“I knew more about the U.S. than the U.S. knew about me.”
José C. Massó 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).
José 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. José 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.”
José 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, José 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 ¡Con Salsa! with José Massó. More than 34 years later, José still hosts ¡Con Salsa! and has devoted his life to education, communications, music, and politics.
José’s interview was recorded in partnership with the Latino Professional Network.
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