VP: Victor Perez, participant
PS: Paul Shackel, interviewer
Transcribed by Aubrey Edwards

July 23, 2022

PS: Okay, so thank you, Victor Perez for joining us. And so, Victor if you could spell your name, and then tell us a little bit about your background. I’d like to know a little bit about yourself and why you came to this region, what attracted you to this region?

VP: Okay, thank you, Mr. Paul for the opportunity. My name is Victor Perez, V-I C-T-O-R, P-E-R-E-Z, like zebra. I am the only son of my mother. So, I’m coming from Dominican Republic. My mother is a Dominican. And, of course my father is a Dominican, a US citizen of the United States of America. I am the only one son and my family, I’m married. Right now, we are married 28 years. Yeah. We are like a brother right now. We are not anymore husband and wife. And we have four kids.

So my family, we were living in New Jersey, a couple of years. And then after that, we decided to come to a place that was more quiet, and that’s why we attend our recommendations from some friends and family and we come to the Hazleton area, and we stayed in this area. So that is a brief information about my family and me.

PS: So could you tell me a little bit about the neighborhood that you currently live in and how long have you lived there?

VP: Okay, when we come here we were living in Hazleton for a long time. Included when I come in 2008, to the Hazleton area, we were participating in the community, supporting different actions like a migrant education program that Casa Dominicana. Supported Latinos, events, different events, and we were participating because in New York City, we were doing the same thing. So in 2009, we were more familiar with the Dominican House, and the group decide that I take control of Dominican House because they need somebody who give them more action in the Dominican House.

So the neighbors that we have are diverse. We got people from the White community, we got people from the African American community, we got people from the Hispanic community, so the neighborhood is diverse. So we have people from India in the community. So, we have a connection with that diversity. We have right now people from coming from Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Guatemala, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru and other countries. We got friends from India, friends from United States, from England, people from Canada. So our neighbors are from different countries.

PS: It’s great. So what’s your favorite part about living in this community?

VP: The favorite part is that the community works together. You can find a solution of any problem with the unification of everybody. We can get a discussion of any problem. But at the end, we found a solution together. So that’s the more important thing. The other thing is more important is that this is a community quiet and respectful for the neighbor.

PS: Right. So what’s your least favorite thing about this community?

VP: The least favorite, is that the community work together.

PS: Okay, so could you tell us a little bit more about your job in the Dominican House, the services you provide?

VP: The Dominican House is a nonprofit organization created in August 20, 2005. The first president was Manuel Saldaña. Manuel founded it with a group of people in 2005. There were fighting in 2006 against an ordinance that in the moment, the mayor Lou Barletta, created against immigrants, the people who do not have documents. So they acted against those.

Another action against us people, if you were walking around the street, they were asking about papers, the police officers. That was a problem that the Dominican House believed was a violation of the Constitution, and a violation of the civil rights. So that’s why the Dominican House was the organization who got an action together with the ACLU. Together with, the ACLU is a civil rights organization defending civil rights, and together with the Puerto Rican Attorneys Association, they were fighting against the city.

So the Dominican House filed as a plaintiff for that case. The Supreme Court decided that we were right, and the city had to turn back that action as an unconstitutional action. So that the Dominican House helps people to receive the green card, helping the people to be US citizens, preparing people to be citizens, providing classes for free to be a US citizen, providing ESL classes for free, providing classes in Spanish too, providing the opportunity to the people to come to the Dominican House to find an attorney to fix the problem about immigration of any, any problem in the court. 

We have a great connections, and with a drug and alcohol department, we did an agreement that the people who have a problem in the courts, they send them to the Dominican House to do community service. So we provide food for free. Every day we provide food for free. For example, we receive different donations from different institutions, like amazon.com, we receive from Boscov’s, we receive from Aetna, AmeriHealth. We receive donations from local business owners like El Patron, Cabana’s Restaurant, different restaurant, La Isla restaurant, Latino restaurant, [inaudible] restaurant. We’ve got different local business owners that provide help to the Dominican House.

So, we are providing other services that are combined with other institutions. Like, for example, we provide the opportunity to the people to receive a divorce, if that has to be. We can also marry people. We provide the opportunity to be married here [in the Dominican House]. We got a lot of services that we provide for the community.

PS: That’s great. So tell us about you. What do you like to do when you’re not working here? What do you like to do to visit places or sites or what do you do with your family?

VP: One of the things that I’m planning to do is to go to visit Europe and Egypt, go to Rome. I was in Spain, twice. I visit other countries but I like to bring my family to check the history about humanity you know, Rome, Egypt, Israel. So, in Italy to check the Pisa Tower.  The French, the Eiffel Tower. And so we have a lot of things that we plan to do in the future. Maybe, if God permits that we can go there.

