About Lourdes Bennett

Ms. Bennett is a second-generation Puerto Rican immigrant. Her father moved to Lorain to work at the steel mill. Her mother and oldest sister followed shortly. Lourdes is the 13th child in a family with 14 siblings.

Lourdes focused on her family history during the recorded interview and is interested in preserving her experiences growing up in South Lorain. She talks at length about her childhood, relationships with her family, and work at El Centro.

Lourdes Bennett has been kind enough to share these photographs accompanied by a brief contextualizing summary.


Vincente and Andres Rivera, circa 1950-1952. Location unknown.

Vincente and Andres Rivera were Lourdes' father and uncle, respectively. They were the youngest two siblings of their family and traveled to the United States to pursue work. Prior to immigrating, Vincente worked selling oranges. The two brothers traveled to New Jersey to work in a greenhouse for several months before returning to Puerto Rico. They saved money in Puerto Rico, then moved to Lorain together in 1950. Vincente got a job at the steel mill, and Andres worked at the Ford Factory.

At first, Vincente's wife and eldest daughter, Juana and Jenny, accompanied him to Lorain. Due to the nature of the accommodations for the steelworkers' families, Juana and Jenny returned to Puerto Rico until 1952, when the family could afford to rent an apartment in Lorain. They wrote to each other every two weeks for two years. Throughout the interview, Lourdes emphasizes the incredible determination and sacrifice her parents made to give their children a better life.


Juana Rivera, Vicente Rivera, Andres Rivera, and Jenny Rivera Koinis, circa 1952

This photograph shows a family portrait of Vincente, Juana, Jenny, and Andres. Lourdes estimates it dates from 1952, after the family's reunion in Lorain.

Lourdes admits to having closer relationships with the "younger" siblings of her family. She also references struggling with expectations set by Jenny's school performance, who would become the valedictorian. Despite how different all of the siblings are, Lourdes says that she cannot imagine "not talking" to one of her siblings due to a difference of opinion. They agree to move past inter-personal disagreements as a family and forgive one another.


The Rivera Family Reunion, 2014

Lourdes and her siblings gather at their family reunion in 2014. In the interview, she describes her family as its own ''city.'' She has six brothers and seven sisters. Lourdes acknowledges that their family dynamic was not (and still is not) without their differences but emphasizes how she and her siblings can always rely on each other. Lourdes credits her parents with that bond, saying, "you can count on your friends for so many things, but your family will be there, no matter what."

With the pandemic, Lourdes and her siblings have instituted weekly Zoom calls to keep in touch. Most still live in Ohio. While several of Lourdes' siblings have left Lorain, her whole family knows the city's significance.

"Lorain definitely has a special place in my heart and my family's. There would be times when, what if Mami and Papi went to Chicago? ...They came to Lorain, and Lorain will always have a special place in our hearts. Whenever we see an article with Lorain, Ohio, in it, my siblings will text it to us. My niece is in school in Colorado, and she was reading a book that mentioned Lorain, Ohio, so she took a picture of it and sent it. So even my nieces and nephews, they know how special Lorain is to us and will always be, because it formed us into who we are today, with my mom and dad, and their sacrifices. They came to Lorain to do it, and thank goodness that others came and they were able to relate to those people and have those other people to help out."

Thank you to Lourdes Bennett for your vulnerability and willingness to participate in the Latino-Lorain Oral History Project. 

Oral History Interview 

About Lourdes Bennett