Tita: I am pleased to have your presence, Mr. Cappas. Thank you for the time you have granted us and for acquiescing to this interview. Your site is inspiring and I admire your mission and values.
Where were you born? What is your cultural background? I was born in Yauco, Puerto Rico, in 1946, and came to the United States when I was 5 years old. I remember when we landed, it was freezing, very cold, lots of snow on the ground and I had no idea or concept what I was experiencing. I was a tropical child, exposed to this new, strange weather for the first time. I remember crying, saying, Mommy, Mommy, que esto? Years later in one of my poems, Letter to Maria, I wrote a line and the introduction of the unfriendly cold that raped her body, and it was years later that I realized the connection between this line in the poem and my actual experience coming to the U.S. It was my sub-conscious or unconscious mind contributing a line to the poem. As for the question about my cultural background, Im a Puerto Rican, my great grandfather was Greek, and that is where the name Cappas comes from. As you should know, Puerto Rico was raped (visited or invaded, you take your pick) by several cultures, so my last name (Cappas) is not unusual for a PuertorriqueÃ±o.
Define a moment in your life where you knew your purpose in this world. There were so many defining moments that led to discovering the purpose, I dont know which one qualifies as that moment. There was a period during my youth where I was adjudicated as a PINS (person in need of supervision) to family court as a juvenile delinquent, and I was assigned (not sentenced) to spend nine months in a reformatory school (Warwick State Training School for Boys/Warwick, NY), in upstate, NY. During the transportation in a government-sponsored Bus from an urban environment (concrete buildings and ghettoes) to farm country (land, green buildings, fresh air), I discovered, once we crossed the Washington Bridge and traveled for several hours, red barns, horses, cows, pigs, and little kids and families playing outside. I remember the other hoodlum kids in the Bus laughing when I screamed out loud, Shit, Dick and Jane are for real! Until that moment, I thought that Dick and Jane were only fantasy characters in a book we were forced to read in school. That was a defining moment for me. During my 9-month confinement, I discovered that I was a very good writer, and one of the few kids in the youth home able to read and write without difficulty. Until that moment, I had no self-esteem, gradually erased by an educational school system that needed to change my name from Alberto Oscar Cappas, Jr. to Albert Cappas, making sure that I became an American. While growing up, I was led to believe that whites were better human beings and more intellectually superior then African Americans and Puerto Ricans. All the white kids were in smart classes while non-white kids were confined to classes for troubled kids, myself included. However, at the reform school many of the kids, black, White, and Puerto Ricans, depended on me to read and explain their letters, and they also depended on me write their letters for them as well, especially love letters to their special love ones in the outside. I became their poet and writer. In the process I had an opportunity to learn about the white kids, and learn about my writing abilities. The White kids were as human as me - no better and no worse. The contradiction? I was reformed by a moment of personal discovery, not by the institution&
Name five words that best describe you: The five words that come to mind are, spiritual, honest, persistent, balanced, and non-materialistic.
What are your favorite music, food, color, and pastime? I like my classical music, the Soul of Spain, and I love my rice and beans; my color is Blue, and I enjoy having my popcorn and soda at the movies, and being alone at night, trying to get words to come out from my head, down to my fingertips.
What is the purpose your site serves? The purpose is to educate and inform, and to showcase and share my contributions with other Latinos, to show how we need to think outside the box& and the need to jump out and do everything we want to do without taking life so serious that your ego gets in the way of the meaning.
What was it that made you decide to devote time, love, and energy to its creation? The need to share something you find to be vital and important, and know that you must share with others. Nature (to me, God), gave us a personal and unique gift& and when one finds that gift, it is a duty to share with others.
What do you miss the most of home? I miss not growing up in the island of my birth, not having access to the smell of the tropical Sun and the breeze, the closeness of the intimidating ocean& the cry of the Coqui&and the wake of the rooster& images that stayed with me as a child before departing for the Mainland&
How has this world changed in your generation? There is too much emphasis on materialism, and there are many people paying too much attention to religion without paying attention to their spiritual foundation. There is a decaying of values and standards in the general culture, especially among our young people, and a complete breakdown in the human infrastructure. Basketball players are considered role models and heroes, and Rap Musicians are considered poets. Instead of expecting our young generation to meet our standards, we are misadjusting ourselves to meet theirs&
What can we do to preserve our culture? As Puerto Ricans, we need to focus more on the values of education and family. We need to move away from the welfare mentality. We need to appreciate the essence of entrepreneurship and business development as a tool for self-sufficiency. We must get more involved with our community-based organizations and local schools, and work with them to plan our young peoples social and cultural curriculum to ensure that they are exposed to museums and other cultural events and activities. We must demand and insist that our young people have access to the arts and theatre --- this is the mirror where one can see and begin to appreciate the human spirit and connection&
Any words to the Boricua youth and the older generation of today: Yes, get out the box, jump out the box. Stop being controlled by the commercials you see in the idiot box (television). Look into the mirror when you get up each morning and examine your spirit and soul, try to realize that you are on this planet for a positive reason and if you can find the purpose, youll enjoy your journey& Dont be afraid to make the hard decisions, and try to stay away from shortcuts. Take the long way; and if you have a choice between taking a risk and taking an opportunity, take the risk& You are a spiritual presence on this planet --- act the part&.
The author finished the interview by addting: We need clarity of vision of who we are in relation to our presence on this planet. We need to understand our purpose. Its never too late to begin living your life as it was supposed to be lived. Its never too late to make a U-turn...