there, the school, and we’d just hang out, play basketball there. Or P.S. 84 was a couple blocks away, and we’d wrestle, of all things. But at the moment, that church has been bought and purchased by an unknown source. I believe other people have more info than I do.

 

JM: There’s a church at St. Peter and Paul?

JC: Yes. It was like over a decade a go, or a decade and a half, like fifteen years. I believe the school was closed down. They didn’t use the school anymore. That was the thing. I don’t even know why they closed the school down. But I’m assuming it was probably because of business, it wasn’t because the nieghborhood got bad or got worse. I just think it was a move on them.

 

JM: Now I want to move into the future a little bit. Williamsburg, as we all know, became kind of like a “thing.” People would write articles about it and it became this kind of product.

 

JC: Yeah, I noticed. I kind of have an idea of where you’re going with this, but keep going.

 

JM: I mean, you know all of this, but it became this very hip place -- hipsters and all that.

 

JC: It’s “trending. That’s today’s word.

 

JM: Well, what’s that like? What’s it like to have your neighborhood become this crazy, hip place.

 

JC: A place that people will now want to go to, as opposed to like 20 or 40 years ago when people would want to avoid it because the gangs and all that stuff?

 

JM: Yeah.

 

JC: It’s kind of… I don’t know, maybe I’ll sound cold but it’s kind of humorous. It shows that people can change, things change. But I don’t think they’ll ever give proper credit to the people who are responsible for that.

 

JM: What do you mean?

 

JC: Well, again, a lot of people will try to blame this community, meaning the Latinos, for this neighborhood being bad. But however, they don’t wanna give us credit for being good or for being on good behavior at least. You know, being more tolerant of individuals instead of just popping off and getting into street fights for stupid things, you know? As I told you, I witnessed some fights and there were some fights that I wasn’t even around and couldn’t stop, and people have died. It’s just ridiculous. And you think of the reason all this happened, why it escalated, and it’s just like “this isn’t even worth it.” People are gonna get high, it’s always gonna happen. Their pride, their ego, whatever it may be, it’s gonna get the best of them but at the end of the day, people are just wising up, that’s what it is. Because, think about it, you’re always hearing about the gangs, and there are still gangs around here -- maybe not the same ones, but there are still gangs and they’re not to be taken lightly. But question: if this neighborhood was so terrible, don’t you think the new people who were coming here would have a lot more difficulty? Don’t you think they would have moved out by now? Moved back to there they were at because this neighborhood was so terrible? Because “those filthy Latinos were so violent”? But again, they never seem to get proper credit. I volunteer and I rarely get proper credit. They give credit to the person who fits the mold of the majority of the group, and I’ll just be there in the background. Although I kinda like it. I hate being around fakes. So it’s like “Whatever,” I don’t want these individuals to be around me. I like to maintain a low profile. At the same time, it is a bit disrespectful.

 

I have this big goal. I wanna create this unity within the soup kitchen and the food pantries, to where they can help each other out. And a couple places that do volunteer, they linked up and they’re communicating and if it’s like “Oh, you need food,” they go out and help the other one. That’s what I wanna see happen. And hopefully maybe have it expand to the northern part, you know, upstate, New York and even to go to further states. And not just with the food, with everything in general. Just be more helpful to our neighbors and to people in need. And at the same time, I’m just taking notes of the stuff I observed. Obviously there’s been an issue within these neighborhoods and in these places where people -- there’s always gonna be those people, but you shouldn’t judge all for one, you shouldn’t generalize. These certain individuals are gonna ruin it and take advantage of the generosity, be greedy, and take more they should, and not think about other individuals. SO that becomes a problem, but at the moment, I don’t have the power to change it. I have the power to do a lot, and I can always try, but at the end of the day, I’m just one. And, me being where I’m at at the moment, no one’s gonna really hear me the same way as someone else who has a lot more power and ownership. It’s gonna be very different so it’s gonna be a lot more difficult, so at the moment I’m just more about recognition and just doing what I’m doing. Just helping people, that’s it. Helping people just to help people, without any strings attached. Keep myself busy.

 

JM: You were talking about the Latino community in Los Sures being very welcoming. Have you ever noticed any tension between people from the community and new people?

