SeriesLIVE

Adrian Carrasquillo

Immigrant Archive Project
Adrian Carrasquillo, a leading national political reporter, discusses his childhood in Queens, NY, the importance of finding a mentor and the challenges being faced today by Latino journalists in newsrooms across the country.
Show transcript
00:00
If I can use what I do to like, help some other people.
00:03
So some like young journalists, you know, people reach out
00:06
and they're like, hey, you know, I wanna do this or can we meet
00:09
up or can we chat?
00:10
That's fun for me.
00:11
That is great.
00:12
And I love that.
00:12
That makes me happy.
00:13
I mean, there's nothing better than that.
00:20
Let's begin the way we do with everyone with your name and your
00:23
nationality.
00:24
Uh Adrian Castillo, Puerto Rican, Ecuadorian.
00:28
And where were you born?
00:28
Adrian?
00:29
I was born in Queens, New York, only in America.
00:32
Are you Puerto Rican and Ecuadorian born in Queens?
00:36
You know, uh whenever I talk to people in L A or in Miami or something
00:39
they'll say, oh, that's a very New York mix.
00:42
I guess there's not a lot of Puerto Ricans, Ecuadorians mixing
00:45
together in too many places.
00:47
Yeah.
00:48
Yeah.
00:48
Yeah.
00:48
Let's go back to your childhood.
00:50
What do you mean?
00:50
What was your childhood like growing up in, in Queens?
00:53
Uh growing up in Queens, you know, we had one of those houses
00:55
that had a family on each floor, you know, the aunts and uncles
00:58
and in the first floor, we had my, you know, my other uncle and
01:02
and I think another uncle like in the second floor and then
01:05
you know, on the third floor we had, you know, my family, my
01:07
dad, my mom, my sister and I uh so it was pretty cool, you know
01:10
I remember that.
01:11
I remember uh barbecues.
01:13
Uh I'm the terrace, you know, I remember the Mark Anthony blasting
01:17
or the blasting my dad.
01:19
You know, then you wonder why you love those, those songs when
01:21
you hear them growing up, you know, when you're older.
01:24
So that was a little bit of what it was like.
01:26
What was your, what was your first language?
01:28
Is English?
01:29
Spanish was my first language and I was four and I didn't speak
01:32
English and uh then went to, I guess, preschool and just learned
01:36
it immediately.
01:37
Um So, yeah, Spanish, I've always found that funny.
01:40
You know, kids have uh you know, like you like my sister, you
01:44
know, who, who, who, despite being American, they almost
01:47
have like an immigrant experience in many cases, you know
01:50
uh where they, they, they learn their, their own native language
01:54
because you're American sort of for the first time in school
01:57
you know, um were the other kids in school also?
02:00
Latino.
02:01
Uh you know, my neighborhood was uh largely I think Italian
02:05
and then as I got older it became more like Guyanese.
02:09
And um and, and so then Hispanic was like, I guess, always,
02:12
like, kind of like number two or three, in there.
02:14
Yeah.
02:16
Did you identify with the Italian at first?
02:18
Uh, no, I don't think so.
02:19
I mean, there, there was, now that I remember in our old house
02:22
there was an Italian family, like, on the second floor as well
02:25
And, um, I would sneak down there and, you know, they were the
02:27
ones that were making the spaghetti.
02:29
So I would sneak down there and get a, get a nice little dinner
02:32
from the little Italian lady who loved me.
02:34
Um, but no, I mean, that's why I bring that up because I had a
02:37
lot of Italians in, in, in my neighborhood and uh at the core
02:42
very, very similar culturally to Latinos, you know, about
02:46
family and good food and staying together and loyalty.
02:49
And there was a lot of, uh a lot of, a lot of that, a lot of that
02:54
Um your parents, your parents immigrated.
02:59
My, my dad was born in Buffalo, New York.
03:01
My mom came from Ecuador when she was 12.
03:04
What, what do you know about her story?
03:06
I, what I know about my mom's story.
03:07
I know that she came here when she was young.
03:09
I know that she immediately became a Yankees fan.
03:12
And so when people think that I'm a Yankees fan because of their
03:15
World championships, I'm like, no, no, no, you don't understand
03:18
my mom, you know, and, and that's that's sort of, sort of funny
03:21
like, challenging those kind of roles that you think my dad
03:24
got me into football.
