blog header image

“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.””

To preserve the StoryCorps mission and experience for our readers and participants, comments are subject to the StoryCorps Terms of Service. Comments may be held for moderation or removed if deemed offensive or off-topic. Please do not resubmit your comment if you don't see it right away, it will be approved as soon as possible. Thank you.

  • 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

Leave a Reply


  • Major Funding Provided By

    CPB Logo
  • National Broadcast Sponsors

    CTCA Logo
  • National Partners

    NPR American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress
  • Charity Navigator Logo