José Cruz (JC) and Grace Cruz (GC)
JC: My mother told me that I was the cutest thing in Villa Juana. She called me Chi-Chi. She said, ”Chi-Chi, Tu eres lo mas lindo de Villa Juana,” and she would give me a big kiss, and I would go to school with this big stamp of red lipstick on my forehead. So, she built a self-confidence in me that no one could ever, like, take away. I was six years old when she left for New York City. And I remember that my uncle said, ”You’re going to cry when your mom leaves,” and I said, ”I’m not going to cry.” But I think I’ve been crying ever since My mother wrote often about what she was experiencing here in New York City and, as a child, I used to look at those postcards my mother would send, I always imagined that I would live in those postcards. So, when I heard that I was coming to New York, I was in seventh grade and I thought I was going to be living in the Empire State Building. But we lived in West Harlem. And instead of living in the Empire State Building we lived in a basement with the front windows looked into a space where people put their garbage. But at the same time, I finally was living with my mother and I felt so good. I would say that without a doubt she has been the most influential person in my life.
GC: Based on that, are there any words of wisdom you’d like to pass on?
JC: Well, I would just say something that my mother told me once. She said, You know, Chi-chi, I don’t want you to be the smartest kid just do your best and I will always be proud of you and I will always love you.
GC: Thank you.
JC: Wow, Grace, I am so happy that we have been able to have this conversation.
GC: Me too.
JC: Be beautiful.