Rocío C. Rodríguez Miranda

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My Great-grandmother Lolita, Sonny and Haydé, and my Great-grandfather Giorges. Sonny and Tití Haydé’s Wedding in December 20, 1954

As-Salāmu `Alaykum –

Giorges Nassar Matar was my great-grandfather. He came to Puerto Rico from Palestine in the early 1900’s. He learned the Spanish language and little by little made a name for himself. He started out selling clothes, handkerchiefs and jewelry. He did this by traveling house to house and selling his goods. This was how he met my great-grandmother, Lola or “Lolita” as everyone called her.

My great-grandfather called her, Flor del Mundo, or “Flower of the World.” He visited her house frequently under the guise of selling his wares. She was around fourteen-years-old at the time and very timid, so she always hid when he asked about her. He was twenty-two and made a great effort to impress Lola’s father. Eventually, he was allowed to talk with her, which went on for about a year. Finally, he asked her to marry him and make a life together.

It was nothing like the Palestinian custom, where parents arrange their sons’ and daughters’ marriages.

While Giorges went out day-by-day looking for ways to support his household, Lolita stayed at home and made sure everything was in order, a typical early Twentieth Century family. In 1920, they brought into the world a beautiful baby girl. They named her Hadla, and she is my abuela. She was the first of five daughters, Hadla, Lydia, Olga, Estrella del Oriente and Haydé were their names.

Abuela Hadla was the one who was kind and smart enough to save all the memories of her family in her mind and also through lots of pictures. It is incredible but she remembers all the events I asked her about with even the most minimal of details. For example, when she described her father, a tall man, with caramel colored skin, and a mustache that made him look more serious than he actually was because it resembled Hitler’s mustache. He had the bushiest eyebrows anyone could ever imagine, light green but kind eyes, and light grey hair.

According to her, Giorges made great effort at being the best father he could be.  He had many jobs, moving from one to another in order to improve his economic conditions. He was even an army security guard in Fort Brook in Old San Juan for some time.

Abuela says he also knew a great deal about religion, that he had studied the Christian bible thoroughly as it was very important custom in his family. He made sure that Abuela and her sisters knew everything that he knew about God, the Ten Commandments, sin and right and wrong.

Aside from being a provider for his family, he also had a sweet side. Every Christmas (his favorite time of year) he went out to buy some fabrics and then to a seamstress so she could make dresses for all of his daughters to wear during the holidays. I found this very surprising. He also knew how to cook, and from what Abuela Hadla tells me, he was very good in the kitchen. He made delicious Arabian meals, such as Waraq Enab; rice and meat rolled inside cabbage leaves. He also made Tabouleh salad which is bulgar wheat, fresh cut tomatoes, fresh parsley leaves and lemon juice. For desert he made Baklawa which is a sweet pastry made of phyllo dough filled with chopped nuts, with some drizzled syrup or honey on top. To this day we still gather from time to time and eat the food of our ancestors.

Abuela Hadla said, “He loved his family dearly. For him, real satisfaction was being able to provide for his family with everything they needed; shelter, food, education and love.”

Sadly, I never had the opportunity to meet him. When I was born, he had already passed away. But thanks to my abuela, I have a very good idea about the person he was in her and my father’s life, of his good qualities and his love for family.

This is a picture of my grandfather Abuelo Toñín and Abuela Hadla when they were still dating. It was taken in 1941. They were spending a Sunday at “El Morro” in Viejo San Juan.

Abuelo Toñín and Abuela Hadla

3 Comments

  1. I liked the part where you talked about how Giorges wooed your great-grandmother

    • Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it ! 🙂

  2. this is great

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