HSH shines a light on couple’s experience for Hispanic Heritage Month
The Historical Society of Hammonton held their Speaker Series presentation on Sept. 8 at the Hammonton Canoe Club. Honoring Hispanic Heritage Month, the speakers were married couple Andrea A. Flores Mendoza and Jim Paul Bacon. They spoke about their experiences coming to America and their life in Hammonton.
Mendoza and Bacon immigrated to America from Honduras and Peru, respectively. Bacon first arrived in 2001 when he was in high school. He attended high school in Hammonton and obtained his Bachelor’s degree from Stockton University and his Master’s degree from Rutgers University. Mendoza arrived in the U.S. in 2008 and lived in Edison, N.J. during this time.
Bacon works for TD Bank as a business management specialist while Mendoza owns two businesses; Flowers Cleaning Services LLC and Plant Vita. The two are both published authors as well.
Bacon mentioned when he first came to Hammonton, there was a small percentage of Hispanic residents. Most of the Hispanic population was of Mexican descent, there were even less Hispanics from other Latin American countries. He has noticed changes since 2001.
“I can see a difference in the town. In our demographics, the number of people of that diversity within the Hispanic community,” Bacon said.
Bacon spoke about the dichotomy between his story and Mendoza. He came to America after obtaining a permanent resident card, also known as a green card while Mendoza came using a Visa. He spoke about how much of a struggle it was for his wife coming to America, having to work hard jobs and walk to work, which is a struggle many immigrants face. He explained how the way a person immigrated to the U.S. has an impact on what they are allowed to do.
“I got my master’s degree, all of it because I had a green card status, which allows you to do that. But I also know a lot of people in town that were in school with me that did not have that opportunity because they did not have a green card,” Bacon said.
Mendoza spoke in Spanish and Bacon translated her experiences in English. She became very emotional, shedding a few tears when talking about a very touching experience she had with her father when she was young.
Both of them are very involved in the Hammonton Hispanic Community and have been a part of it since 2018. As part of the Hammonton Health Coalition, the couple supported food delivery and helped with vaccine information during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bacon mentioned that the couple would keep many of the food donations in their garage and people would come to their driveway to pick up donations and connect.
Mendoza felt she connected with people of the Hispanic community during this time. She would keep up with the people that needed help during the pandemic by using the social media app WhatsApp.
Mendoza has written three published poetry books and is in the process of writing her fourth. She mentioned that the town of Hammonton is going to be an important part of the poetry she writes in this new book.
The titles of her books are; ¡Oh Mi Honduras!: Poesía Con Alma, Corazón y Vida, Mi Libro Poético and Un Mundo Abogado en Poesía. Bacon also has a published poetry book titled Primavera Esbelta. Poetry is a significant part of both of their lives.
“For her [Mendoza], [poetry] is a natural talent that she found to be able to express herself, kind of like she feels that she was born with it and the way she connects with people, and she can put her emotions and people’s emotions into poetry. That is why she decided to use poetry,” Bacon said. “For me, it’s something similar. You know going to school, I remember exactly when I started to write. I was like 12 or 13 years old and one of the assignments was to start writing poetry in your Spanish class. That was an assignment and I love the rhyme, the metrics and playing with the words and I found myself really inspired like many poets. Spanish is different than English. It has a lot more words. There’s more grammar that allows you to play with the order of words. So for me, that caught my attention and since then, I started to write pretty much anything that I was feeling.”
Mendoza has one of her poems on display at the Art Walk between Casciano Coffee Bar and Sweetery and Annata Wine Bar. The poem is written in both Spanish and English.