The 2018 Caribbean Heritage Oral History Project collected interviews of nine Cambridge people who were born in or have roots in the Caribbean as part of our year of asking “Where is Cambridge From?” Areas of ancestry included Barbados (1), Haiti (4), Jamaica (1), Puerto Rico (1), Suriname (1), and Trinidad (1), and also “from Cambridge.” Their ages range from 20s to 70s, with memories of Cambridge that reach back to the 1950s and up to the present.
These interviews help us gain perspective on what it’s like to be both from Cambridge and from the Caribbean. Thank you to the narrators who agreed to be interviewed, and thank you to Katie Burke and Lina Raciukaitis for preserving them in the local historical record.
“To see different immigrants, but [the] different ways they exist in their life – I think that can be useful, for other generations to know who’s among them.” — Jean Dany Joachim
“I’m not ashamed to talk about my life, and so if that can help another immigrant… or if the program can use my experience to help improve the situation of other newcomers like immigrants, I’m happy to help.”— Pierre Fils-Aime
Jean Appolon was born in Haiti and moved to Cambridge when he was 16 years old. He has been a professional dancer with Alvin Ailey and the Joffrey Ballet. He runs a dance troupe in Boston and teaches a Haitian folklore class in Cambridge at the Dance Complex.
Marian Darlington-Hope was born in the Port neighborhood in Cambridge, and has lived there most of her life. Her parents were both from Barbados. She had a professional career as a Professor at UMass Boston and Lesley College, and continues to be involved in community activism in Cambridge.
Pierre Fils-Aime was born in Saint-Marc, Haiti. He first traveled to the US as a member of Haiti’s national volleyball team, to represent Haiti in an international volleyball tournament at Miami Dade University in Florida. After graduating from SUNY Binghamton with a major in psychobiology, he moved to Boston to be near his sister. He is currently a Community Coordinator at Just-A-Start.
Jean Dany Joachim was born and grew up in Haiti. He visited Boston in 1989 to help care for a sick friend; political unrest in Haiti kept him from returning. He produces the City Nights Reading Series and was the Poet Populist of Cambridge from 2009-2011. He is the current Poet in Residence at First Church in Cambridge.
Lynette Laveau-Saxe was born in Trinidad and moved to Boston to be with her husband, who was studying anthropology at Brandeis. She is a teacher, actress, mentor, and life success coach and currently produces the Callaloo Express Relationship Show on CCTV. She’s lived in Cambridge for 50 years.
Elba Santiago was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Cambridge when she was 17 and a half years old. Elba has worked at a number of jobs in Cambridge, including factory work, child care, and as a teacher’s aid in the Cambridge school system. Elba currently lives in a house she owns with her husband in the Port neighborhood of Cambridge. She has three children.
Marie France Santiago was born in Cambridge at Mt. Auburn Hospital; both of her parents are from Haiti. She graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in 2006 and has a B.F.A. in Fashion Design from Massachusetts College of Art. She started attending the Cambridge Community Art Center at age 5, and is now its School Age Program Director.
Nicola Williams was born in Jamaica, and spent her childhood in both Jamaica and Brooklyn, NY. She moved to Boston the day after graduating college in Upstate New York, and has lived in Cambridge for 32 years. In 1995, she founded The Williams Agency, a marketing and event planning firm.
Quinton Zondervan was born in The Netherlands in 1970 and grew up in Suriname. He moved to the United States when he was 15. In 1993 he began studying for his Masters degree at MIT. He is now a Cambridge City Councillor.