Action News Jax Gets Real about the history of slavery across Latin America

HHM: Victor Cora

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It wasn’t until Victor Cora moved to Jacksonville after getting stationed at Mayport that some people made him feel different.

“I learned how to speak English in the street I spoke Spanish at home,” Cora said. His Puerto Rican parents taught him Spanish first, which doesn’t faze anyone in the streets of New York City.

But here, he often gets bewildered looks when he speaks his native tongue.

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“To this day people don’t know how to approach, or deal with me,” Cora said.

But instead of getting upset, he takes a different approach.

“To me it’s an opportunity, it’s an opportunity to share,” Cora said.

And he has a lot to share because he’s done extensive research on his own family’s history. Cora shared his Ancestry DNA results with Action News Jax showing his African heritage and his Puerto Rican roots.

He was able to trace his ancestors back to a sugar plantation in Arroyo, Puerto Rico, that was owned by a Spaniard named, Jacinto Cora, the slave owner whose last name his family still bears.

“He was from Galicia, Spain. He owned about 274 slaves. That’s where the onset of the Cora family begins,” Cora said.

While slavery officially ended in the U.S. on June 19, 1865, it wasn’t until decades later that slavery was abolished in parts of Latin America.

The last three areas to abolish slavery were Puerto Rico in 1873, Cuba in 1886 and Brazil in 1888.

“Here you’re picking cotton and in Puerto Rico, you’re harvesting sugar and coffee and whatever that product needs. But at the end of the day, it’s about money,” Cora said.

Cora shares his research not only with his daughters, but also with his grandson whom he’s teaching to speak Spanish.

He also dedicates his free time to planning cultural festivals and hosts a community radio show on Sundays called “Tomando Café con Victor Cora,” which means Coffee With Victor Cora.

“I wouldn’t be who I am today or live the life I’m living if it wasn’t for the Hispanic culture, awareness, values and the integrity that my mother and father instilled in me,” Cora said. In a society that tries to put you in a category, Cora won’t be defined by labels.

He’s proud of his Black skin, his Nuyorican accent and Puerto Rican heritage and there’s no need to choose one over the other.