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“I knew more about the U.S. than the U.S. knew about me.”

Posted on Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009.

Jos&#233 C. Mass&#243 III was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1950. As a child, he grew up in Puerto Rico as well as Japan (where his father was stationed with the U.S. Army).

Jos&#233 started college at the University of Puerto Rico, but he decided to come to the United States to pursue a degree in journalism. He ended up at Antioch College in Ohio. Jos&#233 was excited to come to the United States, and thought he had many advantages: “I came armed for success in a sense that I already knew how to speak English and I knew a lot about United States history and culture. I was a baseball fan. I knew about music.”

Jos&#233 Mass&#243

Jos&#233 remembered his first day at Antioch:

I was having lunch and an African American called me the “n-word.” And I said, “Why are you calling me that?” And he said to me that I didn’t look Puerto Rican.

And I said, “What’s a Puerto Rican supposed to look like?” He said, “Well, they don’t look like you.”

That was my first day on campus, and I thought, “What was that?” On a very progressive, liberal university campus, that was the last thing I expected.

Within a week, I went through a series of shocks having to do with race, language, and culture. I realized that I knew more about the United States than the United States knew about me. And it was the moment that I decided that maybe my role was to be an educator.

After Antioch, Jos&#233 moved to Boston and taught at Copley Square High School. He also pursued his passion for communications and music by starting a radio show on WBUR called &#161Con Salsa! with Jos&#233 Mass&#243. More than 34 years later, Jos&#233 still hosts &#161Con Salsa! and has devoted his life to education, communications, music, and politics.

Jos&#233’s interview was recorded in partnership with the Latino Professional Network.

One Response to ““I knew more about the U.S. than the U.S. knew about me.””

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  • Great story! We could all learn a lot from Jose’s insistence on seeing challenges as opportunities.

    Comment from Jeremy on December 23, 2009 at 12:02 pm - Reply to this Comment

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