Eric Velasquez: Growing up in Spanish Harlem

Award-winning author and illustrator Eric Velasquez talks about his memories of his childhood in Spanish Harlem and the surprise some of his friends showed whenever he spoke Spanish. You can see the full interview with Eric in our Meet the Author section.


My parents, Carmen Lydia and Chu, both come from the island of Puerto Rico, which is part of the United States. And I was born in Spanish Harlem, New York City. And then in the fourth grade, we moved to Harlem. So at home we only spoke Spanish, but we did watch English-speaking television, and we went to the movies all the time. Pretty much every Saturday, I went to the movies with my dad, but at home it was only Spanish. And it just seemed very natural to us, still does. So it's just part of who we are.

It was interesting that at times some of my friends from the neighborhood and from school didn't know that I spoke Spanish. And sometimes maybe when one of my parents would pick us up or something, they would pick me up, they would hear me speak Spanish, and they're like, “Ooh, I didn't know you spoke Spanish.” And it was just kind of interesting that it seemed like to others, I had a dual identity, but it didn't feel that way. It was just a natural extension. I mean, it was all I've ever known.