The song and short film - La Guagua 47 - introduces the significance of the Route 47 to the thriving and inspiring culture of Philadelphia’s Latinx community. The film reimagines the Route 47 as a central character in helping communities find joy and belonging and demonstrates #publictransportation’s support of community, economy, multiculturalism, and culture. It also reminds us that SEPTA is a central character in SO MANY stories. Here are a few shared by SEPTA employees:
Having moved to Philadelphia in 2001 from New York City brought on some challenges for commuting by means of public transportation for me. I knew absolutely nothing about Philadelphia - or the public transportation system. I was staying with my aunt - who was no help with assisting me with figuring out the commuting process. My family are Hispanic - from the Dominican Republic - she spoke very little English leaving me to figure out my way regarding travel and fare cost for commuting.
I was living in Feltonville - so I needed to catch the Route 75 from C St & Wyoming Avenue to Arrott Transportation Center to then walk to my destination: Frankford High School. In the mornings there were very few other Hispanic students who traveled from Feltonville toward Frankford High School - but that was ok. My first day of high school - I remember scrambling around for change at the Bodegas in my neighborhood - which by the way - there were only about two in walking distance that were open at that time. When I finally boarded the Route 75 - I found out that I had wasted time looking for change as SEPTA buses accepted fare payment in the form of cash! Heck - the Bus Operator even had paper transfers available - but for an additional cost.
The experience that morning was a learning lesson - which I remained positive about and felt it was only convenient for me as I did not have to scramble around for exact change anymore.
As time went on - I continued to travel on SEPTA’s buses (including the La Guagua 47), MFL trains, and BSL trains. I felt I had become more familiarized with the SEPTA system. I must say the vehicles sure have evolved for the better and every day I appreciate the advancement in respect to the technology - as it has become more convenient for all customers inclusive to foreign speaking communities. Thankfully - we have the Customer Service Department where there are Spanish speaking agents (like me!) available to assist daily. Had I known that in 2001, my experience would have been a lot different. We live and we learn - but we do not forget where we came from!
I often say that I grew up at SEPTA. Of course, technically I was a grown up when I started working at SEPTA in 2005 as a Bilingual Customer Service agent. I was 26 years old, single and had no children. Here we are almost 17 years later and I’m married with three healthy, active boys. Where did the time go?! SEPTA has been a part of my life though so many personal and professional milestones. Getting married, having kids, going back to college, getting promoted, representing Customer Service as a finalist in two APTA Call Center challenges and even getting a chance to be bilingual guest on Telemundo’s En Portada series. Now, I’m an assistant to the Chief of the Planning & strategy Division. I find that both my Customer Service experience and Hispanic heritage play an important part as a member of another amazing team.
It has been an incredible opportunity for me to be a part of one of the Philly region’s most well-known organizations. Having been born and raised in North Philly, I was always a SEPTA gal! I didn’t even have a driver’s license when I began working here - so SEPTA was my ONLY way to go. SEPTA was an essential service for me getting me around before I ever began working here.
I’m a second-generation US mainland Puerto Rican. My paternal and maternal grandparents moved to Philly when my parents were just kids. My parents lived across the street from each other - and the rest is history. SEPTA connected us to the city along with our heritage and cultural comforts of Puerto Rico. Interestingly, La Guagua 47 was a key mode of transportation por mi familia along with the El. I recall traveling to El Bloque de Oro (The block of gold) just off of 5th & Lehigh where my mom would stock up on new salsa cassettes at Centro Musical. Sometimes we’d check out cultural arts events at the Taller Purtoriqueno. My favorite was hopping on the 47 north on 5th Street from Lehigh Ave to Rockland Street for some delicious pastries!
In Customer Service, I had the chance to help people learn about the system and how it could best serve their needs. I once received a call from a man who had just arrived at PHL Airport with no relatives or family in the city. He wanted to start fresh and asked where he could go to connect with other Latinos in the city. Of course, I sent him to El Bloque De Oro using the Market-Frankford Line and the 47. It all came full circle in that moment.
SEPTA will always be an important part of my journey!
Emilio is originally from the island of Puerto Rico. The youngest of three siblings, he lived on the island until age 7. At that point, his family migrated to Philadelphia where his mother’s parents and siblings were living. They migrated as a family to seek better medical facilities due to his older sister’s health issues.
His early years in Philadelphia were challenging because he spoke only Spanish and was in a whole new environment with a different climate, culture and social behaviors. But eventually, Emilio persevered by learning the language and adapting to his new life. As he became older, Emilio began to appreciate all that Philadelphia has to offer, such as U.S. historical sights and multicultural communities. As an adult, he worked with the youth in the community, assisting in sports leagues and helping to run after school programs through the Philadelphia Department of Parks & Recreation. He also worked for the Philadelphia Youth Advocate Program helping middle school and high school boys comply with probation demands and find resources in their communities.
And now, Emilio serves the community by working for SEPTA - helping meet our community’s daily transportation needs. As a SEPTA Bus Operator, Emilio covers many routes but is favorite is La Guagua 47!
Emilio's family has a dance group called Raices de Borinquen. They perform traditional music from Puerto Rico called “bomba y plena.” They have been performing for more than 18 years, featuring the three different cultures of Puerto Rico: Tainos, the naitives of the island, Spaniards, and Africans. The drums and songs are from African descendants, the dancing and style of clothing come from Spaniard descendants, and the maracas come from Taino descendants. What Emilio loves about their performance is that it’s often workshop style where they pause and explain these cultures. They also include members of the audience by bringing them on stage, showing them dance moves, and having them perform alongside us. This is a big hit with the children.
"If you attend a performance and you are Puerto Rican, you learn about your culture. If you are from a different culture, you learn that we have more in common than you might have realized." - Emilio
Overall, I love Philadelphia and serving my community through my employment and educating them through my culture.
See if you can spot Emilio performing bomba y plena in La Guagua 47!
Connie moved from the Dominican Republic to Olney when she was five years old. She attended grade school close to home but when it was time for high school – it was time for SEPTA. She and her sister rode the Route 47 to Cardinal Dougherty High School – and it was the highlight of their day because ninety percent of the riders were Cardinal Dougherty students. They were her friends. She remembers even when the bus was crowded - they never had to stand. They sat on each other's laps! It was their only #waytogo! And it wasn’t just for school days. On weekends - after finishing their chores - Connie and her sister would ride the Route 47 to the Gallery in Center City to shop. Today - when Connie sees the Route 47 - it brings back so many wonderful memories of her school years!
Check back for more stories!