 

JC: I told you once incident personally, one-on-one, off the recorder about this one individual. But like, he’s not like screaming at people with a cane or his little iPhone or anything. He’s my age. It’s not one of those cases where he’s like intimidating people who are the new people, he’s just barky at the moment. That’s it. I don’t think he’s gonna escalate, but I think there will be people who may do that. But, that’s on them. They need to quit bein hypocrites and bigots.

 

JM: Just for people who haven’t heard that conversation, what did that guy do?

 

JC: He was just complaining about where he was sitting at. I mean, it’s been the law for a long time -- not like a serious like, kinda like jaywalking.

 

JM: Sitting on a stoop?

 

JC: Yeah like the staircase. And I personally don’t like it when people do that. And I’ve done it. I even stand near the front of buildings but I’m aware. I read signs, I can read. I’m aware of what I’m doing, so it’s like, I’m not gonna complain and start getting mad and blaming the new people, as we’re gonna call them, when they come here for the changes, and how they’re being more strict. I’m not denying, I’m not saying that this is not the case, but at the same time, this is nothing new. This was back when I was a teenager. I had cops telling me not to stand there, etc. So you’re telling me that there was a bunch of hipsters back then too? That were living in that neighborhood and they probably, what, called the cops? I mean, c’mon. To me that’s just bigotry and hypocrisy. Buncha hypocrites. They’re rying to blame a group of people every time for their failures, and they’re just trying to use that as an excuse when they should know better. You should know you shouldn’t be doing that. Why are you even sitting on the steps in the first place? Do someothing more productive with your time.

 

JM: Is there no part of you that’s at all upset about all the change and all the new people and all the differences?

 

JC: That’s where I become a little bit of hypocrite. It was just that part when they tried to kick me out, like move us out with these little shady methods. But, the thing is that, I was trying to tell my mother “Are you planning to live here all your life?” That was my attitude to her, because she’s just living off the system. I don’t really see her progressing. I always see her blaming my father for how she is, and that’s what makes me mad more than them trying to kick me out. But obviously at the same time, that made me mad because it got in the way of my plans, you know? I’m trying to do all this stuff. I was already volunteering. I was volunteering for years. This was happening while I was volunteering, so I have all these plans, I’m trying to do all of these things, and then this is just another distraction. Another roadblock. That’s when it get’s annoying. But I don’t necessarily blame it… to me, I try to look at the good and the pros, and I saw it as a wake up call. That’s what I’m trying to look at like also for these other people, like “Wake up!” Because you just wanna stay here and like live off of welfare or food stamps or whatever. It’s like, you know, we don’t need to really be doing this and they don’t need to be helping us. They don’t need to give us this money, in reality. That’s the problem with this country in general. I mean, it’s nice that they’re generous, but people take advantage of that generosity, they get too comfortable. And then suddenly, when it changes, like when they start to get less, they complain. That happens here as well when I volunteer at Los Sures. But when you get them more, they don’t even show any gratitude. It’s only when you take, they start to get less, they start to complain like “Cheapo!” Whatever. They complain. They don’t understand, and I go out of my way to try to explain, like “Hey look, we didn’t get this much this week,” I try to explain it to them, and certain people understand. But certain individuals, they just do not care, they just want more and more and more. So how am I gonna get mad at these people for increasing the rent when even within my own community there are people like that? With the same type of mentality, with greed and just thinking about themselves. That’s the thing. But there’s a way to stop that, but I don’t think many people think about that.

 

JM: Way to stop what? The greed?