03:25
But my mom was the baseball one, you know, I just, like, love
03:27
the Yankees, you know, um, came here with her sister and, um
03:33
you know, me, me met my dad, I believe they used to speak on
03:36
the phone for work.
03:38
You know, he had the good voice, you know, I always think of
03:41
myself as like him 2.0 you know, so a little bit of upgrade and
03:45
a couple of different things.
03:46
But we both had the, the charming thing, I hope.
03:48
Um, and so then that's how they, that's how they connected
03:51
over the phone.
03:51
Yeah.
03:52
Nice, nice.
03:54
Very cool.
03:55
And your dad was one that got you into football?
03:57
Yeah, my, you know, my dad just loved football, he loved the
03:59
Buffalo Bills and, you know, the poor guys, the Bills, you
04:02
know, they're not exactly, uh, a well run franchise.
04:06
But so that's why I'm, I'm more honestly now, just a football
04:09
fan because I love the sport.
04:11
But it's, it's hard to root for the guys that are, that are not
04:14
running their team very well.
04:15
Let's put it that way.
04:16
You can enjoy the sport.
04:17
Just do away with the, you know, so, look, I mean, you know,
04:21
I rooted for the Giants when they beat the Patriots twice because
04:24
no one likes the Patriots so we can all agree on that.
04:27
Um, yeah, because my dad was always like the Jets and the Giants
04:30
should be the new, the new Jersey Jets, the new Jersey Giants
04:33
You know.
04:34
So he was always, he was, that was his, his, his, uh, comment
04:37
And that's true.
04:38
That's true.
04:39
That's true.
04:39
Is that what led you to play football in high school?
04:41
You know, I just, uh, I think I wanted a sense of camaraderie
04:44
like my dad had it in the army and, uh, I thought, I think, I
04:47
thought that discipline would be good for me, which it was
04:49
um, you know, uh, and so that's, that's kind of what I did the
04:53
football thing.
04:54
I just like to be part of a unit was fun and to, and then you quickly
04:57
realize people are faster than you, people are bigger than
05:00
you.
05:00
People are stronger than you.
05:01
Gives you a good kind of like, humbles you a little bit.
05:04
Uh, but then you also kind of realize what you're good at and
05:06
stuff like that.
05:07
So, it was definitely fun.
05:08
And had you played ball before you got to high school?
05:10
No, I didn't.
05:10
I mean, I, I honestly wasn't exactly positive what the offensive
05:15
line did, like how they did their job.
05:17
Like I knew that the defensive line did and that was always
05:20
super fun, you know.
05:21
But, yeah, that was interesting.
05:22
I kind of like learned, I mean, we look in Manhattan, we're
05:25
in the Bronx Manhattan League, you know, these teams were
05:28
all Latino and black and they knew that they felt they could
05:32
intimidate us because we were mostly white and Asian team
05:36
So they would come in, they were not very nice.
05:38
And so these guys would come in trying to basically tear your
05:41
head off and telling you they were gonna kill your quarterback
05:44
You get a little scared for him.
05:45
He's a little Jewish guy back there.
05:46
So basically the first thing I would do first play of every
05:49
game.
05:49
I was, I would chop the guy in front of me just because he was
05:51
flying in like a maniac and then I would, I would hurt him and
05:55
then he'd be like, oh, I gotta come and slower the rest of the
05:57
game.
05:57
So that would help me, you know, so that's one way to slow them
06:00
down and you made a great point.
06:02
Not a lot of Asians in the NFL Hall of Fame.
06:05
I mean, look, our school was a very smart school, Stuyvesant
06:09
one of the best schools in New York.
06:11
Um, so, you know, it was a fun sport but we didn't always do so
06:15
hot.
06:16
Too funny, too funny.
06:17
You know, I asked if you played before because II, I played
06:19
in, in, in, in high school as well and I still remember my first
06:22
day showing up and, and I joined the team for the exact same
06:25
reason you did.
06:26
We moved to a new town.
06:27
I wanted to make some friends and I literally had to have people
06:30
help me put the uniform on because I, I didn't know how to strap
06:33
on the pads.
06:34
I didn't know where the pads went into the pants.
06:36
I had no idea.
06:38
So we started that kind of base.
06:40
We had a coach who told us, uh, first day of whole week tomorrow
06:44
you're not gonna want to come in, Your body is gonna hurt and
06:47
he's like, just come in, just stretch with us.
