Andrés R. Muñiz

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A THOUSAND MEMORIES –

This photograph is of a wedding. In it, all of the Muñiz Vega Family is present, although many of the names escape me. I do recognize Radamés Muñiz, who is my grandfather (labeled), and América Vega, his aunt, who is easy to recognize, given the fact she is wearing the wedding dress, and holding a bouquet of flowers. The year is 1926, but Radamés Muñiz doesn’t exactly remember the date. When he showed me this picture, his face was joyous, a joy that had been forgotten.

It is such a pleasure to see his smile as memories of his youth flooded back to him. We sat in his impressive library surrounded by hundreds of books, some up to two-hundred-years-old. As usual, he offered me coffee. I respectfully declined, and then he sat down in his rocking chair. “Would you like me to tell you about those days?” He asked rocking slowly and drinking his coffee.

“Please,” I answered. You don’t get to hear eighty-year-old stories everyday, do you?,” I thought, and quickly added, “I would love to hear about your youth, Grandpa.”

“This wedding photograph was taken in Cabo Rojo when I was six-years-old. I think I was six. We were celebrating my aunt’s wedding, and that was the first time I saw the whole family altogether.

“Here I am,” he said pointing to his image in the photo. “Mama wanted all of us to look our best, of course, because we were going to have a professional photographer take a picture of the family. You don’t expect me to remember everything from that day, do you? This was eighty-four-years ago. However, I do remember that we had a big party at Mama’s house, and I spent all the afternoon playing in the field with my siblings and cousins. I can’t tell you for sure if we went swimming that day, but I’m pretty sure we did. That was our favorite activity back in the day, besides hunting, but since there were girls with us, Papa wouldn’t let us use the guns,” he added

“You don’t have many memories of those years, do you?” I asked. Then I quickly rectified, “well, without the help of pictures, that is.

His smile faded just a little bit. “No, when you are ninety-years-old, you have way too many memories in your head, and that is, if you’re lucky enough to have any memories. I am scared that in these next few years, my memory span will decrease,” he said sadly.

Then Emma, my grandmother and his wife for over sixty years, entered the room, and asked us what we were doing. “We are looking at old pictures,” I told her. She decided to stay and look with us. My grandfather found one of him as a World War II Lieutenant stationed in Panama. He looked at the picture for a few minutes, smiled, and continued filing through the box of pictures.

Lieutenant Radamés Muñiz, Panama - WWII

Later, one of my grandmother appeared. This was a quite peculiar picture, because it was of her and her two sisters. On the back it read, “Emma, Carmita & Conchi 1932, Guayama Puerto Rico.”

Emma, Carmita & Conchi 1932, Guayama Puerto Rico

“I’m the one standing,” my grandmother said. “Carmita is sitting holding Conchi, the baby. Dad used to call this picture, his ‘True Treasure.’ He was a very successful merchant in Guayama. He was the owner of the shoe-store La Favorita. I remember he had a safe in his office where he kept all his valuables: money, jewelry, keys.  Somehow, he managed to set up this picture as the background of the safe, glued to the safe’s interior wall. Although every single item, which entered his safe eventually found its way out, this picture remained there for over thirty-nine years.  When he died, we took it out, to make a copy and for safe-keeping, but this is the original.”

After she finished the story behind the picture, we all went to the kitchen, where I made myself a sandwich. By now, the conversation had drifted away and we were talking about how I was doing in college this year.

This was a unique experience. I’m not the kind of person to sit down to look at pictures but I’m glad I did. It’s incredible how a photograph can hold so much history and memories for a person. The popular phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words,” could be clearly seen on my grandparents’ faces.

1 Comment

  1. Wow, I really felt emotional while reading your story. It definitely made me feel emotional because of the fact that those moments we pass with our loved ones are priceless. We need to appreciate them because we do not know if that will be the last moment we spend with them. It makes me think of the future, what will happen? Will I someday pass through the same your grandfather did? Will I even be able to tell stories to my grandchildren? Really nice work!

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