 

JC: Yeah, because like, even with professions, I notice a lot of people will ask me -- I hate this question with a passion -- “What do you do?” It’s like “What do you think of the sky?” Like, I know what they’re trying to ask but it’s like, what is the concern to you about what I do? Are you gonna hire me? Are you looking for someone to work for you or a partner? Or you’re looking for a job? Like, why does it matter? ‘Cus I’m not gonna be like “Oh, I’m a doctor. You want a check up? You want me to check your prostate?” Like “No, what?!” This would never happen. But also at the same time, I understand, if you would ask “Do you know how to build a shed? Do you know how to work with tools?” See, that’s a good question to me. Now, you don’t have to be like “Oh you work as a carpenter?” because you know that person can help you maybe. That’s the thing. “Hey I can help you, maybe you can help me.” That I can understand, kinda like trading. But, you tell them what you do and they’re kinda like “Oh…” and they look at you like “Be gone, peasant” like “No!” That’s why I keep my business on the hush. I make my money how I do and that’s that. And I’m not gonna say what I do, and that’s it. I volunteer. I don’t do anything illegal. Mistakes were made, but present day, I’m trying to set an example more or less.

 

JM: Gotcha. Is there anything about the changes that you appreciate or that you try to take advantage of?

 

JC: I think it’s the public assistance. That’s one thing. Like, there’s a lot more training and all that stuff. Even the schools, like, I’m too old for it, but in public schools, I know there’s a lot of things for younger kids/teens. There’s just a lot more for them. I think that’s good. Making some sort of progress, but for me it’s definitely that public assistance. I’m not talking about money, I’m talking about helping people with getting jobs. It’s a lot more resources and people out there and organization that are out there helping us.

 

JM: And you think people from the community, people from Los Sures, lifelong residents, etc. can take advantage of these things?

 

JC: They can. Will they? That’s… I can’t speak for everybody. That’s the problem. Everyone’s their own person, they have their own mindset. And, you know, I respect that. Because you never you, they may go to one of these things and it may sound nice and then it’ll just be a huge disappointment or it’ll not be what they think, or it’s not helpful to them at least. It may be helpful for another person but it might not be… same thing with medication. Maybe this medication helps this person with this issue but it may not be the same with the other person. You never know. But you gotta at least try, you gotta do it. And certain people they just kinda tap out already because of all the changes and all the layoffs. And probably just hearing about it, I wouldn’t be surprised if it intimidated them or made them lose hope. There have been people, I won’t say names, but people who were doing illegal stuff. I remember mentioning resumes and stuff like that, and see I was a teenager too, late teens at least -- this is where a lot of things were changing, and they were like “Oh a resume? Hahaha.” They had that mentality. You know? And look at this, they got families, they got legit jobs, like real jobs, nothing on the streets, nothing under the table. It’s like to me, that makes me happy, I’m not jumping for joy or anything.

 

JM: What was your native language? What’d you speak in your house growing up?

 

JC: Well, originally it was English, but then it was Spanish. I had to learn more of this on my own. My father was trying to teach me. But see, being born in this country, the United States, but y’know it’s associated with Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is a part of the United States, however, over there it’s pretty much Spanish-English. The majority is Spanish, and then English comes second. Here though, it’s the reverse. It’s English then Spanish. I just learned English at first, then until I was a preteen, I think I was maybe 10 or 12, my father decided to go make time on the weekends to teach me Spanish, so I could try to communicate with my mother. But, you know, eventually I lost interest, so that was my fault.

 

JM: You said something a little earlier about the BQE sorta dividing the neighborhood a little bit?

 

