Date: October 7, 2022 By: Emily Makowski
National Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15–October 15. This month commemorates the history, achievements, and contributions of Hispanic people from or connected with Spanish-speaking regions, including those whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, and much of the Caribbean and Central and South America.
Our next Q&A interviewee is Franklin Lora, Supply Support Associate and Day Porter at the Ragon Institute.
What was your path to the Ragon like?
I was born in the Dominican Republic and I came to the U.S. in April 2011. My dad brought me here, he’s been in this country for 47 years. He helped me start the immigration process in 2001, and it was 2011 when I came to this country, so I waited 10 years to be here. My dad was a manager for a contractor company, and luckily he helped find me a job with that company right away. I came to the U.S. on a Sunday, and on Monday I already had a job and was working.
I started working for the Ragon in 2013 as a contractor, and then in January of this year the Ragon hired me as a regular employee. My most important job here is to take care of the packages and any lab supplies and facility supplies. I make sure that in every conference room and every kitchen, there are supplies for everyone. Some days are really busy – I got more than 140 boxes yesterday. But I always say it keeps me healthy because I’m always moving around, walking, you know? I feel very happy working here, people here are very respectful and friendly, and I really appreciate that.
What changes did you experience when you came to the U.S.?
There was a lot I had to adjust to. The food for one thing – in my country it’s very different than here. The food is great here, but to be honest you should go to my country and try the food there. Also the music, I’ve gotten used to American music but it’s so different. As for Dominican music, bachata and merengue are very beautiful.
The weather is a lot different too. I had never seen snow; I remember I kept asking my dad when it would snow and then during that first snowfall of 2011, I went outside and put my hands out to see the snow falling on my hands. I was like, “Oh my god, it’s so beautiful!” …But now after being here so long I don’t like snow! I was also freaking out the first winter here because I noticed it was already dark at 4 P.M. I actually love the cold though, even though I grew up in a very warm country. Winter in the DR is 75-80 degrees and it’s very dry.
Coming to the U.S. was a big change in my life, but I love living here and I’m happy here. There’s a lot of order and respect. I would advise anyone coming here to just appreciate how great this country is and give your best to make it better every day.
What Dominican food should people try?
The Dominican moro de habichuelas, which is basically rice and beans cooked together. Also mangú [mashed plantains, the DR’s national breakfast]; a well-made mangú will just make you want more and more. There are so many good dishes, too many to mention. It’s a lot of food. I know of at least three Dominican restaurants in the Boston area, one in Lynn, one in Jamaica Plain and one close to Revere, but it doesn’t taste exactly the same as back home.
What are some traditions that you and your family have kept going?
There aren’t a lot, but one thing that not only me, but all Dominicans always keep as a tradition for the Holy Week [the week before Easter], is making sweet beans, habichuelas con dulce. That’s a classic that pretty much every Dominican household makes at that time. In my family we don’t really celebrate Holy Week, but we always try to make those for Good Friday every year.
I have five kids, two with my first wife and three with my wife. They are 17, 13, 12, 11, and 3. They are my life, and I work hard for them. I have a big family, and I also grew up in a huge family on both sides. In 2019 I went to the DR to bring my wife and three youngest kids here. My two oldest kids live there and when COVID started, it was a hard time for us because I couldn’t go visit them. I’m very attached to my kids, and I used to go every year to see them. The fact that COVID postponed that trip to two years was very painful to me. I was dying to go and I was finally able to visit in May 2021.
What makes you proud to be Latino?
The culture and the people. Maybe I have been lucky, but so far all the Latino people I’ve met tend to be very friendly. If you have an issue, you can go to them and they will advise you well. They care. I’m very proud to be Dominican.
I have a lot of friends in the DR; people are very friendly there. You know me, I’m always happy and smiling and like to talk. People from my country like to talk and like to make friends. It’s very common for neighbors to share food every day just to show appreciation for each other. If you cook something you will send them a plate and they will also send you a plate. I don’t really see that here; I lived for three years in an apartment where I never knew my neighbor next door because I never really saw him. Also, the DR has very warm weather and people like to sit outside with chairs and play dominoes or chat, and it’s very, very nice.
The DR has its problems, but it’s a beautiful country with some amazing landscapes that I will tell anyone to go and visit. If you’re going for the first time, you should go to Punta Cana, the most famous resort in the country. The resorts also have tour buses that go around basically the whole country, so you can see rivers, the beach, everything.
Boston Globe article mentioning our new building, scheduled to open in 2024, along with several other exciting new developments in Kendall Square
During National Hispanic Heritage Month, we spoke with Facundo Batista, PhD, Scientific Director of the Ragon Institute and Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Harvard Medical School.