06:48
Even if you don't wanna, knowing that none of us are gonna come
06:52
in stretch and stand on the sideline.
06:54
So we come in, you're dead.
06:55
I, I could not move stretch.
06:57
Then you start feeling a little better.
06:58
Oh, you know, I'll do this and then next thing, you know, you're
07:01
good as long as you came back that second day.
07:03
So he was pretty smart about that.
07:05
Do you still carry lessons you learned from football today
07:08
You know, I, I think that, uh, high school was an interesting
07:11
time.
07:11
I feel like we have a lot of testosterone and a lot of aggression
07:15
And the best thing for me at that time was I'll go after school
07:19
I'll go tackle my friends and, you know, and go, go jump in
07:22
the dirt and mess up my forms and stuff like that.
07:25
But then you're tired, you don't have time to go do anything
07:27
bad because you're just exhausted, you know, you go home.
07:30
So, first of all, it kept me out of trouble, I think.
07:32
But, um, like, I honestly, I really believe just knowing that
07:36
people have different strengths and that, you know, what
07:39
a lot of these guys, I was facing, some of them were bigger.
07:41
But then I was like, oh, you're kind of a pushover, but some
07:43
of the guys that were smaller, pretty strong, that was the
07:46
only play of the game that I was scared was the first play because
07:48
I was like, I actually don't know, this guy's a badass or not
07:50
And then right after that I was like, oh, this is fine, you know
07:52
I'm fine.
07:53
Um, so that was kind of interesting, too funny, too funny.
07:58
You know, for, for, for me, one of the things a sport did later
08:01
on, on, on, on the college level is it got me to know really well
08:07
do for a variety of different backgrounds that I otherwise
08:11
wouldn't have.
08:12
You know, and I've always thought to myself, well, you know
08:14
I think race relations would be better in the US if everybody
08:18
went through one form or another of that experience.
08:20
That, that, that, that's a great point because so, uh, first
08:26
of all Styvesant a place where you take a test to get into it
08:29
And so I went to a couple of programs that were before m, uh,
08:31
prep for prep and the Math Science Institute where they were
08:34
basically preparing to get ready for that.
08:36
Once I was in there, I was on level playing field with everybody
08:39
else, but there's some other kids had money to do private programs
08:42
and stuff like that.
08:42
So that in, in of its own right, was interesting because Stuyvesant
08:46
was about 40% Asian, 40% white and like, 4% black, 4% Hispanic
08:50
That's very interesting.
08:51
Then I go to college and it was, it was still like a, a large percentage
08:55
Asian.
08:55
But now like hugely more minority uh group.
08:58
I always felt what I got from my dad was being able to talk with
09:01
different people with blue collar, white collar.
09:04
You know, I think the fact that we articulate and can, can have
09:07
any conversation with anybody when, you know, when they talk
09:09
about code switching, when they talk about Obama going down
09:11
to Atlanta and he starts talking a little bit different to
09:14
the black folks than he does to other people.
09:16
And so I always think that that's interesting, not that you're
09:18
like so old, overtly doing it, but in some ways you are, you
09:21
are, you're kind of saying I'm like, you, you know, I, I get
09:24
you and, and, and things like that.
09:26
So I think that that kind of like where I went to school helped
09:30
me kind of understand different people.
09:32
Where on the flip side, I've heard people say in my town there
09:35
was no one black or I had never seen someone Asian and that,
09:39
that's just different.
09:39
That's just, must be such a different, you know, growing up
09:43
That's a blessing coming from, uh, from Queens.
09:45
No.
09:47
Yeah, they say the most diverse.
09:48
Yeah.
09:48
And, and then particularly you see that when you go to Jackson
09:50
Heights, um, I, uh, we do this thing called Halloween where
09:54
you dress up as the top meme, top internet memes of the year
09:57
I decided I wanted to be pit bull at the World Cup because he
10:00
looked hilarious with his little, with his little capri pants
10:03
So I went to go get a Brazil Jersey, but we're, now, we're out
10:05
of World Cup season.
10:07
So I'm like, when am I gonna get a Brazil Jersey?
10:08
I'm like, Jackson Heights got off the train.
10:10
I had bought it within five minutes and was heading back to
10:13
the train.
10:14
I went to a cell phone store and they had a Jersey.