JC: Right. People think Hispanics are all united. And I’m on good terms with anybody. I don’t care what their background is, but y’know, the side of the neighborhood that I live in was majority Dominicans over there (East Side). The other side that I used to live at when I was barely an infant (West Side) was majority Puerto Ricans. There was some tension if I’m not mistaken, but see, that’s the ignorance. I didn’t like it. I hate to say it but it was actually from the Puerto Ricans. I would see them mouthing off to the Dominicans. Not to say that the Dominicans didn’t do the same because I caught that too, when I went to high school of all places. I remember, I laugh about it know, I remember going to high school with this guy who I went to junior high school with, and he was like “Oh the Puerto Ricans should get along with the Dominicans” kinda like some Martin Luther King thing, and I was like “Puerto Ricans and Dominicans don’t get along? I got along with the Dominicans” Living in that neighborhood too it was  like, they didn’t do anything to me. “We don’t get along? I didn’t know we didn’t get along.” I know some people that run their mouths and make me look bad too, like why do you gotta mention that you’re Puerto Rican? And disrespect Dominicans? I just never got that. It almost seemed like the conspiracy theory people, and I’m not gonna go too far into this, but the whole “9/11 was an inside job” thing, you’ve probably heard about that. And again, I’m not saying I believe that, but I’m open minded. It was like “Is this person really Puerto Rican or are they just trying to create tension between Puerto Ricans and Dominicans?” They were probably from, I don’t know, Ireland or something. There are so many people who are mixed. I know my background, like my history background; African, Indigos, and Spaniards. Basically they came to the islands, they did some stuff with each other, and a lot about that. Basically that’s why we look as we do. So it’s like “Whatever.” I accept it. I’m not doing that. I don’t judge. But you have certain people who look really caucasion and you have other people who look African. And I noticed that too, like most people who are really caucasian just say “Oh I’m Puerto Rican” or like half Puerto Rican. Like, later on they’ll say they’re half Puerto Rican. Originally they’ll just say “Yeah I’m Puerto Rican.” The darker ones will say, like dark skin complexion, are like “Oh, I’m Dominican.” But you still have Puerto Ricans who are dark skinned. Like my father was dark skinned. But that’s how it was, and later on it was like the halfs and all that. But nonetheless it was ridiculous. I even heard some people randomly on the street be like “Yeah when I go to this parade, I’m this, and when I go to that parade, I’m that.” It was like “Wow, OK.” But the fact that we’re such a mixed background, anybody could say “I’m this! You’re an asshole! I hate your fucking country” and then it’s like “...why? Why do you gotta say ‘I’m from this neihborhood!’ or like ‘My name is Javier Cabrera and you’re a fucking asshole!’ Like dude… did you just call me that?” I just think it’s childish and stupid and see, that’s a part of that ignorance right there. People are always trying to look for someone to hate or dislike for the dumbest thing. We got people who wanna kill us for stupid things like that as well, that’s not even from this country and then these people are trying to hype it up too. Like “Oh we gotta treat these people bad because of what they’re doing over there” and certain idiots are doing this stuff here. But it’s like, how are you gonna discriminate and target all of these individuals because of what a couple of people do? I don’t like the fact that they’re doing it, these groups, but it connects to how there’s a lot of hypocrisy within these neighborhoods, be it this one or anyone. That’s why I’m not against a lot of these changes. Like whoever comes here, I’m not gonna be my enemy, basically. I won’t do that. I’m my own individual, I think for myself, I have my own opinions, and I’m just not gonna sink that low. I mean, if I see something wrong happening, I’m the first one to do something. But again with cops too, people giving crap to cops. Cops are just human beings as well, and people do what the cops have done or at least what people say they do. Yes, I’m aware, I didn’t even have to waste my time to go to court or whatever, like ridiculous. But at the end of the day, I’m not hating all cops. I’m not generalizing all cops. Again, it’s that hypocrite bull that’s so old already. Especially here in New York, I think in other states it’s a lot worse than New York with the racism and all that, but to say there’s no racism, you’re never gonna hear me say that. There’s always gonna be racism. The problem isn’t so much racism, it’s the extremists. That’s what we need to be concerned about. That person is not making a threat or actually commiting or doing any actions. That’s what people need to be concrned about and keeping their eyes open for. Not so much “Oh that person looks a certain way.” I had people telling me I looked Muslim, I had people telling me I looked Jewish, like “What the hell is this? I’m not even neither!” And, I know what they’re trying to say, and I don’t even know what to say. What gets me though, is that because of what’s going on in this day and time, my concern’s that this whole gentrification thing’s like not that serious. To me, it’s like a little thing. I’m seeing a bigger picture. I’m noticing something, like the groups of people, and that’s when I’m like “I can’t hate these people.” First off, I wouldn’t, but it’s like, if I was to hate them, it’d also be like becoming my enemy, as I said earlier, because I’m hating myself or hating on someone who went through what my parents went through growing up.

 

JM: Last question; Are you gonna stick around in Williamsburg? Will you continue to live here for a while?

 

JC: Unfortunately, yes. Even if I start to go upwards, like I wanna keep in touch. I wanna make sure people don’t go through what I go through. But at the same time, this world is so huge, there’s so much to do, to be done.

 

Interview and Portrait