PS: Sure. So how would you describe this region, this region, northeast in Pennsylvania, how would you describe it to someone?

VP: The Northeast Pennsylvania? Northeast Pennsylvania, I think it is one of the more important area of the United States, not just for Pennsylvania, for the United States. The majority of the people don’t know the history about the carbon. The anthracite is important. I read about it. We are inviting everybody that come to the Dominican House and bring them to the anthracite carbon place [Eckley Miners’ Village] and that learn about, how important anthracite was.

The anthracite was used for the First Word War, the Second World War and in the different industrial parks. So I think [the anthracite region] an important area of the United States.

The miners, we have to say thank you for your support. They are the real heroes that we have in Northeast Pennsylvania, the miners.

PS: So, can you share a little bit about your community, and what types of activities are you involved in?

VP: The Dominican House, we – as a nonprofit organization, we work with everybody. Just to make it very clear. We are not just working for the Dominicans. We are working for everybody. We receive everybody. We don’t care where people coming from. So the services are for everybody. But, the majority we work with are Hispanic, the majority are Hispanic. The majority group from the Hispanic community here are Dominicans. We are talking about the 80%.

So at the Dominican House, we have different events, different activities, culture, we celebrate, for example, the Moses Day, we celebrate the Three Kings Day, we celebrate different event. The Altagracia Virgin religious event, we celebrate that. We are celebrating for example, the Duarte Days, the Fourth of July, we celebrate together with the Dominican’s culture, we celebrate the American culture because we are part of America. So we have to celebrate together. We celebrate for example, Father’s Day, we celebrate the Thanksgiving Day, we celebrate Flag Day of the United States. And we celebrate, for example, Christmas and Thanksgiving, and different events.

For example, we celebrate some tournaments in basketball for the kids. We celebrated  a tournaments in softball, last week. We were celebrating the softball from the Aquinas, a group [inaudible] in the Dominican Republic, and they organize every year a softball tournaments and we are organizing other softball tournaments with other groups.

We organized for example, the Sweet Beans Festival, which is a special festival because it is something that just Dominicans know about. Sweet bean is a plate It is something from beans with sugar, and milk, and cinnamon together, and salt and raisins. So we put everything together and that’s, trust me, it is a marvelous plate, the sweet beans. So we celebrate this.

And right now, we are about to celebrate the Dominican Festival. Every year we celebrate the Dominican Festival. This festival will be August 7. And as you can see the picture here at my back <motions to picture behind him on wall> that was the first festival that we celebrated in the Hazleton area. So we’ll receive more than 1,500 people at this festival. That’s why the mayor requested that we move the festival to another park. The View Park is bigger. And that’s why we are moving to that park, because we are expecting at least 3,000 people.

PS: So are there particular challenges you and your community face? And what are those challenges?

VP: The challenges that we have right now is to, found the way to receive the house for the Dominican House, a place for the Dominican House. A place that we can bring teachers to provide for free, a place that we [inaudible] receive support for teachers, those people that come into [inaudible] conference for free for the community.

We believe that education is not just found in the schools. The responsibility of education is also for us, everybody in the community has to provide something to educate the neighbors, the kids and everybody.

So, I believe that the Dominican House has a challenge to continue educating people.  So we believe that we can give you the opportunity to receive some education and be better a person in the community and be better neighbor.

PS: So is anthracite coal history important to you and to your community, and what parts of anthracite coal history are important to you?

VP: Entire history. From the beginning to the end, the whole history. The entire history.

PS: Okay, so what parts of anthracite history are worth remembering and making sure that your generation and the community and the next generation will remember? What are the things they should remember about anthracite coal history?

VP:  We broke the barrier in the language, the barrier of language that we have. We believe that, that’s the most important thing. The barrier of the language is the thing that separates us from the rest of the members of the community. So I believe that that is part of the history – when we broke that.

PS: Great, thank you. So is there anything else that you’d like to share with us about yourself, your family, your community or anthracite history?

VP: I’ve believed that, one hand can wash the other hand, and together can wash the face. We believe that the Dominican House is one hand. The rest of the community is other hand. I believe that you have to unify both hands to give a better opportunity to the community to wash the face. And by the way, their hands have five fingers. Each one is different. No one is equal to other. Mr. Paul, I like to be like you, but you cannot be like me. So we are different people. The fingers are different. All together they are important. But you know when they are more important? When they unify, they are strong and important. I believe that the community has to be unify, and then we’ll be a stronger community. That is the charge of the Dominican House.

PS: Right. Thank you, Victor. 

VP: Thank you, Paul.