Amarilis Mercado Cortés

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Every morning, my grandmother, María Arcelia Torres Ríos (Celia), was up by 5 a.m. brewing her cup of coffee and preparing for the day. When I moved back to Puerto Rico when I was fifteen, she was the person who taught me how to respect and love my Puerto Rican roots. I never knew what it was to eat pana, aguacate, tembleque, arroz dulce and other typical foods from Puerto Rico. Celia told me that I had to learn how to eat good food not Americanos food. She never liked it when I spoke to her in English. She would say, “Nosotros no estamos en los Estados Unidos y yo no soy Americana.”

Celia was the only grandmother I knew. I loved to stay at her house because it was surrounded by nature. Every morning I woke up early to feed the chickens corn. When she made her delicious limber, she would allow me to watch but I couldn’t touch anything until it was done and ready to eat.

Celia protected me. All I had to do was yell abuela and she came running. In the evenings, we sat in rocking chairs in her front yard and she told me the stories of her life, about her husband, Juan, who drank rubbing alcohol straight from the bottle and how she supported her family all by herself by working at the Starkist factory.

On our last day together, she asked me to stay with her, but I was scared. I didn’t want anything to happen to her while I was with her. I ran my hand through her hair as she fell asleep. I whispered that I loved her into her ear, kissed her forehead and went home. Later, when I got off work, my mom told me to get into the car. My aunt was holding a beautiful silky, green dress. I asked, “Where are we going?” But no one answered. The car stopped in front of the funeral home. Everyone got out but no one spoke.

A man asked, “How long will she be watched?” Then my cousin hugged me really tight and all I could do was cry.


Rafael & Celia

María Arcelia Torres Ríos

11 de mayo de 1922 – 29 de julio de 2003

Reprinted with permission. Mancha… © Copyright, Mancha de Plátano, Inc., Cabo Rojo, 2007. All rights reserved. 

1 Comment

  1. This experience I life with my two grandmother. They was the person that teach me cook the traditional Puero Rico food. Also all the time tell me all the history about how they raised their childrens.

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